POWDERLY, Ky. (10/15/13) – Mention the name of Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie McCoy in Nashville and anyone who knows the history of country music will tell you, "Charlie is the man" when it comes to first class studio musicians.
Elvis, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and even former Beatle Ringo are just a few of the stars who have recorded with Charlie McCoy, not to mention the 18 years he spent on the T.V. show 'Hee Haw’, performing with "a who's who from the Country Music Hall of Fame".
This Saturday night at 6:30, McCoy shares the stage at the Merle Travis Music Center with Richard Kiser, another noted studio musician and a member of the Gospel Country Hall of Fame, along with Jason Coleman, the grandson of the late Nashville superstar Floyd Kramer.
McCoy recently spoke with SurfKY News Reporters in an exclusive interview from his home in Music City.
"I came to Nashville at age 19 to become a studio musician and I'm still doing it,” said McCoy. “I was honored to be at the Thumbpickers Awards in Muhlenberg County a few years back, and loved it. I look forward to coming back.”
McCoy will be joined by Kiser, who he calls "one of the best thumbpickers around. His idols have always been Merle Travis and Chet Atkins. The group also included Jason Coleman, who actually looks and sounds like Floyd on piano. So I'm in good company to say the least. "
McCoy has always seemed to end up in "good company" from his start in Nashville.
"In 1965 I recorded on Johnny Cash's 'Orange Blossom Special'. Of course, it originally had a fiddle solo in the middle, and I finally figured out how to do it on harmonica. When the session was over, Cash came over and said, 'Hey Charlie, do you think you can show me how to do that.?' So I showed him, and gave him the two harps I used on it. Later he started playing the solo himself in concerts." McCoy said.
So how did McCoy hook up with Bob Dylan? McCoy says he recorded several albums with the folk rock legend, including "Highway 61 Revisited", "Blonde On Blonde", "Nashville Skyline”, "Self Portrait" and "John Wesley Harding".
"We met through producer Bob Johnson. It's a strange chain of events. Johnson was hired to put a band together to write and record songs for Elvis movies, so he moved from Nashville to New York. He quickly became the go-to producer in New York. He told me if I was ever in New York, to call him up and he would get me some tickets for a Broadway play. I happened to be in New York, so I called him up and said 'Hey, how about those tickets'. He said he was busy recording, but to come by the studio and he'd work something out. So I went over, walked in and he introduced me to Bob Dylan. Dylan said, 'Hey, I'm getting ready to record a song. Go grab that other guitar and we'll record.' The song turned out to be 'Desolation Road' from the album 'Highway 61 Revisited'.
McCoy went on to state, "After I left, Johnson said to Dylan, 'Now wasn't that easy? If you came down and recorded in Nashville it would be that easy all the time.' So he convinced Dylan to record in Nashville, and he ended up recording four albums there with me and some other Nashville session musicians."
McCoy says he first worked with Elvis on the movie soundtrack for 'Harem Scarem’, released in 1965. “His usual band lineup was booked for other sessions, so we put together a backup group for that movie and for Elvis' next movie, 'Frankie & Johnnie',” said McCoy. “Then, when he got his regular group back, they added me to the group. I went on to play on seven movie tracks and five albums. He was one of the nicest people I've ever met. Every night when we would record, he would go around and shake the hand of everyone in the band and say 'Thanks so much for helping me.”
As far as the quality of the movies, McCoy explained that Colonel Parker pretty much controlled what movies Elvis was in. "We'll never really know, but I think probably the contract Elvis had, it was pretty much akin to slavery. Parker even had his own music publishing company, and only the writers who worked for their company were even allowed to submit songs."
On a lighter note, McCoy truly treasures the almost 2 decades he spent on the hit T.V. show, 'Hee Haw'.
"Being on Hee Haw was a great experience. I thought it would take up too much time, but the band didn't have to be there day after day like the other cast members. Each time I walked into the studio was a great experience. I would be surrounded by all these legends... Minnie Pearl, Buck Owens, Roy Clark. And, I'll tell you... if they ever released the outtakes it would sell like crazy. These people just had such a natural sense of humor. So much that never made it on the air was just so funny. Archie Campbell was always playing practical jokes. Or if they just released a DVD with the musical guests, it was a lineup of the very best. Just about everyone on there is in the Country Music Hall of Fame." McCoy said.
So, if you are looking for a real once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the man known as the world's greatest harmonica genius, along with Richard Kiser on guitar, and the grandson of Floyd Cramer, playing a mixture of Country, Gospel, and much more, log on to www.MusicConnectionsMinistry.com for ticket information now.
It's a guaranteed night of unforgettable music, with the real McCoy.
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