jerry mccain

Legendary bluesman Jerry "Boogie" McCain dies

By Kendra Carter

Gadsden Times Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 11:37 a.m. Last Modified: Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 9:10 a.m.

Jerry “Boogie” McCain, a Gadsden native who gained international acclaim as a prolific singer/songwriter and blues harmonica player, died Wednesday. He was 81.

McCain had a long music career that spanned the decades from 1953, when he made his first recordings, to his death. His best-known songs include “Ain't No Use for Drug Abuse” and “Burn the Crackhouse Down,” which he wrote about goings-on in his neighborhood.

“I just think Jerry was one of a kind,” said McCain's friend, M.D. Garmon. “I think his harmonica style was more like a saxophone.

“A lot of people who play blues harmonica play a lot of notes — they just work the notes to death — and Jerry would just play a real sparse line of notes and say more than all the people who play the flurry of notes.”

McCain died about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Riverview Regional Medical Center, according to his niece, Mary Elizabeth McCain Wise. He had been hospitalized for almost three weeks, spending the last 10 days in the Cardiac Care Unit.

McCain was preceded in death by his wife, Doris Jean; daughter, Geraldine; parents, Marcellas and Cynthia; brothers and sisters, Walter, Roosevelt, Thelma and Geneva; and three nieces and nephews.

He is survived by his grandchildren, Leshell and Joe Billy Toles, and seven nieces and nephews.

While he might have been the first to say he'd never gotten the accolades he deserved, friends remembered he'd be the first with a word or good-natured wisecrack for others.

Friend Grover Brown of Gadsden said while McCain probably was the greatest harmonica player who ever lived, he also was a genuinely good man.


jerry mccain cdNot only is Alabama-born Jerry McCain a terrific amplified harpist, he's also one of the funniest songwriters working the genre. Has been for more than four decades, as anyone who's dug his out-of-control 1950s Excello rockers "My Next Door Neighbor" and "Trying to Please" will gladly testify. Little Walter was McCain's main man on harp, an instrument McCain began playing at age five. Walter passed through Gadsden one fateful night in 1953 with his Aces, offering encouragement and a chance to jam at a local nightspot. That same year, "Boogie" McCain made his vinyl debut for Lillian McMurry's Trumpet label in Jackson, MS, with "East of the Sun"/"Wine-O-Wine." His brother Walter played drums on the sides. McCain's 1954 Trumpet encore, "Stay Out of Automobiles"/"Love to Make Up," was solid Southern blues but barely hinted at the galvanic energy of his subsequent output. Jerry McCain signed with Ernie Young's Nashville-based Excello logo in 1955, cutting "That's What They Want" with his usual sidekick, Christopher Collins, on guitar. "Run, Uncle John! Run," "Trying to Please," the torrid "My Next Door Neighbor" (a prior homemade demo version of the track that surfaced much later was even crazier!)," and "The Jig's Up" ranked with McCain's best 1955-57 Excello efforts. The harpist is probably best-known for his two-sided 1960 gem for Rex Records, "She's Tough"/"Steady." The Fabulous Thunderbirds later appropriated the insinuating mid-tempo A-side, while McCain's harp chops were strikingly showcased on the flip. McCain waxed three 45s for OKeh in Nashville in 1962, utilizing Music Row mainstays Floyd Cramer, Grady Martin, and Boots Randolph as his backup for "Red Top" and "Jet Stream." A series of 1965-68 sides for Stan Lewis's Shreveport-based Jewel Records included a tailor-made tribute to the company, "728 Texas (Where the Action Is)" (Jewel's address). After too many years spent in relative obscurity, McCain rejuvenated his fortunes in 1989 by signing with Ichiban Records and waxing a series of outings that displayed both his irreverent wit and a social conscience rare on the contemporary circuit. -- Bill Dahl

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame


iTunes: Jerry "Boogie" McCain

Amazon: Jerry McCain

Jerry "Boogie" McCain: This Stuff Just Kills Me
Jerry "Boogie" McCain: Better Late Than Never
Jerry "Boogie" McCain: Unplugged
Jerry "Boogie" McCain: "Boogie" Is My Name
Jerry "Boogie" McCain: Crimson Tide Tribute
Jerry McCann: Blue Plate Special
Jerry McCann: All Lit Up Like The Moon
Jerry McCann: What it Is & What it Was

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