One of the last great rural blues stylists in the San Francisco/Oakland area, K.C. Douglas produced a blues classic when he recorded "Mercury Boogie" in 1949. The tune, which paid homage to the American automobile, was later renamed "Mercury Blues" and covered by Steve Miller and David Lindley. Country superstar Alan Jackson had a number one hit when he recorded the tune in 1992. Rights to the song were purchased by the Ford Motor Company, which used it for a television commercial for Ford trucks.
Born and raised on a family farm near Sharon, MS, Douglas was deeply influenced by the 1920s recordings of Delta bluesman Tommy Johnson. Although he left home in 1934 to work outside of music in the Mississippi towns of Grenada and Carthage, he launched his music career after meeting Johnson two years later. After Douglas impressed Johnson with his baritone vocals and skillful guitar playing, the two musicians began performing together on street corners and parties.
Relocating to Vallejo, CA, in 1945, Douglas found employment in the naval shipyards. Within a couple of years, he gravitated to the San Francisco/Oakland blues scene, forming a band, the Lumberjacks, in 1947. His first recordings were issued on the Oakland-based Downtown label in 1948. Although he continued to perform at dances and small clubs, occasionally with Jesse Fuller, throughout the 1950s and '60s, Douglas supplemented his meager income from music with a variety of jobs. He worked for the public works department in Berkeley from 1963 until the mid-'70s.
While he recorded such songs as "Born in the Country," "Catfish Blues," "Fanny Lou," "Hear Me Howlin'," "K.C.'s Doctor Blues," and "Wake Up Workin' Woman" for Bluesville in 1960 and Fantasy in 1967, Douglas didn't reach his peak until the 1970s. After performing at the Berkeley Blues Festival in 1970, he formed a quartet and became a frequent performer at coffeehouses, clubs, and bars in the East Bay/Modesto/Stockton area and recorded several tracks for the Arhoolie label between 1973 and 1974.
Succumbing to a fatal heart attack on October 17, 1975, Douglas was buried in the Pleasant Green Cemetery in Sharon, MS. ~ Craig Harris