Charlie McCoy was perhaps the definitive Nashville session musician, a multi-talented performer best known for his harmonica playing and whose mastery of the instrument virtually defined its role within the context of modern country music. Though born in West Virginia on March 28, 1941, Charles Ray McCoy was raised in Miami, Florida, where he first picked up the harmonica at the age of eight. By his mid-teens, he was playing harmonica and guitar in an area rock & roll band, and a few years later graduated to traveling the Florida rock and country circuits as a backup performer. At one local gig, he met Mel Tillis, who instructed McCoy to move to Nashville, which he did in 1959. After finding little work as a session player, he journeyed back to Florida, where he began studying musical theory and taking vocal lessons in addition to working as an arranger and conductor.
In 1960, McCoy auditioned as a guitarist for singer Johnny Ferguson, only to learn that the opening had been filled. Ferguson was still looking for a new drummer, however, so McCoy bought a kit, learned to play, and won the job. After contacting Tillis, he was introduced to agent Jim Denny, who helped the upstart musician find some work in Nashville. McCoy's first session was Roy Orbison's 1961 "Candy Man," and within months he was one of the most sought-after players on the scene. He toured extensively as a drummer in Stonewall Jackson's band throughout the early '60s and released a handful of solo singles.
In 1969, McCoy joined the country-rock band Area Code 615, with whom he recorded a self-titled LP, followed by A Trip in the Country in 1970. Also in 1969, he released a solo effort, The Real McCoy; while the album garnered little notice at the time of its release and was quickly deleted, in 1971 a Florida DJ began playing the track "I Started Loving Her Again" to massive listener response. A single was soon available, and the song reached the Top 20 in 1972. Even as his solo career began taking off, McCoy remained a constant in Nashville studios, and in the early '70s alone he worked with Paul Simon, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Leon Russell, and Steve Young.