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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Texas Shout - Cow Cow Davenport

Charles Edward "Cow Cow" Davenport (April 23, 1894 – December 3, 1955) was an American boogie woogie piano player. He also played the organ and sang.
He was born in Anniston, Alabama. Arnold Caplin, on the liner notes to the album Hot Pianos 1926-1940 reports that Davenport started playing the piano at age 12. His family objected strongly to his musical aspirations and sent him to a theological seminary, where he was expelled for playing ragtime.

Davenport's career began in the 1920s when he joined Banhoof's Traveling Carnival, a medicine show. His first fame came as accompanist to blues musicians Dora Carr and Ivy Smith. He also performed with Tampa Red. He recorded for many record labels, and was a talent scout and artist for Vocalion Records. Davenport suffered a stroke in the early 1930s and lost movement in his hands. He was washing dishes when he was found by the jazz pianist Art Hodes in 1938. Hodes assisted in his rehabilitation and helped him find new recording contracts.

His best-known tune was "Cow Cow Blues". In 1953, "Cow Cow Blues" was an influence on the Ahmet Erteg√ľn-written "Mess Around" by Ray Charles' which was Charles' first step away from his Nat "King" Cole-esque style, and into the style he would employ throughout the 1950s for Atlantic Records.

"Cow-Cow Boogie (Cuma-Ti-Yi-Yi-Ay)" [1943] was probably named for him, but he did not write it. It was penned by Benny Carter, Gene de Paul and Don Raye. It combined the then popular "Western song" craze (exemplified by Johnny Mercer's "I'm an Old Cowhand") with the big band / boogie-woogie fad. The track was written for the Abbott and Costello film, Ride 'Em Cowboy.

Davenport claimed to have been the composer of "Mama Don't Allow It". He also said he had written the Louis Armstrong hit "I'll be Glad When You're Dead (You Rascal You)", but sold the rights and credit to others.

Cow Cow Davenport, who died in 1955 in Cleveland, Ohio, of hardening of the arteries is a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Cripple Clarence Lofton called him a major influence.
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  1. For what it's worth, Art Hodes interviewed Davenport a couple of times between 1945 and 1955. A transcript of some of was published in the British magazine Jazz Journal (May 1959).

    When asked about his song, Cow Cow Blues, he told Hodes:

    "When I began playin' the 'Cow Cow Blues' I was trying to imitate a train and I originally called them the 'Railroad Blues'. I was trying to get in a part where the switchman (with many of whom I had a personal acquaintance) boarded the train from the cow-catcher or front of the train. The word 'cow; somehow stuck with me and once, working in a theatre, I ended a song with 'Nobody here can do me like Papa Cow Cow can do'. The audience immediately picked up the song and those who liked the number were anxious to get acquainted with me. After the show they would walk up addressing me as 'Papa Cow Cow' and from then on I have been called by such a moniker".

  2. That's a great story! Thanks for sharing. I really have a great appreciation for these types of details!