Cow Cow Davenport was one of the most distinctive and influential blues pianists of his era. His walking bass lines combined with his ragtime influences helped to create the style known as barrelhouse or boogie-woogie, a term that Davenport claimed to have invented in 1924. His 1928 hit “Cow Cow Boogie” has endured as a standard for blues pianists.
Born in Anniston, Alabama in 1884, Chrales Edward Davenport was the son of a preacher who wanted him to follow in that profession. Instead, after learning piano from his mother, a church organist, he chose the path of a musician. At an early age he joined Barhoot's Traveling Carnival as a medicine show musician where his rag-time piano style was influenced by Bob Davis. He moved into vaudeville with blues singer Dora Carr as Davenport And Co., and made his first recordings for Gennett and Paramount in 1927. He later worked with Vocalion Records as both performer and talent scout. In addition to recording under his own name (and as George Hamilton, the Georgia Grinder and Bat The Hummingbird) Davenport supported many other artists, forming a particularly successful liaison with singer Ivy Smith.
In 1938 an attack of apoplexy left him deficient in his right hand. He continued to perform as a singer, but a move to New York found him eventually washing dishes in the Onyx Club. He was rescued by pianist Art Hodes, and recovered sufficiently to record again as a pianist for the Comet and Circle labels.