The public is invited to join the conversation Feb 28th at 6 p.m. as the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music & Entertainment hosts Memphis legend Joyce Cobb. The legendary jazz vocalist is beloved from Beale Street to Europe.
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. 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.
Joyce Cobb 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.
Joyce Cobb first began working in the radio and television industry in the early 1970s. Working with Stax Records and Shoe Productions, she began to compose and released her first single. After her first years in the industry, she released a solo album with RCA Records that went to #11 on the Billboard Top 40 chart. Ms. Cobb has opened for performers Taj Mahal, the Temptations, Muddy Waters, Al Jarreau, and has toured Europe with Otis Clay. As a soloist, Ms. Cobb performs regularly with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and tours with the Memphis Beale Street Blues Company. She has won numerous awards including four Premiere Player Awards for best female singer from the Memphis chapter of NARAS. When Joyce Cobb’s on Beale opened in 1992, it was the first club on historic Beale Street to be named for a woman.
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. 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.
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.
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.
In the late 1990s she forwarded the concept of Sounds of Memphis to help write the script for the show Beale Street Saturday Night 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. 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.
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. In 2010 she toured Europe with the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio promoting the CD release for Archer Records. Presently she continues to perform every Sunday in Memphis, Tennessee at Bosco’s as well as playing many other engagements internationally.