Born Carl Everett Glasscock McVoy, 3 January 1931, Epps, Louisiana
Died 3 January 1992, Jackson, Mississippi

Like Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart, Carl McVoy was a cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis. The mothers of Jerry Lee (Mamie Herron Lewis), Jimmy (Minnie Bell Herron Swaggart) and Carl (Fannie Sue Herron Glasscock) were sisters. A few years older than Jerry Lee, Carl was a good looking pianist, whom the Killer looked up to, and from whom he derived some of his ambition for the piano. Carl had been to New York with his father, who ran a ministry there for a few years. It was there that young Carl first heard boogie woogie music. He took the experience with him to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he got a job in the construction industry. One summer, Jerry Lee Lewis came to stay and wanted Carl to show him everything he knew on the piano. "I think I was instrumental in the way his style developed", McVoy has said.

Carl knew Sun artist Ray Harris, who was working with him in both music and construction. Harris was eager to start his own record company, but had no money. For the sum of $3,50 Harris cut demos of McVoy singing a rocked-up version of "You Are My Sunshine" and an original song called "Tootsie". Together with Sun alumni Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch (the writers of "Tootsie") Harris approached record store owner Joe Cuoghi, and this resulted in the formation of the Hi label in late 1957. Carl McVoy was sent to Nashville to re-record the two songs on more professional equipment, under the supervision of Chet Atkins. Released on Hi 2001 in December 1957, McVoy's record stirred up far more interest than the fledgling Hi label could handle. Orders came flooding in, but payments did not and Hi soon found itself in a cash-flow bind. In April 1958, the record - and McVoy's contract - was turned over to Sam Phillips (for $ 2,600), for release on his Phillips International label, where it enjoyed some success although the sales momentum had been broken.

Just before this transaction, Hi issued the other two tracks from the Nashville session ("Little John's Gone"/"Daydreamin'") on the second ever Hi single (# 2002). Like the first Hi 45, it featured one new rocker (sounding very much like "Tootsie") and a rocked-up country standard.

During his period at Sun Carl cut at least 14 different titles over the course of six sessions, but nothing more was released. (Hard to see why - nothing wrong in the way of quality.) Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins date the earliest of these sessions on May 12, 1957 and June 6, 1957. If they are right, it would mean that McVoy had already recorded before "Tootsie" and that there were in fact two stints at Sun, interrupted by the Hi tenure. It is possible, but it seems unlogical to me.

Ten of these Sun tracks have become available over the years, on a number of different Charly compilation CD's. McVoy's versions of "My Bucket's Got A Hole In It" (recorded three months before Sonny Burgess), and "Right Behind You Baby" (three months after Ray Smith's record) have yet to surface. "Oh Yeah", which was credited to Carl on "Essential Sun Rockabillies, Vol. 4" (and on a Redita LP), is not by Carl, but by Wally Jeffery (Do-Ra-Me 1402).

Carl wisely hung on to his day job in the construction business. But, having played a role in the start of the Hi label, he remained interested in Hi's fortunes and in 1960 Carl bought out Quinton Claunch's stake in the company. In the same year (or in late 1959) he joined Bill Black's Combo as their pianist / organist and can be heard on most of the combo's hits, though not on their first success, "Smokie, Part 2", which features Joe Louis Hall on piano. McVoy also wrote several tunes for Bill Black's Combo, including "Do It - Rat Now", a # 51 hit in 1963. Besides, he had two singles released as a singer in 1961-62, a nice cover of Slim Harpo's "Raining In My Heart" on the Tri label and a remake of Chuck Willis's "What Am I Living For" (Hi 2054), but further success eluded him.

In 1963 Hi released the instrumental LP "Raunchy Sounds" by the Hi-Tones (HL 12011), who were Carl McVoy, Willie Mitchell, Jack O'Brien, Reggie Young, Jerry Arnold and Bobby Stewart. Carl (co-) wrote five of the twelve songs on the album, which is best described as "Bill Black's Combo meets Booker T and the MG's".

Around 1965 Carl quit the music business and opted for a more secure future in the construction industry in which he worked until his death in 1992. He died of a heart attack on his 61st birthday.

More info :

Acknowledgements : Adam Komorowski, Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins, Phil Davies, Tapio Väisänen.

Recommended listening :
There exists no CD devoted entirely to Carl McVoy (an idea for Bear Family?). His recordings are scattered on various compilations, especially on Charly. For an overview see Terry Gordon's site :

YouTube :
Tootsie :
You Are My Sunshine :
Little John's Gone / Daydreamin' :
There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight :
Little Girl :
A Woman's Love :
You're the Only Star In My Blue Heaven :
I'll Be Satisfied :
Rainin' In My Heart (+ flip) :

Dik, January 2013

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
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