Thought We Were Writing the Blues: But They Called It Rock 'n' Roll is the inspiring, true rags-to-riches tale of Rose Marie McCoy, who in 1942 left a tin-top shack in Arkansas to moved to Harlem, seeking fame and fortune as a singer. Though she had some success as a singer, opening for Ruth Brown, Moms Mabley, Dinah Washington, Pigmeat Markham and other top acts, her great success came as a songwriter. She also produced many records and even had her own publishing firm. What an astonishing accomplishment for a black female in the white male-dominated music business, a business she had known nothing about. But the beautiful, talented, warm and witty Rose Marie McCoy was no ordinary woman.
Though she possessed a gentle and loving spirit; she was also a fearless fighter when necessary, as demonstrated in this heartwarming story, a story filled with fascinating behind-the-scenes tales of the musicians, songwriters, producers, arrangers, record company owners, and legendary singers who made the hits, including Sarah Vaughan, Jackie Wilson, Johnny Mathis, Little Willie John, Little Esther, Louie Jordan, Ruth Brown, Nappy Brown, and many others.
The road to making this book all started on April 19, 2001, Rose's 79th birthday, when Arlene Corsano, the book's author, first met Rose Marie McCoy. The two met through Maxine Brown, who suggested Arlene do a newspaper article about Rose. Awed by what she learned through their first interview, and dismayed at how little information was available about such a prolific songwriter, whose tunes had had been recorded by so many legendary artists, Arlene became determined to make sure the legacy of Rose Marie McCoy would not be forgotten.
At first Arlene set up interviews for Rose at local television and radio stations. Then with help from others, who understood the important contribution Rose had made to America's music heritage, Arlene produced Rose's 85th birthday concert celebration in Harlem; created a multi-media musical cabaret act, which included Rose singing some of her own creations; produced a musical about Rose's life; co-produced the radio documentary Lady Writes the Blues; and introduced Rose's accomplishments to the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, which led to the songwriter being inducted in 2008. But for Arlene, this was not enough. There was so much more to the story of Rose Marie McCoy than the over 800 songs she had written. That's when Rose and Arlene began discussing putting together the whole story into a book.
Arlene says it was a joy working with the warm, witty, highly independent Rose Marie McCoy. She hopes this book will not only introduce Rose to many more people, but also help get her inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, where she belongs.