Jerry “Boogie” McCain’s music inspires any listener to dance. McCain was born in Gadsden, Alabama, in 1930. When he was five, McCain started playing harmonica along with the jukebox in his father’s barbecue stand, the Green Front Cafe.

“Boogie” earned his nickname from his upbeat songs and amiable demeanor when he played harmonica on the streets. McCain met harp legend Little Walter Jacobs as a teenager in Gadsden. Little Walter, who did not suffer fools gladly, was impressed by McCain, invited him on stage and they became friends.

Jerry “Boogie” McCain released over thirty albums in his career. Early on, McCain understood the strength of writing original material. McCain started recording for the Trumpet label in the 1950s as well as Columbia, Okeh, Jewel and Ichiban years later. His most famous song, “She’s Tough”, was released in 1960. Its b-side, an instrumental tune, “Steady” is now considered a blues harmonica classic. Two years later, McCain utilized Nashville’s legendary studio musicians Floyd Cramer, Grady Martin and Boots Randolph on his grooving tunes “Red Top” and “Jet Stream”. McCain also toured with the Temptations and recorded with the Muscle Shoals Horns.

McCain’s amplified harmonica wizardry and singing showcased not only his musicianship and stage presence, but his songwriting. McCain’s songwriting evolved through the decades. His compositions often contained humorous social commentary such as “Ain’t No Use for Drug Abuse”. McCain’s flamboyant nature onstage at times found him wearing a holstered gun. In the 90s, McCain recorded his unforgettable tunes “Burn the Crackhouse Down”, “Viagra Man” and “Sue Somebody”. The Fabulous Thunderbirds covered McCain’s “She’s Tough”.

“Some of ‘em talk to me, like you and I can be talkin’ and you could say one phrase, two words, I say, “Oh hell, that’s a song.” And I write what you said down and then I go from there…”

McCain met Music Maker founder Tim Duffy in 1995 and became an integral musician in the organization’s early days. Music Maker Foundation released three McCain albums This Stuff Just Kills Me (1999), Unplugged (2001) and Boogie Is My Name (2003).

McCain’s “Where You Been?” is a featured song in the 2024 book Song Keepers: A Music Maker Anthology. Recorded in Memphis, this rollicking rendition captures McCain’s vocals, lyricism and harmonica brilliance at a zenith. Texas guitarist Jimmie Vaughn, older brother of Stevie Ray, contributes his signature style on this touchstone track.

He was awarded the Alabama Folk Heritage Award in 2007. McCain toured with Music Maker Foundation, but hated flying and played gigs and festivals close to home in his later years. In Alabama and a few places in Georgia, they still regard Jerry “Boogie” McCain as the greatest blues harp player that ever lived. Even now, McCain’s greatest gift to the world–his songs–can be heard. Turn him up!

Jerry “Boogie” McCain died on March 28, 2012.

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