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Clyde McCoy, 86; Leader of Big Bands

June 20, 1990

Clyde McCoy, the big-band leader whose growling, talking trumpet became synonymous with the popular song "Sugar Blues," has died in Memphis.

He was 86 when he died June 11 after a long fight with Alzheimer's disease, Daily Variety reported in its Tuesday editions.

McCoy, who taught himself to play trumpet as a boy, recorded "Sugar Blues" for the first time in 1935. It became a bestseller and the signature song for his bands, the first of which he had formed as a youth in 1920 in Louisville.

Henceforth the McCoy bands fell into a pattern of playing sweet blues and ballads for dancing at ballrooms across the country, although McCoy himself was considered an accomplished Dixieland soloist who continued to perform into his 60s.

His style featured a muted horn into which he blew short bursts that made a "wah-wah" sound as if the instrument were speaking.

He married Maxine Bennett, the lead singer in a trio he had hired in 1937, and five years later, at the height of his popularity, led his entire band into the Navy, where they performed for Special Services.

"Sugar Blues" was reissued after the war and the band regained a measure of its popularity, but new fashions in music soon overtook its sweet style and McCoy retired to Memphis, where he opened a florist shop.

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