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Clyde Lee McCoy was born on December 29, 1903 in Louisville, Kentucky into one of the families in the Hatfield-McCoy feud. He begun mastering the trumpet when he was without formal instruction, after the family moved to Portsmouth, Ohio in 1912. This would lead to performing regularly at church, school affairs and on the Cincinnati riverboats five years later, becoming one of the youngest musicians on the river at age 14.

In 1920 he auditioned with an untried band for a gig at the Whittle Hotel and Spa in Knoxville, Kentucky. Approved by the owner and the patrons the two week job lasted two months and the Clyde McCoy Orchestra was officially launched. In Chicago, Illinois he performed his song Sugar Blues at the Drake Hotel in 1930 and his solo rendition of the song would garner him national radio exposure for the band and a recording contract with Columbia Records, selling in excess of fourteen million copies internationally by the time of Clyde’s retirement in 1985.

The Clyde McCoy Orchestra would have a long and successful run at various hotels, sign a five-year recording contract with Decca Records, recorded frequently for Associated Transcriptions during the Depression and the sessions were used for delayed radio broadcasts. Following the ASCAP recording ban in 1941 that halted recording of all songs composed by its members, Clyde recorded for LangWorth Transcriptions in New York as well as Mercury, Capitol, and Vocalion Records.

Trumpeter Clyde McCoy, who developed the signature “wah-wah” sound in the late 1920s by fluttering a Harmon mute in the bell of his trumpet and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6426 Hollywood Boulevard, passed away from complications of Alzheimer disease on June 11, 1990 at the age of 86 in Memphis, Tennessee.


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