Cow Cow Davenport Biography

Charles Edward Davenport, 23 April 1894, Anniston, Alabama, USA, d. 3 December 1955, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. One of the most distinctive themes utilized in boogie-woogie is the train imitation ‘Cow Cow Blues’ from which this consummate performer derived his nickname. Davenport’s father, a preacher, wanted to see his son follow him to a career in the church but it was not to be. Instead the piano laid claim to Davenport at an early age and he took up the insecure life of the medicine show musician. He joined Barhoot’s Travelling Carnival working the backwaters of Alabama. Here his basically ragtime piano style was subjected to the influence of Bob Davis and the lusty, rolling result was to be the basis of Davenport’s success on record throughout the 20s. He moved into vaudeville with blues singer Dora Carr as Davenport And Co. Davenport made his first recordings for Gennett (unissued) and Paramount in 1927. Thereafter he linked up with Vocalion Records both as performer and talent scout.

In addition to recording under his own name (and as George Hamilton, the Georgia Grinder and Bat The Hummingbird) Davenport supported many other artists, forming a particularly successful liaison with singer Ivy Smith. During this period he tried several ventures outside music, failing as a record shop owner and opening his own café. He also fell foul of southern law and spent six months in jail. In 1938, he suffered an attack of apoplexy which left him deficient in his right hand. He continued to perform as a singer but a move to New York found him eventually washing dishes in the Onyx Club, from where he was rescued by pianist Art Hodes. He recovered sufficiently to record again as a pianist, for the Comet and Circle labels, in 1945 and 1946. Davenport worked in towns as far apart as Atlanta, Cleveland and Nashville. He has composer credit for two much-played standbys of the traditional jazz scene, ‘Mama Don’t Allow’ and ‘You Rascal, You’ and was sole composer of the 40s hit, ‘Cow Cow Boogie’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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