Charles Ray McCoy (born March 28, 1941) is a Grammy-winning American session musician noted mainly for his harmonica performance, but also for his skill on a wide variety of instruments. In 2009, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Based in Nashville, McCoy's playing is heard on recordings by Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Chet Atkins, Waylon Jennings and Loretta Lynn. He has recorded thirty-seven studio albums, including fourteen for Monument Records. Thirteen of his singles have entered the Billboard country charts. He was a member of Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry. In 2007, McCoy was inducted into the International Musicians Hall of Fame as a part a group of session musicians dubbed "The Nashville A-Team".
|Birth name||Charles Ray McCoy|
|Born||March 28, 1941|
|Origin||Oak Hill, West Virginia, United States|
|Instruments||Vocals, harmonica, guitar, bass guitar, drums|
|Labels||Monument, Step One, Koch|
|Associated acts||Bob Dylan, Area Code 615, Barefoot Jerry, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash|
McCoy was born in Oak Hill, West Virginia. His 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. At Southwest Miami high school in Miami, he put together a rock and roll band called "Charlie McCoy and the Agendas" as a guitarist and singer. At age sixteen 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 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. During this time skills had developed to where he decided to pursue a career in music.
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, Barefoot Jerry, Ringo Starr's 'Beaucoups of Blues' ,'Gene Summers In Nashville LP and Ween. In the fifteen-year period at the height of his activity, McCoy played on over 400 recording sessions per year. 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, a group of all-star session musicians who performed on the show.
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).
McCoy has family in West Virginia where he returns to often to support his sister-in-law Judy Learmonth after her husband's death in October 2017. Judy has two daughters (Carol and Jennifer Learmonth) who between them have two grandchildren (Brett Gadomski and Laken Kincaid) who support McCoy and attend the West Virginia Hall of Fame induction ceremony with McCoy every other year.
Television appearances as an artistEdit
- Hee Haw
- Music City Tonight
- Nashville Now
- CMA Awards Show
- Arthritis Telethon
- The Mike Douglas Show
- The Midnight Special
- The Colgate Country Showdown
- That Good Old Nashville Music
- Pop Goes The Country
- New Country
- The Orange Blossom Special
- The Hee Haw Honeys
- The Johnny Cash Show
- Prime Time Country
- Nashville Swing Canada
- The Val Doonican Show England
- The West Virginia Music Hall Of Fame Awards Show 2008
- Larry's Country Diner
Television shows as a music directorEdit
- Hee Haw
- The Colgate Country Showdown
- The Nashville Palace
- The Hee Haw Honeys
- The Hee Haw 10th Anniversary Show
- The Hee Haw 20th Anniversary Show
- Happy New Year From Opryland
- The Charlie Daniels Christmas Special
- The Mickey Gilley Arthritis Telethon
- Tootsie’s, Where the Songs Began
- Country Gold
- The International Musicians Hall Of Fame Awards Show 2008
|1967||The World of Charlie McCoy||Monument|
|1968||The Real McCoy (First Version)|
|1972||The Real McCoy (Hot Dog Bun Cover)||2||98|
|1973||Good Time Charlie||1||155|
|The Fastest Harp in the South||2||213|
|1974||The Nashville Hit Man||13|
|1975||Charlie My Boy||36|
|Harpin' the Blues||34|
|1976||Play It Again Charlie||48|
|Stone Fox Chase (Issued in UK Only)|
|1988||Charlie McCoy's 13th||Step One|
|1989||Beam Me Up Charlie|
|1991||Out On A Limb|
|1995||American Roots||Koka Media (France)|
|1998||Precious Memories||Revival (UK)|
|2003||Classic Country||Green Hill|
|2007||A Celtic Bridge||Flying Harp|
|2010||Duets (Volume One)|
|1961||"Cherry Berry Wine"||—||99||—||single only|
|1972||"Today I Started Loving You Again"||16||—||13||The Real McCoy|
|"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"||23||—||21||Charlie McCoy|
|"I Really Don't Want to Know"||19||—||19|
|1973||"Orange Blossom Special"||26||101||24||Good Time Charlie|
|"Release Me"||33||—||55||Fastest Harp in the South|
|1974||"Silver Threads and Golden Needles"||68||—||—||The Nashville Hit Man|
|"Boogie Woogie" (with Barefoot Jerry)||22||—||24|
|"I Can't Help It"||—||—||—|
|1975||"Everybody Stand Up and Holler for the Union"||—||—||—||Charlie My Boy|
|"Pots and Pans"||—||—||—||Play It Again Charlie|
|"Columbus Stockade Blues"||—||—||—||Harpin' the Blues|
|1976||"Wabash Cannonball"||97||—||—||Play It Again Charlie|
|1977||"Summit Ridge Drive" (with Barefoot Jerry)||98||—||—|
|"Amazing Grace"||—||—||—||Country Cookin'|
|1978||"Fair and Tender Ladies"||30||—||35||Appalachian Fever|
|"Ramblin' Music Man"||94||—||—|
|1981||"Until the Nights" (with Laney Smallwood)||94||—||—||singles only|
|1983||"The State of Our Union" (with Laney Smallwood as Laney Hicks)||74||—||—|
|1989||"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (re-recording)||—||—||—||13th|
|1990||"One O'Clock Jump"||—||—||—|
- "The Grammys/Past Winners Search?Charlie McCoy/The Real McCoy/1972". grammy.com. The Recording Academy. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "Country Music Hall of Fame/Inductees". countrymusichalloffame.org. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
- Gilbert, Calvin (November 27, 2007). "Unsung Heroes Honored at Musicians Hall of Fame Induction". cmt.com. Country Music Television/Viacom. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
- Rodack, Jaine. "Harmonica Player of the Month: Charlie McCoy (Exclusive Interview)". harmonica.com. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
- Billboard 21 December 1974, His Monumental Ten Years by Bill Williams, Nielsen Business Media, page 39
- Billboard 21 December 1974, His Monumental Ten Years by Bill Williams, Nielsen Business Media, page 41
- Kosser, p. 101.
- Billboard 21 December 1974, His Monumental Ten Years by Bill Williams, Nielsen Business Media, page 44
- Ankeny, Jason. "Charlie McCoy biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-12-15.
- Field, Kim (2000). Harmonicas, harps, and heavy breathers : the evolution of the people's instrument (Updated ed.). New York: Cooper Square Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-8154-1020-1. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
- McCoy, Charlie, and Travis D. Stimeling. Fifty Cents and a Box Top The Creative Life of Nashville Session Musician Charlie McCoy Morgantown, West Virginia: West Virginia University Press. 2017. +++
- "Charlie McCoy/TV Credits". webarchive.com. Charlie McCoy. Archived from the original on 31 July 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
- "Charlie McCoy". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2015-09-08.
- Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 584. ISBN 0-89820-188-8.
- Charlie McCoy shows off his box of harmonicas - June 19, 2008 Interview for the NAMM Oral History Library