Charlie McCoy

Harmonica player Charlie McCoy's natural musical ability and willingness to try anything enabled him to work with some of the finest and most famous musicians of the '60s and '70s before he gained recognition as a solo performer.

Born March 28, 1941, in Oak Dale, W.Va., McCoy moved with his family to Miami, where he studied music theory and learned to play harmonica, performing shows behind anyone who needed backup.

After moving to Nashville in 1959, he auditioned as a guitarist for singer Johnny Ferguson. When he learned that the position was filled, he bought a drum kit, taught himself to play and earned a position in the band. After a breakthrough appearance on the 1961 Roy Orbison single "Candy Man" (RealAudio excerpt), McCoy became one of Nashville's hottest session musicians, and recorded with artists as diverse as Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Joan Baez, Paul Simon and Townes van Zandt.

Though he most often played harmonica, his instrumental proficiency in one instance led him to simultaneously play bass guitar and trumpet for Dylan, who was trying to avoid overdubs on Blonde on Blonde. A 1969 solo album, The Real McCoy, was ignored until a Florida DJ began to play the single "I Started Loving Her Again." That song became a top-20 hit, and boosted McCoy's solo career, as well as those of his bands Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry. To this day, McCoy has continued to keep his fingers in numerous pots, recording and touring on his own, collaborating with others and serving for several years as musical director for the television show "Hee Haw."

Other birthdays Tuesday: Mary Jo Leet, 1947; Dean Webb , 1937; and Benny Williams, 1931.