Mississippi Blues Trail Recognizes Prince McCoy
Greenville, Mississippi — October 19, 2017 — A Mississippi Blues Trail marker unveiled in Greenville celebrates the legacy of Prince McCoy, the bluesman who inspired legend W.C. Handy but whose name had nearly vanished from history.
“Prince McCoy’s story was lost for generations, but recent research uncovered his important role in the development of blues music,” said Visit Mississippi Director Craig Ray. “McCoy’s music and performance in Cleveland, Mississippi, in 1903 profoundly impacted W.C. Handy and led him to pursue blues music.”
McCoy led a Greenville-based band around the turn of the 20th century, performing at dances and civic events such as the 1910 Ole Miss-Alabama football game. According to Handy’s 1941 autobiography, “Father of the Blues,” the future blues master witnessed McCoy’s elated audience shower the band with coins after a performance in Cleveland. By the time the book was published, McCoy’s named had been removed from the story.
The elusive bluesman resurfaced in 2009 during research for W.C. Handy’s Mississippi Blues Trail marker. Historian Elliott Hurwitt discovered McCoy’s name in an early manuscript of “Father of the Blues,” identifying him as the leader of the trio Handy saw in Cleveland. According to Stack Mangham of Clarksdale, Handy’s song “Memphis Blues” was based on the music McCoy and his band played.
McCoy moved to Winston-Salem, N.C., where he was a member of the Maxey’s Medicine Show traveling musical group. He passed away in 1968.
Located at 318 Main Street in Greenville, the Prince McCoy marker sits between South Poplar and South Shelby streets in an area where the artist once performed. The marker is the 196th installment on the Mississippi Blues Trail.
The Mississippi Blues Trail was launched in 2006 by the Mississippi Blues Commission and commemorates the people, places and history of blues music, the American art form responsible for shaping modern popular music. For additional information, please visit www.msbluestrail.org.