[Dixielandjazz] Re: CLYDE McCOY Plunger Mute

Bill Haesler bhaesler at bigpond.net.au
Sat Jul 31 00:42:40 PDT 2004

Dear Dan (and others who replied to your query to trumpet players.)
I am not a trumpet player, but will reply anyway.
"Sugar Blues" (1919. Lucy Fletcher-Clarence Williams) was recorded well
before Clyde McCoy & His Orch made the popular version on Columbia 2389 on
22 Jan 1931, as follows:
1922. Leona Williams, Sara Martin, Monette Moore, Lillian Harris.
1923. Ladd's Black Aces, Johnny Dunn, Clarence Williams (QRS piano roll).
The King Oliver version (with a wah-wah trumpet solo) was recorded in New
York on 18 Feb 1931, 3 weeks after the McCoy, which in all probability had
not yet been released. As trumpet-playing bandleader Clyde McCoy (1903-1990)
was already a Chicago radio personality by the late 1920s Oliver would more
than likely have heard his "Sugar Blues" theme tune on air.
There are claims that McCoy's 1931 "Sugar Blues" (with its distinctive
'wah-wah' trumpet gimmick) was a $million plus hit for Columbia.
He recorded it again in Chicago on 31 Jan 1935 for Decca and this version
certainly was a $million seller by 1946.
McCoy reprised it for Capitol on 10 Dec 1951.
I recall growing up during the war years when McCoy's "Sugar Blues" was on
every radio station. Probably the Decca which was available here on an
English Brunswick 78. Local dance bands were obliged to include it in their
repertoire along with "Golden Wedding". Another reason we got sick of it. In
the mid 1940s, when we became young, impressionable jazz record collectors,
Clyde McCoy's "Sugar Blues" was dismissed as corny.
As Spike Jones' aficionados we had also noted the McCoy style, for the
brilliant trumpet player George Rock trotted it out (tongue-in-cheek) on
many an occasion on Spike's 1940s records. Which probably encouraged us not
to take it all too seriously. Then we heard King Oliver's Brunswick 1931
version (his last recording) and were confused.
I have a feeling that King Oliver (himself an acknowledged master of the
wah-wah mute) must have heard McCoy do his popular "Sugar Blues" feature in
Chicago, and decided to mimic it. Unfortunately, not as successfully as
McCoy on this occasion.
I have all the 1922-23 recorded versions and a CD copy of the piano roll
mentioned above, plus the 1931 McCoy and King Oliver records, but have never
owned the McCoy' Decca/Brunswick or Capitol 78s.
So where do I and Mr McCoy's "Sugar Blues" stand nearly 60 years later?
Perhaps I should try and locate the 1935 and 1956 recordings before I go too
There is no doubt that Clyde McCoy was a respected and talented musician and
bandleader throughout the 20s and 30s. He was the first to take his whole
band, intact, into the US Navy in 1942. McCoy disbanded his orchestra in the
1950s to play 'dixieland' and lead a small band. Unfortunately, I have never
heard his 'jazz' records, if any exist.
For a young musician to now imitate and feature Clyde McCoy's dated trumpet
'effects' is probably unwise - and too late.
Better to spend valuable time listening to, and absorbing Mutt Carey, King
Oliver, Bubber Miley and Muggsy Spanier.
Very kind regards,

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