(Mar. 27, 1905-Apr. 28, 1935). The most popular male blues musician of his day, Leroy Carr was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and arrived in Indianapolis from Louisville in 1912. As a teenager, he taught himself how to play piano after hearing Ollie Atkins, a traveling Mississippi pianist.

Following stints in the circus and the U.S. Army, Carr returned to Indianapolis in the early 1920s and by 1927 had formed a duo with guitarist Francis (Scrapper) Blackwell. In 1928 their first recording—“How Long, How Long Blues” on the Vocalion Records label—sold hundreds of thousands of copies, establishing the pair as innovators in the newly emerging urban blues style that blended contemporary pop and jazz elements with traditional country blues structures.

Music historians have noted that Carr brought a new dimension to blues recording. He was more sexually explicit than the average vaudeville blues singer and deeply influenced contemporary blues musicians. Carr and Blackwell recorded over 100 songs for Vocalion and toured throughout the Midwest until Carr’s sudden death from nephritis. His music has been re-released on numerous blues anthology discs.

Revised February 2021

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