Charles "Cow Cow" Davenport was a pioneer of blues piano. He was born April 26, 1894 in Anniston, Alabama, and began playing piano at age 12.
His mother was a church organist, but Charles' parents frowned on his fascination with ragtime and sent him to the Alabama Theological Seminary, where he was expelled in 1911 for playing ragtime at a church function.
Davenport's career began in the 1920s with Banhoof's Traveling Carnival, and his early career was mostly in carnivals and vaudeville with TOBA (Theater Owners' Booking Association).
His walking bass lines combined with his ragtime influences helped to create the style known as "barrelhouse" or "boogie-woogie", a term that Davenport claimed to have invented in 1924.
He had his first hit on both piano rolls and 78s with "Cow Cow Boogie", one of the most popular boogie-woogie piano tunes ever recorded. "Cow Cow Boogie" was written by Benny Carter, Gene de Paul, and Don Raye, and combined two of that era's fads- the "Western" song and big band/boogie-woogie. The track was written for the Abbot and Costello movie "Ride 'Em Cowboy".
Later in the 20s, Davenport worked with singers Dora Carr and Ivy Smith, and was a talent scout for Brunswick and Vocalion Records. Throughout the 20s he was based in Birmingham, which was a hub of blues piano activity at the time.
He moved to Cleveland in 1930, continued working with TOBA, and recorded with the Gennett label, which was owned by the Starr Piano Company and folded due to the Depression.
He suffered a stroke in 1938 which affected his playing, but jazz pianist Art Hodes helped him to remain active as a singer until he recovered enough to play again.
A new version of "Cow Cow Boogie" by the Freddie Slack Orchestra, with seventeen-year-old Ella Mae Morse on vocals, sparked a boogie-woogie craze in 1942, and revived interest in Davenport. His attempted comeback, which included appearing on the bill with Duke Ellington at the Masonic Temple on East 36th and Euclid Avenue on January 28, 1950, was hampered by illness, and "Cow Cow" Davenport passed away in Cleveland from heart problems on December 2, 1955.