Charlie McCoy, 'Amazing Grace,' and How Gospel Music Inspired Rock ’n Roll


In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll talk about faith and music. We learn about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, one of the first great recording stars of gospel music, find out the story behind “Amazing Grace,” and why it became an American icon, and hear the story of Nashville session musician, W.Va. native Charlie McCoy.

We’ll also learn more about the influence tent revivals have had on music and culture from our region. At these high-energy Christian services, the sound of upbeat, gospel hymns can be heard, the kind that inspired many American rock-n-roll artists, including Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Johnny Cash.

To document some of the remaining tent revivals in central Appalachia, photographer Roger May collected photos for a project he calls “Glory.”

And we’ll hear the story of Charlie McCoy, a harmonica player from W.Va. who’s played on many of the records made in Nashville over the past 50 years. He’s recorded with some of the best known country music and rock and roll legends, including Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and George Jones. Charlie McCoy’s new memoir is called “50 Cents and a Box Top.”

Inside Appalachia is produced by Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd. Our executive producer is Jesse Wright. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Brittany Patterson is our web editor. You can find us online on Twitter @InAppalachia.