Rose Marie McCoy was born Marie Hinton on April 19, 1922 in Oneida Arkansas, located in the Mississippi Delta. Her parents rented a forty acre piece of land on which they grew cotton and corn, and raised chickens and cows. Rose described her home as "a three room shack made of just plain wood with a tin top roof. The walls were papered with newspapers people threw out. You were rich if you had a nickle to buy a paper."
Life on the farm was hard enough, but when the Mississippi River flooded in 1927 severely damaging the area life became even harder. Then came the Great Depression and cotton prices. dropped even further. "Though Oneida was poor," Rose explained, "I never saw anyone go hungry. Everybody helped each other; it was beautiful."
Growing up on a the farm, Rose learned the importance of community, hard work, patience, determination, and kindness. She took those teachings with her when she left Arkansas for New York City in 1942. For ten years, she tried to make it as a singer. Though she had some success on the Chitlin' Circuit, opening for Pigmeat Markham, Moms Mabley, and other top performers, she also supported herself by ironing shirts in a hand laundry and during World War III, she worked as an iron welder on battleships, a physically demanding and sometimes dangerous job.
Then in 1952, she was asked to write and record two songs for a newly formed record company. Wheeler Records lasted only about a year, but it helped birth one of the longest , prolific songwriting careers ever, for when other record companies and music publishers heard her songs, they asked for more. In 1953, she had her first top ten Rhythm & Blues hit, "Gabbin' Blues".
Over the years, I have heard many people interview Rose. At some point, they all ask her to talk about how hard it was breaking into the white male dominated business of songwriting. "Hard? Rose would say. "Not really. I just did what I did, and it worked out." One interviewer couldn't get the answer he was looking for, so he asked another songwriter who knew Rose well, Jimmy Steward. He had the best answer. "Hard? Hell no, 'cause she's Rose. "
Of course breaking into the white male dominated songwriting business in the early 1950s was difficult for a black woman, but what Jimmy Steard knew was that Rose had the perfect combination to make it look easy - talent, determination, and fearlessness. Plus her beauty and sparkling personality certainly helped open doors.
The most incredible thing about Rose Marie McCoy ’s songwriting career is that she broke into the male-dominated business of songwriting without being on the staff of any record company or music publisher to represent her. She had to rely on her own efforts; she made the necessary connections herself. In addition to getting almost everything she wrote recorded, Rose also produced many records and formed her own music publishing company. That’s quite an accomplishment for a poor black farmer's daughter from Arkansas.