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Cleo McGee: 1928-2002
Cleo McGee
'Big Bo'
Blues singer, harmonica

Born: October 9, 1928 in Emelle, Alabama
Died: March 3, 2002 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Blues singer Big Bo McGee

Copyright © 2002 


Cleo "Big Bo" McGee worked as a truck driver for 40 years before enjoying belated wider recognition as a fine blues singer and harmonica player. That recognition came about through his playing partnership with Jolly "Little Whitt" Wells, another truck driver. Their only album, Moody Swamp Blues (vent, 1995), made a big impression in Europe, and allowed them to tour and perform in their authentic style.

McGee always claimed that he was a native of both Alabama and Mississippi, since the family house sat on the state line between Emelle, Alabama, and Porterville, Mississippi. He joked that his family could sleep in Mississippi and eat breakfast in Alabama.

Wells is also an Alabama native. The duo played fish fries and family parties in their home state for most of their lives. Their introduction to a wider audience was brought about by the support of the Alabama Blues Project, an organisation devoted to promulgating authentic regional musicians.

Their music had an authentic, rough-edged flavour which had gone out of much contemporary blues playing, evident both in their live performances and on Moody Swamp Blues, which featured a mix of classic blues tunes with their own compositions.

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With 2 reader comments, latest February 16, 2007