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They Liked My Phras'n: The Life & Music of Rose McCoy, Part II

Photo from cover of Thought We Were Writing the Blues: But They Called It Rock 'n' Roll

Explore the Music of This Rock & Roll Pioneer

In Part II, Arts & Letters continues speaking with biographer Arlene Corsano about the music and career of Arkansan songwriter and singer Rose Marie McCoy and Corsano's book Thought We Were Writing The Blues But They Called It Rock 'n' Roll.

Catch up and listen to Part I before this episode!

Fiercely independent, as an African-American woman, McCoy broke barrier after barrier in the music business, especially in the fields of jazz, pop, rock n’ roll, country, and gospel.

Credit from Thought We Were Writing the Blues: But They Called It Rock 'n' Roll
Rose, far right, next to her songwriting partner, Charlie Singleton

A native of Arkansas, McCoy left for New York City in the early 1940s to pursue a singing career. However, she primarily found success as a songwriter, publishing music for over 50 years. 

In the early 1950s she partnered with songwriter Charlie Singleton. Their first hit, "It Hurts Me to My Heart" was recorded by Faye Adams in 1954, and over their six year collaboration, they wrote songs individually and as partners for top artists including: Elvis Presley "I Beg of you" and "Trying to Get to You"; Ruth Brown "Mambo Baby"; Nappy Brown "Little by Little"; Nat King Cole "If I May" and "My Personal Possession"; Little Willie John "Letter from My Darling"; and, Aretha Franklin, Eddy Arnold, The Five Willows, Big Joe Turner, The Du Droppers, Little Esther, The Clovers, and many other top artists of the time.

Rose side by side with singer Johnny Mathis in a recording studio
Credit Photo from Thought We Were Writing the Blues But They Called It Rock 'n' Roll
Rose in the studio with Johnny Mathis.
Recorded in 1961 and release in 1962, this record became Ike & Tina Turner's first top 20 hit and their first Grammy nomination.

After her partnership with Singleton, she continued to write and publish independently, turning down opportunities to work for major record labels including Motown, Stax, and Atlantic.

In the 1960s she found success with Ike and Tina Turner. McCoy wrote "It's Gonna Work Out Fine," which became Ike and Tina's first top 20 hit and their first Grammy nomination. 

In 2017, McCoy was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, but to this day she is still not recognized by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Please join us in signing the linked petition to include Rose Marie McCoy into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

A very special thanks to Arlene Corsano, who so generously shared tapes of personal interviews with McCoy and some of the original recordings of McCoy singing. 

Thank you to Stickyz Rock “N" Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas. Thank you to the Sheraton Four Points by Marriott Little Rock Midtown for providing accommodations for our singers, songwriters, and guests. 

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Executive Producer & Host: J. Bradley Minnick Producer & Story Editor: Mary Ellen Kubit Sound Mastering: Simon Sound Services Intern: Brian Williams

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