Jerry McCain, often billed as Jerry "Boogie" McCain (June 18, 1930 – March 28, 2012), was an American electric blues musician, best known as a harmonica player. Born in Gadsden, Alabama, United States, he was one of five children of a poor family, many of his siblings became involved in music as well, most notably his brother, Walter, who played drums on some early recordings. McCain picked up the harmonica from itinerant musicians "Chick" and "Shorty" who played at the local bars (and street corners) when he was young.
McCain was a fan of the music of Little Walter and met the artist when, in 1953, he traveled to Gadsden for a show. McCain's recording debut came via Trumpet Records the same year under the name "Boogie McCain", with his brother Walter on drums. The two tracks were "East of the Sun" and "Wine-O-Wine". After recruiting Christopher Collins, who would be with him throughout most of his career, he went on to the Excello label. During his years with the Excello (1955–57) he developed his amplified harmonica style, and unusual blues lyrics. The Excello Label period saw the release of such noted songs as "The Jig's Up", and "My Next Door Neighbor". His later recording for Rex Records "She's Tough" / "Steady" was an inspiration to The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Kim Wilson duplicated McCain's harp work on their version.
McCain also released singles and albums for Columbia, under their Okeh Records label (1962), and for the Nashville based Jewel (1965–68) record label. The complete collection of his Jewel label records are available on a compilation album and, in recent years, several of his early recordings have been released on "retrospective" and compilation CDs, including the Verose Vintage album, Good Stuff. His longest partner, Ichiban Records, also released several retrospectives in the 1990s, including ICH1516-2: Jerry McCain.
In 1989, after a period spent performing and touring with lesser known bands, McCain signed with Ichiban Records, and released the albums: Blues and Stuff, Struttin' My Stuff, and Love Desperado. During his time with Ichiban, McCain also released one record on the Jericho label, This Stuff Just Kills Me, which featured Jimmie Vaughan and Johnnie Johnson. His 1977 release, This Stuff Just Kills Me eventually appeared on the Music Maker label.
In 2002, Ichiban released an album called American Roots: Blues featuring McCain. McCain's abridged work was featured on track 8 of the Rhino Records Blues Masters Volume Four: Harmonica Classics, with an almost lost recording of "Steady". McCain's inclusion in the Blues Master series, was alongside Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Junior Wells, Howlin' Wolf, Snooky Pryor, and George "Harmonica" Smith.
The City of Gadsden honored McCain by including his own day at their annual Riverfest Event; a four day music event. The addition of The Jerry McCain Broad Street Blues Bash rounded out the entertainment and allowed many local citizens to experience McCain. A commemorative CD, featuring some of McCain's music, was compiled for sale at the 1997 Riverfest Event. In 1996, McCain was selected by the Etowah Youth Orchestras as the most well-known musician from Gadsden. The EYO commissioned the composer Julius Williams to write a work for solo harmonica and orchestra, to be performed by McCain and the Etowah Youth Symphony Orchestra, as a part of the City of Gadsden's Sesquicentennial Celebration. "Concerto for Blues Harmonica and Orchestra" was premiered in November 1996, on the EYO's Fall Formal Concert at Wallace Hall, on the campus of Gadsden State Community College. McCain performed the solo harmonica part with the EYSO, under the direction of Michael R. Gagliardo. The "Concerto" was subsequently performed in Alice Tully Hall, at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City in June 1997, with McCain, the EYSO, and Julius Williams conducting.
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