Charles Isaiah Ross
(October 21, 1925 – May 28, 1993),
(aka Doctor Ross, the harmonica boss)Ross played various forms of the blues that have seen him compared to John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson I, and is perhaps best known for the recordings he made for Sun Records in the 1950s, notably "The Boogie Disease" and "Chicago Breakdown".
Isaiah “Doc” Ross was a throwback to a bygone era; a true one-man band, he played harmonica, acoustic guitar, bass drum, and hi-hat simultaneously, creating a mighty racket harking back to the itinerant country-blues players wandering the Delta region during the earlier years of the 20th century. Born Charles Isaiah Ross on October 21, 1925 in Tunica, Mississippi, he took early inspiration from the music of Robert Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller and Sonny Boy Williamson I; primarily a harpist -- hence his nickname "The Harmonica Boss" -- he only added the other instruments in his arsenal in order to play a USO show while a member of the Army during World War II. (The "Doc" moniker was acquired because he carried his harmonicas in a doctor's bag.)
Upon his release from the military, Ross settled in Memphis, where he became a popular club fixture as well as the host of his own radio show on station WDIA; during his club residency he was witness to a number of brutal murders, however, and swore off appearances in such venues during the later years of his life.
In 1951 Ross began to be heard on Mississippi and Arkansas radio stations, now nicknamed Doctor because of his habit of carrying his harmonicas in a black bag that resembled a doctors bag. Over the next three years he recorded in Memphis, Tennessee for both Chess and Sun, creating exhilarating harmonica or guitar boogies made distinctive by his sidemen playing washboard (with a spoon and fork) and broom.
In 1965 he cut his first full-length LP, “Call The Doctor”, and that same year mounted his first European tour; as the years passed Ross performed live with decreasing frequency, however, and was infamous for backing out of shows to catch his beloved Detroit Tigers on television.
Upon winning a Grammy for his 1981 album Rare Blues, he experienced a career resurgence, and played festival dates to great acclaim prior to his death on May 28, 1993.