Sam Carr (musician)

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Sam Carr
Birth name Samuel Lee McCollum
Born (1926-04-17)April 17, 1926
Marvell, Arkansas, United States
Died September 21, 2009(2009-09-21) (aged 83)
Clarksdale, Mississippi, United States
Genres Blues
Instruments Drums, guitar
Years active 1940s–2009
Associated acts The Jelly Roll Kings

Sam Carr (born Samuel Lee McCollum, April 17, 1926 – September 21, 2009) was an American blues drummer best known as a member of The Jelly Roll Kings.

Largely self-taught, Carr is noted for his "mimimalist" three-piece drum kit consisting of a snare drum, a bass, and high hat cymbal.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born near Marvell, Arkansas, McCollum was adopted as a toddler into the Carr family and raised on their farm near Dundee, Mississippi.[2] He also took their last name.

At 16, Carr returned to Arkansas where he played bass for his biological father, Robert Nighthawk, an established blues musician. He also worked as a chauffeur. Carr married his wife Doris in 1946, and they began sharecropping in Helena, Arkansas. He was involved in a dispute over a borrowed mule team with the plantation owner, who attempted to beat him. Carr later stated: "I wasn't going to let him whoop me, that was plumb out of the question. From that day on, white people called me crazy."[2][3]

The Carrs moved to Chicago, and then St. Louis to live with Carr’s biological mother. In St. Louis, Carr began playing bass guitar with harmonica player Tree Top Slim. Carr formed his own band, Little Sam Carr and the Blue Kings, which initially featured Nighthawk's second wife Early Bea on drums, until Carr decided to take on that role.[2] The band played mostly "low-class clubs" in poor neighborhoods of St. Louis.

In 1956, Carr began working regularly with Frank Frost, who played both harmonica and guitar.

The Jelly Roll Kings[edit]

In 1962, the Carrs and Frost moved to Mississippi where they joined with Clarksdale-based guitarist Big Jack Johnson to form The Jelly Roll Kings. For several years, Doris sang with the band. They recorded the album Hey Boss Man, on the Phillips International label. One of the album's songs, "Jelly Roll King," inspired the band's name, and has been noted as a classic of electric juke joint blues.[1]

In 1966, the band had a minor hit with "My Back Scratcher".

The Jelly Roll Kings continued to play together throughout the 1960s and 1970s, though Carr also worked as a tractor driver from his home in Lula, Mississippi.

In the mid-1970s, the band released the LP Rockin' the Juke Joint Down on the Earwig label.[2]

Carr and Frost were featured with guitarist Ry Cooder on the soundtrack to the 1986 movie Crossroads.[1]

The trio would re-unite on various occasion, producing the albums Midnight Prowler (1988), Daddy When Is Mama Comin’ Home (1991), and Yonder Wall (1996). They also contributed to the PBS documentary River of Song in 1996.

Delta music[edit]

Carr is known to have contributed his unique drumming sound to albums by blues musicians T-Model Ford, Asie Payton, Robert Walker, Paul "Wine" Jones, Lonnie Shields, Sonny Boy Williamson II, "Honeyboy" Edwards, and Buddy Guy.[2][4]

In his later years, Carr led his own group, The Delta Jukes, working often with Dave Riley on guitar and vocals. The group recorded a number of albums, including Working for the Blues (2002), Down in the Delta (2004), and Let the Good Times Roll (2007).[2]

Carr has been featured in film and television documentaries about the Mississippi blues, including Martin Scorsese's The Blues: Feel Like Going Home (2003).[1]


In 2007, Carr received a Heritage Award from Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour at the Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts ceremony in Jackson. He has also received awards from Living Blues magazine.[5] Carr is mentioned on several Mississippi Blues Trail markers.


Carr died in a nursing home in Clarksdale of congestive heart failure at age 83. He had no children.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d McArdle, Terence (Oct 3, 2009). "Obituary: Sam Carr / Noted Minimalist Blues Drummer". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Barretta, Scott. "Sam Carr (1926-2009)". Mississippi Arts Commission. Retrieved October 2013. 
  3. ^ King, Stephen A. (2011). I'm Feeling the Blues Right Now: Blues Tourism and the Mississippi Delta. University Press of Mississippi. 
  4. ^ Stolle, Roger (2011). Hidden History of Mississippi Blues. History Press. 
  5. ^ "Blues Drummer Sam Carr Dies at 83". Whistler Question. September 23, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Sam Carr, Delta Blues Drummer, Dies at 83". New York Times. September 24, 2009. 

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