McCoy's family moved to nearby Fayetteville when he was a boy and then to Miami, Florida. At age eight, he began playing the harmonica starting on an instrument his mother bought for 50 cents. He also learned to play the guitar, and in his teens he also learned the bass and trumpet. In high school in Miami his skills had developed to such an extent that he decided to pursue a career in music. He put together a local rock and roll band called "Charlie McCoy and the Agendas" as a guitarist and singer. When he was sixteen years old [image] he reluctantly accompanied a friend to visit a country barn dance radio show in Miami called the "Old South Jamboree". Upon their arrival, McCoy's friend left him in the crowd and went to talk to Happy Harold, the host of the show, with the intention of coaxing McCoy up on stage to sing. McCoy's performance that night, along with the positive response from the show's audience, led to him and his rock band being signed to the "Old South Jamboree". His band consisted of Donny Lytle, later known as Johnny Paycheck, on bass; Bill Johnson on steel guitar; Charlie Justice on guitar; and Bill Phillips, vocal. About this time the band took part in a local rock and roll contest, winning first prize.
Following an invitation from Mel Tillis, the eighteen-year-old McCoy went to Nashville, Tennessee, for a week's stay in 1959. During his stay in Nashville he visited numerous producers and record companies but all to no avail. Since his efforts to start a musical career in Nashville had failed, he went back to Miami. He enrolled at the Miami University, majoring in musical education. His goal was now to become a teacher. Meanwhile, he continued to perform on the "Jamboree". When Miami faculty members discovered that he was playing rock and roll for a square dance they warned him not to continue with such "lower forms of music". McCoy replied that he was willing to quit his work at the barn dance if they would give him a scholarship. The faculty rejected his request.
McCoy, who still wanted to make a career in music, applied for the vacant job as guitarist in John Ferguson's band. But when he arrived in Nashville, his job had already been taken by guitarist Vance Bullock. After a short discussion Ferguson decided to hire McCoy as a drummer instead. McCoy bought a drum set and joined the band. John Ferguson's band was unsuccessful, and they soon disbanded. After a month of unemployment he joined Stonewall Jackson as a drummer. The job came to an end in the autumn that year. He then received a call from the booking agent Jim Denney, who informed him that Archie Bleyer of Cadence Records had listened to McCoy's tapes and wanted to sign him. McCoy cut his first single, "Cherry Berry Wine", for the Cadence label; it reached No. 99 on the Billboard chart. In Nashville, Denney advised him to do demo sessions and to concentrate on the harmonica. Next, McCoy joined Wayne Moss as a bass player, performing at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
Chet Atkins heard one of McCoy's demo tapes and immediately hired him in May 1961. Thus, his first recording as a harmonica player was on the song "I Just Don't Understand", by Ann-Margret for RCA. Fred Foster of Monument Records also heard about McCoy and hired him as harmonica player on Roy Orbison's song "Candy Man". It became a million-seller. McCoy's reputation as a harmonica player and studio musician increased. McCoy continued to record for the Monument label without a written contract. Although some of his singles and albums at this time did not sell, Foster believed in McCoy's music. Tex Davis, the promotion manager of Monument Records, was persuaded by Charlie Dillard of WPFA to release "Today I Started Loving You Again" as a single. It had previously been released on McCoy's second LP. When the single came out in 1972 it sold 750 000 copies. The single went to No. 16 in the Billboard country charts. For his next album, "The Real McCoy", he won a Grammy from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. His album "Good Time Charlie" reached No. 1 in the Billboard country chart. In the 1970s, McCoy, as a studio musician, took part in more than 400 sessions a year. He has won two CMA Awards and seven ACM Awards.
From there, he went on to play harmonica for other acts, Elvis Presley, Perry Como, Joan Baez, Steve Miller Band, Johnny Cash, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Kris Kristofferson, Paul Simon, Ringo Starr, Barefoot Jerry and Gene Summers. He also played guitar on Dylan's "Desolation Row", from the album "Highway 61 Revisited", and "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands", from the album "Blonde on Blonde", bass guitar (on all the tracks from Bob Dylan's "John Wesley Harding",) keyboards, and drums plus several wind and brass instruments. For 19 years McCoy worked as music director for the popular television show, Hee Haw and was a member of the Million Dollar Band.
On May 17, 2009, McCoy was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame along with Roy Clark and Barbara Mandrell. He is also a member of the International Musicians' Hall of Fame and the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. In May 2016, West Virginia University awarded McCoy an Honorary Doctor of Musical Arts.
In 2017 The West Virginia University Press published Fifty Cents and a Box Top The Creative Life of Nashville Session Musician Charlie McCoy.
McCoy has two children with his first wife and five grandchildren. All of his grandchildren have contributed to one of his albums in some way. His second granddaughter did the artwork for three album covers (Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Smooth Sailing, Celtic Dreams) and sang on one of his Christmas CDs. His oldest granddaughter played flute and sang on a few of his albums. All of the youngest three have sung on one of his albums, as has his son (Charlie, Jr.) and daughter (Ginger).
(Image: Audrey's first holy communion 2014)
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Wikipedia: This page was last edited on 7 August 2018, at 02:08 (UTC).