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Charles "Cow Cow" Davenport is one of those seldom remembered names in the annals of early blues history. But a little investigation will unearth the salient fact that he played an important part in developing one of the most enduring strains of the music; yes, "Cow Cow" Davenport was one hell of a boogie-woogie piano player. Davenport worked on numerous vaudeville tours on the TOBA circuit in the '20s and early '30s, usually in the company of vocalist Dora Carr. While he's principally noted as the composer of his signature tune, "The Cow Cow Boogie," which would be revived by jazz band vocalist Ella Mae Morse during the boogie-woogie craze of the early '40s, he also claimed to have written Louis Armstrong's "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You," selling the tune outright and receiving no royalties or composer credits. He recorded for a variety of labels from 1929 to 1946, eventually settling in Cleveland, Ohio, where he died in 1955 of hardening of the arteries.
Charles Edward "Cow Cow" Davenport (April 23, 1894 – December 3, 1955) was an American boogie-woogie and piano blues player as well as a vaudeville entertainer. He also played the organ and sang.Allmusic biography
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. Davenport and Carr performed as a vaudeville act as Davenport & Co. He also performed with Tampa Red. Davenport 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 Ertegün-written "Mess Around" by Ray Charles, which was Charles's 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 was known to have made recordings under the pseudonyms of Bat The Humming Bird, George Hamilton and The Georgia Grinder.
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.Olderen, Martin van, Cow Cow Blues, liner notes, Oldie Blues OL 2811, 1979 Cite error: The named reference amg was invoked but never defined (see the help page).