All That’s Black: Rose Marie McCoy

Rose Marie McCoy, singer & songwriter:

Photo Credit: The New York Times

“She knew how to hang in there with the big boys. Women didn’t have a place, so she made a place for herself.”

Born into a farming family in Arkansas in 1922, she moved to New York City in 1942 to pursue a singing career, singing in bars in New Jersey.

Her vocal talent snagged her bookings at famous venues such as Harlem’s Baby Grand, Detroit’s Flame Show Bar, Cincinnati’s Sportsmen’s Club, and Toronto’s Basin Street. In 1952, Rose Marie McCoy wrote and recorded two songs for the newly formed rhythm and blues label Wheeler Records, “Cheating Blues,” and “Georgie Boy Blues.”

After publishers heard these songs, they sought her out, and she started working in the Brill Building. One of the first songs she was asked to write was a half-spoken, half-sung song, “Gabbin’ Blues,” co-written with Leroy Kirkland, and sung by Big Maybelle with the spoken part provided by McCoy herself. “Gabbin’ Blues,” which reached #3 on the Billboard R&B chart, was the first big hit for both Big Maybelle and Rose.

In 1954, Rose Marie McCoy teamed with songwriter Charles Singleton. They soon scored their first hit, “It Hurts Me to My Heart,” recorded in 1954 by Faye Adams. Their collaboration, lasting about eight years, was a major success and, individually and together, they penned many hits for the top artists of the time, including Elvis Presley’s “I Beg Of You,” The Eagles’ “Trying to Get to You” (later recorded in Presley’s Sun Sessions), Ruth Brown’s “Mambo Baby,” and Nappy Brown’s “Little by Little” and “Don’t Be Angry.” Nat King Cole also recorded singleton & McCoy tunes (“If I May,” “My Personal Possession”), Little Willie John (“Letter from My Darling”), Eartha Kitt, Aretha Franklin, Eddy Arnold, The Five Willows, Big Joe Turner, The Du Droppers, Little Esther, The Clovers, and many other top artists of the time.

Though she is most often associated with songs recorded by R&B artists of the 1950s and 60s, Rose Marie McCoy has written many jazz, pop, rock ‘n’ roll, country, and gospel songs. Rose Marie McCoy died at a niece’s home in Champaign, Illinois, on 20 January 2015 at the age of 92.

By Aprille’ Morris & Emily Burke

Edited By Keshav Kant

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