Jerry “Boogie” McCain’s life story written

inNewson March 7, 2013

greg roth jerry mccain photoThe Life and Times of Jerry “Boogie” McCain: The Real Thing by Grover Brown is a tribute to Boogie, who passed last year. Boogie asked Brown to write his life’s story, and the two spent many hours with their heads together putting it together. Sadly, Boogie did not live to see the book’s publication.

Boogie’s niece Mary Elizabeth McCain Wise said, “…As I turned the pages and began to read, the words became “alive” and I could hear Jerry speak to me. There are events of sadness, joyous events of laughter, my family history, dialect of my family, his hobbies and his music and also, his recipes. But, the most touching part to me was sharing his last days and the importance of his friends. Truly this book is the life of Jerry. It is for real! It is the real thing!”

Find out more about the book or purchase at

Excerpt from The Life and Times of Jerry “Boogie” McCain:


It was December 7th, 1941. An eleven year old boy was walking down the street and puling a wagon behind him. In the wagon was a pile of assorted nails which he had removed from the piles of ashes along the side of the road. Times were not easy for most people in America near the end of the great depression, and people would burn old lumber in their stoves and fireplaces to stay warm. The old lumber would have nails in it, and the nails were scooped out of the stoves, heaters and fireplaces and dumped by the side of the road in front of their houses. Yes, times were hard for everyone; but, especially for a poor black child in the South.

A passerby yelled, “Jerry, what are you going to do with that scrap?”

“I’m taking it to the scrap iron yard and sell it.”

“What you going to do with the money?”

“If I get a quarter, I’m going to buy me a new harmonica!”

Paul Edward McCain first saw the light of day June 19, 1930. He came into this world two months early weighing only three pounds. He survived against seemingly insurmountable odds, because in 1930, there were no incubators. The midwife said that when he was born, you could lay him in a man’s handkerchief and cover him with the corners.

Paul Edward McCain? Yes, Jerry “Boogie” McCain was named Paul Edward; but, for some reason, his uncle called him Jerry! Thank the Lord it stuck! Paul “Boogie” McCain just does not work. I do not remember how long I have known Jerry “Boogie” McCain; but, I met him on the street in Gadsden, Alabama. It is my hometown. It was his hometown.

I said, “I’m Grover Brown.”

He said, “Downtown Grover Brown.”

It stuck. So I got my stage name from the greatest blues harmonica player in the world and my dear friend.

Blues music and personal style were always an essential part of the life of Jerry “Boogie” McCain. Anyone who ever called Jerry’s number and left a message heard a brief blues harmonica riff. (Blues music is typically written in twelve bars or measures. The combination is known as a riff.)

This riff was followed by Jerry saying, “Oh yeah! You’ve reached The Bluesman “Jerry Boogie McCain” the baddest harmonica player in the world. Talk to me!”

One day, Jerry said to me, “I’m tired of people getting my story wrong.”

I said, “Well, why not tell your story in your own words?”

He replied, “Why don’t you write a book?”

I agreed. We began the process by Jerry visiting me at my house. We sat down for an interview. The recording was included in one of my newsletters.

Because I spend most of my time in Chattanooga, the remaining recordings were done via telephone. Because of the chronologically fragmented nature of those recordings, I have arranged, combined and edited them to allow for a more cohesive and enjoyable read.

During the next few months, we talked almost every day. In the pages that follow, you will find many insights into the man himself and a wealth of wisdom about life, love, music, the supernatural, humor, cooking, fishing, and even Hoodoo!

This book was truly a labor of love. Sadly, Jerry left this world before we could finish.

One of the last things Jerry told me from his hospital bed was, “I want you to finish the song.”

I replied, “You mean the book?”

He said, “Yes, the book and the song.”

I told him that I would. Clearly Jerry wanted me to tell his story “The Life and Times of Jerry “Boogie” McCain.” The Real Thing! I am doing that and perhaps with the help of Boogie’s spirit, I will come to understand what he meant by The Song.

© Grover Brown 2012

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