Leroy Carr

Though sometimes overlooked among the popular blues canon because of his short career and quiet personality, Leroy Carr was the most popular bluesman of the late '20s and was key in the shift to an urban blues sound. Born March 27, 1904, in Nashville, Carr moved to Indianapolis as a boy. While young, he taught himself to play piano, but before he could make a living through music he attempted short stints as a soldier, a circus performer, a bootlegger and a meatpacker. In the mid-20s, he met another bootlegger, Scrapper Blackwell, who also played guitar on the side. The duo were noticed by a talent scout, and in 1928 they recorded their first and greatest hit, "How Long How Long Blues." The two recorded a string of successful songs over the next seven years, and marked a shift from rough, backwater blues to a more urban sound, with smoother vocals and a soft, slow sound. Carr's career came to an unfortunate, early end when he died from complications related to alcoholism on April 29, 1934 in Indianapolis, at the age of 30.