Tag Archives: Elvis

The Real McCoy (02/27)

I learned (thanks to public radio) about another lesser known talent in the music business…

Rose McCoy

Rose McCoy

May I introduce, Rose Marie McCoy, one of the most prolific songwriters you’ve never heard of.

Rose McCoy grew up on a farm in Arkansas. But at the age of 19, she left home and moved to New York City to try to become a singer.

While she was waiting for her break as a singer, McCoy started to write songs, discovering that it came naturally to her. In the pop music world of the time, most performers relied on professional songwriters for their hits, and the entire songwriting industry was centered on one square block in New York City: 1619 Broadway. Better known as the Brill Building, the block housed a 10-story hit factory stuffed with songwriters, producers and music publishers.

After work, the Brill Building employees would hang out at Beefsteak Charlie’s. Many songwriters pitched there songs there and that is exactly the spot where Rose McCoy and her songwriting partner Charlie Singleton, set up their office (or should I say booth).

In 1954, McCoy and Singleton wrote a song called “Trying to Get to You,” which was first recorded by a black vocal group called The Eagles. Elvis Presley heard their version in a record store in Memphis, and he decided to record the song on his debut album for RCA Records in 1955.

Presley’s album spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the pop charts.

Eventually she had a house, agreen Cadillac and her own office in the Brill Building, but she still worked for herself. She liked her independence and wanted to keep control of her music.

“I mean, she realized at some point in time that her power was in the pen,” Al Bell says. “And she was just one of those rare persons that wanted to be free to write her own songs and do what she wanted to do.”

Now 86 years, although retired, she is still writing songs.

Read full story: Lady Writes the Blues

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The Funk Brothers (02/24)

Have you ever heard of these fellows:

The Funk Brothers

The Funk Brothers

Chances are you haven’t heard their name, but you definitely have heard them play.

They are Motown’s unsung heroes. Known as The Funk Brothers, the studio band put the backbeat into hits for Diana Ross & The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, etc. They played on more #1 records than The Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley combined, but no one knew their names.
Here are some notable members’ names:

bandleader Joe Hunter

and Earl Van Dyke (piano);

James Jamerson (bass guitar);

Benny “Papa Zita” Benjamin and Richard “Pistol” Allen (drums);

Robert White, Eddie Willis, and Joe Messina (guitar);

Jack Ashford (tambourine, percussion, vibraphone, marimba);

Jack Brokensha (vibraphone, marimba);

Eddie “Bongo” Brown (percussion).

Hunter left in 1964, replaced on keyboards by Johnny Griffith and as bandleader by Van Dyke. Uriel Jones joined the band as a third drummer.

In 1967, guitarists Dennis Coffey and Melvin “Wah-Wah Watson” Ragin, who introduced the wah-wah pedal that defined Motown’s psychedelic soul records, joined the band. Benny Benjamin died the next year, and Bob Babbitt began to replace James Jamerson on many recordings.

To learn more check out his documentary: Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Or read more here, here and here.

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