Kansas Joe McCoy and When the Levee Breaks

Kansas Joe McCoy was a legendary figure in the blues world, and his song “When the Levee Breaks” is one of the most iconic tunes in the genre. In this blog post, we’ll explore the history of the song and what makes it so special.

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Kansas Joe McCoy was a pioneer in the development of the blues. He was born in rural Mississippi in 1899 and moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1917. There he worked as a musician and recorded with other musicians such as W.C. Handy, Bessie Smith, and Ma Rainey. In 1929, McCoy and his wife moved to Chicago, where he continued to play music and recorded with his own band, The Harlem Hamfats. In 1936, McCoy wrote and recorded the song “When the Levee Breaks”, which became a hit for him and has since been recorded by many other artists, including Led Zeppelin and Buddy Guy.

Early life of Kansas Joe McCoy

Kansas Joe McCoy was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on November 15, 1905. His parents were both musicians, and his mother was a singer. Kansas Joe began playing music when he was a child and learned to play the guitar and mandolin. He made his first recordings with his brother, harmonica player Jimmy Yancey, in 1927. Kansas Joe’s first wife, Liz, was a singer and pianist who performed with him onstage and on several of his recordings. They had two daughters together, Mary McCoy and Barbara McCoy-Ector.

Kansas Joe McCoy’s best-known songs are “Why Don’t You Do Right?,” “Black Cat Bone,” and “I Can’t Be Satisfied.” He also wrote the song “When the Levee Breaks,” which was later popularized by Led Zeppelin. Kansas Joe McCoy died of a heart attack in Chicago on January 28, 1950.

Kansas Joe McCoy and the blues

Kansas Joe McCoy was a blues musician who was most active in the 1920s and 1930s. He is best known for his songs “When the Levee Breaks” and “Kansas City Stomp”.

McCoy was born in Harrisonburg, Louisiana, in 1899. He began playing music at an early age, and by the 1920s he was performing with his brothers, Hersal and Illinois Slim. The McCoy Brothers band was based in Chicago and became one of the most popular blues bands of the 1920s. They recorded for several different labels, including Paramount, Vocalion, and Okeh.

In 1929, Kansas Joe left the McCoy Brothers band to form his own group, which he called Kansas City Joe and His All-Stars. The group recorded for Columbia Records and had a hit with “Kansas City Stomp”. They also recorded “When the Levee Breaks”, which became a blues standard.

Kansas Joe McCoy continued to perform and record until his death in 1950. His songs have been covered by many artists, including Led Zeppelin, who recorded their own version of “When the Levee Breaks” in 1971.

“When the Levee Breaks”

“When the Levee Breaks” is a song recorded by American blues duo Kansas Joe McCoy and His Harlem Hamfats in 1936. The song is about the 1911 Mississippi River Flood. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Kansas Joe McCoy’s later years

Kansas Joe McCoy continued to recorded and perform sporadically throughout the 1940s. In 1947, he reunited with his wife for a session with Big Bill Broonzy. The results were released as “Big Bill and Kansas Joe”. In 1949, McCoy led a session with his brothers, pianist Steve and guitarist Hersal. The recordings were not released at the time, but were later reissued on LP in the 1970s. In 1951, he made his final recordings as a leader, cutting four tracks with an ad hoc group featuring Sunnyland Slim on piano and Little Walter Jacobs on harmonica. One of the songs, “I Can’t Be Satisfied”, was released as a single by JOB records; it did not sell well.


In conclusion, Kansas Joe McCoy and When the Levee Breaks is a great album that should not be missed by any music lover. The great thing about this album is that it has something for everyone, whether you’re a fan of country, blues, or rock. If you’re looking for an album that is sure to please, then this is the one for you.

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