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Local country artist shares his song in new book

September 18, 2007|By TRISH RUDDER

"I can't tell the whole story. I'm not ready for a divorce and I don't want to get killed."

- Jim McCoy




BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - The new book, "Joltin' Jim: Jim McCoy's Life in Country Music," by John Douglas, tells the story of McCoy's life as a struggling country music singer and songwriter from Berkeley Springs, who grew up on Highland Ridge and lives there today.

"Though he never had a chart-topping song, Jim McCoy managed to make a lifelong career in the hard-tumble country music business," Douglas wrote.

"I've spent all my life in music," McCoy said recently, and at 78, he is still very active, Douglas said.

McCoy and his wife, Bertha, own a nightclub and restaurant on Highland Ridge Road called The Troubadour, named after singer Ernest Tubb, known as "The Texas Troubadour," who inspired him.

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The club is filled with country music memorabilia and McCoy's personal picture collection from more than 60 years in the business. The West Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame is part of The Troubadour, and Patsy Cline memorabilia is on a center wall.

McCoy was 17 when 14-year-old Patsy Cline asked to sing with his band, the Melody Playboys on a Winchester, Va., early morning radio show in 1947. She got her start from there and became a country music star.

McCoy and Cline were friends, and he and his band played at her wedding reception, and McCoy is still good friends with Charlie Dick, who was married to Cline until her death in 1963. McCoy was a pall bearer at Cline's funeral.

Dick wrote the introduction to the book.

Douglas said he met McCoy about seven years ago with local record collector, John Newbraugh, and spent an evening with McCoy at The Troubadour.

Douglas, who is the editor of the Morgan Messenger, said he wrote an article for the paper and Goldenseal magazine expanded it.

McCoy said he picked up the tag "Joltin' Jim" because he was always joltin' from one place to the next. For instance, in 1957 he was an early morning disc jockey at a Winchester, Va., radio station and was on the air from 5 to 9 a.m. Then he worked during the day at Montgomery Ward department store and would perform at night.

The world of country music was very small in the 1950s and '60s and everyone knew everybody, McCoy said, and the book includes many photos of McCoy with country music stars and of regional performers and band members.

He said he worked with a lot of local musicians and helped them to get started in Nashville, the home of the Grand Ole Opry, where country music artists aspire to perform.

McCoy said he led bands all over West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland. He said he met Ernest Tubb in Hagerstown and played at the VFW there and at the old Moose Lodge when it was on the square on Potomac Street.

He said he has about 50 scrapbooks of collected memorabilia from over the years.

"The main reason I got out of it was my first marriage was ruined," McCoy said, "and I didn't want to mess this one up."

He didn't drink but he did smoke cigarettes and still does, he said.

He said he saw a lot of musicians get in trouble with alcohol and pills, and it was hard on any marriage because you were away from home so much.

"A year ago, Newbraugh said it would be a good idea to have a book written about Jim McCoy," Douglas said, and Douglas began interviewing him when they went to Iowa where McCoy was inducted into the National Traditional Country Music Hall of Fame.

Newbraugh provided the discography and additional research for "Joltin' Jim," Douglas said.

Many country music musicians hail from this area, Douglas said, and they play at weddings and other gatherings, and we never hear about them.

"You can't forget to mention all the other musicians that played with Jim and made a record. Jim touched a lot of these folks," Douglas said.

The stories of McCoy's life are real and full of both happy and sad times, and he's still doing his music. This fall he is releasing a CD, "The Best of Jim McCoy," which includes his favorite song, "She's the Best," about his wife, Bertha.

McCoy said he is also working on another CD, "Jim McCoy and Friends Remember Ernest Tubb."

"I can't tell the whole story. I'm not ready for a divorce and I don't want to get killed," McCoy said.

"Joltin' Jim" Jim McCoy's Life In Country Music," is available at businesses in Berkeley Springs, Hagerstown and Winchester, Va.

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