Joyce Cobb

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Joyce Cobb
Birth name Joyce Renee Cobb
Born (1945-06-02) June 2, 1945 (age 72)
Okmulgee, Oklahoma
United States
Genres Jazz, blues, R&B, folk, gospel, Traditional pop
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Years active 1967–present
Labels Truth
Archer Records

Joyce Cobb (born June 2, 1945 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma) is an American singer specializing in jazz and R&B. She is closely associated with traditional blues and jazz artists, most specifically being in the style and lineage of Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughan. She has a wide-ranging career as an award-winning solo artist and vocalist, having charted several country, pop, and R&B singles in the 1970s and early 1980s later recording as an adept jazz vocalist.


Early years (1945-71)[edit]

Joyce Cobb was born on June 2, 1945 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma and first sang in her grandmother's church. In 1955 her family moved to Nashville, Tennessee, when her father was hired at Tennessee State University as the head of the Health and physical education department. Her parents owned a large record collection of music that was influential on her at a young age.[1][2] Her first vocal training during that time was at Cathedral of the Incarnation, during grade and high school this mainly consisted of singing requiems and pontifical high masses. She sang in the girls glee club and choir during that time also; Cobb had 14 years of private piano training. From 1963 to 1967 she attended Central State University and acquired an undergraduate degree in Social Welfare.[1][2]

Her professional music career started in Dayton, Ohio singing with different blues and jazz bands. While pursuing a master's degree at Wright State University in social work by day, she was singing in clubs at night.[1] She was offered a road gig singing in duo with Bill Temme for Ramada Inn hotels and quit pursuing a vocation as a social worker to become a professional singer and songwriter.[3] Between 1969 and 1971 Cobb was on Ramada Inn's Midwest circuit for entertainment, performing in duo under the title Joyce and William [Temme] Duo both singing and playing guitars.[3]

Nashville (1971–75)[edit]

After two and a half years working for the Ramada hotel chain she returned to Nashville in 1971 and worked in a variety of musical genres appearing at Opryland, on radio, and on television. She was one of the first acts at Opryland USA in 1972 and was voted "Best Performer" in 1974.[3] She became a regular fixture on WSM-AM radio's The Waking Crew with Ralph Emery, in addition to the Ralph Emery Show on NBC affiliate WSMV-TV, broadcasting out of Nashville. She also was a regular guest on Teddy Bart's The Noon Show, also on WSM-TV.[1][4][5] During that time she had cut her first single for the Truth Records label and was first nationally recognized in the May 1975 edition of Billboard with her single "He Just Loved You Out Of Me" in the "Best potential hit" list.[6][7] This first country music single was to launch her career, it was the last time she would record in that genre.[1]

Memphis (1976–91)[edit]

Due to her earlier success in country music with a promising hit single, in 1976 she was signed with Stax Records and put under contract. Unfortunately the label was in decline at this time and went out of business shortly after she moved to Memphis. She stayed in the city due to the difference and diversity in musical styles she was now exposed to as compared to her initial professional work in Nashville, "...everything was Black---Black music, Black bands. I said, 'Oh, I want to stay here.'"[2] Shortly after her move to Memphis Al Bennett acquired Hi Records in 1977; Cobb then become an artist for Bennett's Cream Records.[2]

Cream produced a different set of artists than Cobb started with in Nashville, they had a solid reputation making soul, R&B, and disco recordings. With Cream, she first recorded a Top 40 hit single in 1979 with her original tune Dig The Gold.[8] It was distributed in North America under for the Cream label and sold in Europe under the Polydor label. The single showed her versatility as both a performer and writer; a reggae style song that was put to a funk/disco beat. Dig The Gold charted to #42 for Billboard and #10 for Cashbox giving her a first real success as an internationally recognized pop artist.[9][10]

With her reputation growing as a contemporary pop singer and writer who could handle a variety of styles, she was contracted by Atlantic Records to record with the Toronto-based disco group T.H.P. Orchestra. She recorded as the lead, solo vocalist on T.H.P.'s last studio album: Good To Me.[11] The LP would end up charting at #16 in the dance category for Billboard.[9] The next year she had another release which charted for 6 weeks with Billboard topping out at #90 for Cream in the R&B category: How Glad I Am.[9][12] She was honored as being #4 in the December edition (for 1980) Billboard End of the Year Awards list for New Female Single Pop Artist in the company of singers Irene Cara (#1), Charlie Dore (#2), and Bernadette Peters (#3).[13] She was the opening act for Al Jarreau[14] and The Temptations during this time.[1][2]

During the 1980s she recorded a number of records under contract with Willie Mitchell on his Waylo Records label. From 1984-1987 she recorded several singles, one of which made it to #3 on the British R&B charts: her earlier success with Dig The Gold paved the way for that single to chart well overseas. She toured internationally in the Netherlands with Waylo artist Otis Clay to promote the label and current releases for both artists.[1][2] It was even rumored in Nashville and Memphis that she would return to her earlier successes recording country music but that never materialized with either the Cream or Waylo record labels.[5]

Joyce Cobb's club, Beale Street, and more (1992-present)[edit]

1992 through 1996 she was honored with a music venue/jazz club on Beale Street under her name, Joyce Cobb's. She is the only woman to have a club named after her on the street while also honored by having a brass note on the Beale Street Walk of Fame.[15] The club had a measure of success when starting out featuring musical acts such as George Coleman, Jimmy McGriff, Herb Ellis, Marvin Stamm, James Williams, and Maria Muldaur. Unfortunately the venue only lasted four years due to the financial viability being less than expected, ending up getting bought out by another club owner. It was then in 1996 she was honored with the installment of her brass note on the Beale Street Walk of Fame. She also toured the United States and Europe with the highly acclaimed Beale Street Jazz Band, recording two CDs with the group during this time.[1]

Starting in 1997 Cobb served as the co-host with Sam the Sham on the nationally syndicated radio program Beale Street Caravan broadcasting on over 260 stations in North America and worldwide over the Armed Forces Radio Network. Since 1983 she has had her own radio show on WEVL Memphis presenting blues, jazz, and cutting edge American jazz vocalists.[1]

The TV show Sounds of Memphis was premiered on WKNO (PBS) in 1995 and was modeled after Austin City Limits; Cobb was featured on this show and it brought her back into a national spotlight. Though the show did not go past four episodes it did propel her into further musical prominence.[16]

In the late 1990s she forwarded the concept of Sounds of Memphis to help write the script for the show Beale Street Saturday Night[17] which it has had success as a live show in the mid-part of the country. This was her first in-road to what has been an acting career later in her professional life. In 2006 she recorded on the soundtrack of Black Diamonds: The Story of Negro League Baseball as part of the internationally recognized exhibit presented at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum.[17] In the last 16 years Cobb has been the lead actress and singer for numerous award-winning live productions to include Ain’t Misbehavin, Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill and The Devil's Music: The Life and Times of Bessie Smith.[18][19][20]

Cobb was contacted by Ward Archer in 2009 to record a CD for his recently formed Memphis record label, Archer Records. It was her first solo recording as a jazz artist and again showed her versility and artistry as a recording artist.[21] In 2010 she toured Europe with the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio promoting the CD release for Archer Records.[22] Presently she continues to perform every Sunday in Memphis, Tennessee at Bosco's as well as playing many other engagements internationally.[23] She has also seen the re-issue on CD (digital re-master) of her earlier successes with How Glad I Am on a compilation in 2012 and T.H.P.'s album in 2013.

Musical style and music educator[edit]

Cobb's musical style is derived from but does not mimick blues and jazz singers such as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan (among others). She is a fluent and adept scat singer and improvisor who has a wide range of timbre and emotion in her presentation of songs. Her musical background has been diverse having sung country, disco, R&B, soul and jazz. This diversity has created a unique sound that does not really directly mimick any other singer; she has her own signature style. "Joyce Cobb's big, vivacious voice can interpret everything from pop to country to classical to her truest love, jazz."[24]

She is a very pro-active advocate of music education and the history of singing style in American pop and jazz music. Cobb has served for close 20 years as adjunct vocal professor at the University of Memphis School of Music.[25] She has worked with younger jazz vocalists and musicians at the Stax Music Academy helping aspiring younger artists.[1]

Honors and awards[edit]

  • Billboard "End of the Year Awards" list (1980), New Female Single Pop Artist
  • Voted Best Female Singer by Memphis Chapter of NARAS in 1986, 1988, and 1997 (nominated 1998 and 2000)
  • Voted Best Female Entertainer (1995), by the Beale Street Merchants Association
  • 1995 - awarded Honorary Doctorate in Music from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan
  • Awarded Music Pioneer (2000) from United Music Heritage, Inc.
  • Women of Achievement's Woman of the Year: Initiative award (2002)
  • Nominated for the Ostrander Award for Best Female Performance in a dramatic role (2004 and 2006)
  • Awarded Emissary of Music by the Memphis and Shelby County Music Commission (2009)
  • HEBE Award from the Memphis Symphony League (2009)
  • Best vocalist in the Memphis Flyer readers poll (2011 and 2012)


Year Single or individual cut
off a compilation
Album Video Primary artist
Lead singer
Background singer
Type Label Billboard Cashbox Review, ranking
1975 "He Just Loved
You Out of Me"
Primary artist Studio Truth Records Best potential hit
"Lonesome Time
In Memphis Town Tonight"
1979 Good To Me
(with THP)
Lead singer Atlantic/RCA #16 (dance)
"Dig The Gold" Primary artist
Cream Records #42
12 weeks
#10 (pop)
"Don't Be Mad At Me"
1980 "How Glad I Am" Adult Contemporary Pick
#107 (pop)
6 weeks
#90 (R & B)
3 weeks
"That's What Love Will Do"
1981 "It Really Doesn't Matter"
"Let The Music Play"
"Take My Heart,
Take My Soul"
1982 Alethea
(Alethea, Nikko Lyrus)
Lead singer Lomo
1987 "Another Lonely Night
(Without You)"
Primary artist
Waylo #3
U.K. R&B
12 weeks
"Love Can"
"Slippin' Away"
(cassette tape)
1990 "Blues Alive"
Lead singer Diamond Time
1992 "You've Been A
Good Ol' Wagon"
Blues Alive
1997 "Of Moons And Fools"
(Tommy Hoehn)
Background vocals Frankenstein
Jazzin' On Beale
(Beale Street
Jazz Band)
Lead singer BOO Records CA 3.5/5 stars[26]
1998 "The First Noel" The Sounds of
Starry Nights
Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association
1999 Outstanding On Beale Street
(Beale Street
Jazz Band)
BOO Records CA 4/5 stars[27]
2003 "Steal Away" The Memphis Belles:
Past, Present, and Future

Live Inside Sounds
"Beale Street Blues" The Memphis
Jazz Box

Primary artist Studio Ice House Records CA 4.5/5 stars[28]
"Memphis In June" In The Mood for Memphis (compilation) Inside Sounds
"Beale Street Saturday Night" Center for Southern Folklore CA 3/5 stars[29]
2008 "This Joint Is Jumpin" The Memphis Belles
Jazz Collection

Inside Sounds
2010 Joyce Cobb with
the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio
Archer Records CA 4/5 stars[21]
2012 "How Glad I Am" 2 Steps To Soul Heaven:
More 70's An 80's Steppers

2013 Disco Recharge:
Tender Is the Night/
Good to Me

T.H.P. Orchestra)
Lead singer Harmless Records


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Email and in person interviews with Joyce Cobb, confirmation of facts and references, October 1–3, 2013 in Memphis, TN.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Notable Black Memphians, Miriam DeCosta-Willis, Cambria Press, 2008. pp. 90-91
  3. ^ a b c D. Antoinette Handy. Black Women in American Bands and Orchestras, Scarecrow Press, 1998, pp. 123-24.
  4. ^ Billboard, volume 86, 1974, p. 120.
  5. ^ a b Billboard Magazine, July 18, 1981, Vol. 93, No. 28, p. 62 (Country: Nashville Scene).
  6. ^ Mawhinney, Paul C. MusicMaster, the 45 RPM record directory: 1947 to 1982, Volume 2. Record-Rama, 1983, p. 314.
  7. ^ Billboard Magazine, May 1975, Vol. 87, No. 20.
  8. ^ Dig The Gold single on YouTube
  9. ^ a b c Billboard Top Pop Singles 1955-2010 (2011). Record Research; 13 edition, p. 184.
  10. ^ The Cash Box Singles Charts: 1950-1981, Scarecrow Press, 1983, p. 117.
  11. ^ Good To Me from the T.H.P. Orchestra LP of the same title on YouTube
  12. ^ ''How Glad I Am single on YouTube
  13. ^ Billboard, Number 1 Awards, December 20, 1980, p. 18.
  14. ^ Billboard, Top Box Office Draws for October 18, 1980, AL JARREAU/JOYCE COBB, #15 in venues under 6000 seats, Billboard. October 18, 1980, Vol. 92, No. 40, p. 60.
  15. ^ Joyce Cobb, #71 on the Beale Street Walk of Fame Archived 2010-11-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ Larry Nager, "Local music series has shaky opener, Showcase of traditions so broad, it's shallow" (review), The Commercial Appeal, May 11, 1995.
  17. ^ a b Beale Street Saturday Night, The Freeman Agency
  18. ^ Christopher Blank, "Cobb's Holiday a dramatic loss -- But musical salutes jazz great by jazz great" (review), The Commercial Appeal, January 11, 2012.
  19. ^ Christopher Blank, "Bessie's blues, straight up -- Joyce Cobb is impressive in portrayal of legendary singer's final performance", The Commercial Appeal, April 14, 2006.
  20. ^ Chris Davis, "Hattiloo Theatre's production of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" (review), The Memphis Flyer, January 15, 2012.
  21. ^ a b Mark Jordan, "For Cobb, jazz is where heart is -- Singer flexes voice on new album of standards" (review), The Commercial Appeal, August 19, 2010.
  22. ^ October 2010, Live in Chur, Switzerland, Joyce Cobb and the Michael Jefry Stevens trio on YouTube
  23. ^ RAM Entertainment management, Joyce Cobb
  24. ^ Bill Ellis, The Commercial Appeal review, March 20, 2004.
  25. ^ Joyce Cobb, University of Memphis bio Archived 2014-04-19 at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ RED HOT, Bill Ellis (review), The Commercial Appeal, October 4, 1997
  27. ^ Bill Ellis, "Load Up; The Bumper Crop Is In" (review), The Commercial Appeal, August 28, 1999.
  28. ^ Bill Ellis, "Collection Exhibits City's Contributions to Jazz" (review), Commercial Appeal, March 20, 2004.
  29. ^ , Mark Jordan, Disc Reviews, The Commercial Appeal, September 27, 2003.

External links[edit]


  • DeCosta - Willis, Miriam. Notable Black Memphians (2008), Cambria Press, Amherst, NY, ISBN 978-1-60497-505-5. pp. 90–92.
  • Elkington, John. Beale Street: Resurrecting the Home of the Blues, History Press. ISBN 978-1596294929, pp. 89
  • Geran, Paul. Woman with Guitar: Memphis Minnie's Blues (1992), Da Capo Press, p. 86
  • Handy, D. Antoinette. Black Women in American Bands and Orchestras, (1998), Scarecrow Press, ISBN 978-0810834194, pp. 123–24.
  • Herzhaft, Gérard. Encyclopedia of the Blues (1997), University of Arkansas Press, ISBN 978-1557284525, pp. 137, 235.
  • Lisle, Andria. Evans, Mike. Waking up in Memphis (2003), Sanctuary Publishing. ISBN 978-1860744471, pp. 82–84
  • Joyce Cobb: Deeply rooted in the blues, jazz and gospel Jazzpodium, 10 (2010), pp. 9