LEROY CARR (By Dave Penny)
Born 27th March 1904, Nashville, Tennessee.
Pianist/vocalist/composer (also known under the alias "Blues Johnson")
Born in Nashville, Leroy Carr was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, and taught himself piano as a child, becoming an itinerant blues musician by his mid teens. For the next few years he played piano in the Midwest and south, but during this time, to make ends meet, he held a number of other odd jobs; he joined a circus, he was in the army for a while, and he was briefly a bootlegger.
In early 1928, Carr drifted back toward Indianapolis, where he met guitarist Scrapper Blackwell. The pair formed a musical partnership, developing an urban blues styling that was dramatically different to the current declamatory piano/guitar duets that were popular at the time. Within a very few months the Carr/Blackwell team had come to the attention of Vocalion Records which recorded the pair's first and only session in Indianapolis. The debut session, split with singer Mary Mathews, resulted in the huge and influential hit "How Long, How Long Blues". For the next six years, usually with Blackwell's guitar accompaniment but sometimes alone, Carr wrote and recorded a number of now classic blues songs for his Vocalion recordings, including soon-to-be blues standards such as "Midnight Hour Blues," "Reap What You Sow", "Blues Before Sunrise," "Four Day Rider", "Hurry Down Sunshine" and "Shady Lane Blues". Throughout the late '20s and early '30s, Leroy Carr was one of the most popular (and commercially successful) bluesmen in America, but just as his professional career was climbing, he began to sink deeper and deeper into alcoholism. His alcohol addiction eventually cut his life tragically short when he died aged just 30 in April 1935, two months after his first and only recording session for Bluebird, at which he debuted his newest classic-in-the-making, "When The Sun Goes Down" - a number which is now more commonly known as "In The Evening". Despite a recording career of less than seven years, because of his popularity, Carr left behind an enormous catalogue of blues recordings and a similarly huge legacy of influence, his quietly introspective vocal styling taken to greater heights in the decades following his death by such as T-Bone Walker, Charles Brown, Amos Milburn, Jimmy Witherspoon, Ray Charles and so many more.
As all of Leroy Carr's recordings have long-since become public domain, there are several good budget compilations of his classic sides available. I would recommend "Hurry Down Sunshine" (Indigo IGOCD 2016), or, if you can still find it, "Sloppy Drunk" (Catfish KATCD 108) - a 2 CD 44-track collection. For the completist, Document Records, of course, offer "The Complete Recorded Works" on seven CDs (DOCD 5134/5135/5136/5137/5138/5139/5465).
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