Viola McCoyViola McCoy is not as well known as many of her contemporaries  (Bessie Smith, "Ma" Rainey, Mamie Smith, etc. ) who performed during the "Classic Blues' period of the 1920's.

Viola, born c1900 in Memphis, TN. was a beautiful woman who sang her songs and played the kazoo with flair and fashion.  Her true name may have been Amanda Brown, but was also known as (get this): Daisy Cliff, Fannie Johnson, Gladys Johnson, Violet McCoy, Clara White, Bessie Williams and Susan Williams.  Several of the women performing during this period used an "alias."

During the early twenties, she reportedly settled in New York City to work in the local clubs.  In 1922, she appeared in the MOONSHINE REVUE at Lafayette Theatre. From 1923 to 1924, she recorded on several record Labels (Vocalian, Pathe/Banner, Gennett/Columbia/Ajax and Edison) with Fletcher Henderson's Jazz Five, Choo Choo Jazzers and the Kansas City Five.

Viola was also a seasoned musical theatre and musical comedy performer.  She was a regular on the TOBA /RKO circuits and  peformed in cabaret and vaudeville shows throughout the 1920's.

In the early 1930's, Viola continued  singing and performing in musical revues.  She worked such venues as the Harlem Opera House and The Apollo Theatre.  Around 1938, Ms. McCoy settled in Albany, NY and  from that time on remained mostly inactive in music.  She died c1956.

Unfortunately, Viola McCoy, like many of her "sisters" remains virtually unknown, even to those of us in the "blues community."  During her career, she entertained and brought smiles to many.

Lea Gilmore
Click the "GO" button to
list all available books,
CDs, and videos on:

Viola McCoy

©1998 Lea A. Gilmore and P.W. Fenton, All Rights Reserved.