Cow Cow Davenport and the “Cow Cow Blues”

April is the birthday of the Cow Cow Davenport (Charles Edward Davenport, 1894-1955). The Anniston, Alabama native was sent to a theological seminary in his youth but preferred to play low-down blues, ragtime and boogie-woogie music on piano and organ, which got him expelled. In the ’20s he joined a medicine show called Banhoof’s Traveling Carnival, then worked the black vaudeville circuits with acts called Davenport & Co. and The Chicago Steppers, working with singers like Tampa Red, Dora Carr, and Ivy Smith. He recorded on several record labels, including Vocalion, where he was also a talent scout.

In 1928 he recorded “Cow Cow Blues”, the title referring to the cowcatcher on a locomotive. This became his best known tune, and gave him his permanent nickname. The song “Cow Cow Boogie (Cuma-Ti-Yi-Yi-Ay)” in the 1942 Abbott and Costello movie Ride ‘Em Cowboy is an apparent tribute to him.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.