L.C. Cook Biography

The younger brother of Sam Cooke, L.C. Cook was also a singer, although he achieved his greatest prominence on paper, as a songwriter, thanks to his more famous brother's tangled contractual relationships. L.C. Cook (the "e" being absent from the family's spelling of the name) was born two years after Sam, the fifth of ten children of the Rev. Charles Cook and his wife Annie May. The entire family was musical, steeped in gospel, and while Sam was the most obvious potential star, L.C. was also a budding singer while still a young boy. In the late '30s, Sam organized a group called the Singing Children with two of his sisters, which L.C. later joined to make a gospel quartet. The two sang together in the family quintet the Singing Children, and later in the Nobleairs, and achieved some success together in the late '40s as members of the Highway Q.C.'s. They stopped singing together when L.C.'s older brother was recruited into the ranks of the Soul Stirrers in 1951. In 1956, Cook joined the Chicago-based R&B vocal group the Magnificents, which had been formed by Johnny Keyes not much more than a year earlier. At the time, the Magnificents recorded for Vee-Jay Records and were enjoying huge success with their half-million selling single "Up on the Mountain." Cook also began recording, cutting the single "I Need Your Love" for Chess Records. In 1960, he signed with his brother's newly-formed SAR Records label. Cook recorded several singles for SAR, but despite the uncanny similarities between his and Sam Cooke's voice, his early efforts were all failures. The closest that L.C. Cook ever came to even a modest hit at SAR was also his first not to be produced by Sam. "The Wobble" and "Put Me Down Easy," both written by Sam Cooke and recorded by his brother in 1963, failed to chart, but at least had a run at success, particularly the former, a novelty dance tune. Ironically, Cooke had a major chart hit with a song -- Chester "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett's "Little Red Rooster" -- that L.C. Cook rejected as a single for himself. In the wake of Sam Cooke's death in late 1964, L.C. Cook announced plans for a tribute, and he continued to perform and record, but his career never ascended to anything resembling his brother's, as a singer or songwriter. Strangely enough, L.C. Cook's greatest visibility also took place in tandem with his brother's songwriting. During the late '50s, Sam Cooke found himself trapped in an interlocking array of recording and publishing contracts that weren't going to take him anywhere. "You Send Me," "You Were Made for Me," "Win Your Love for Me," "I Don't Want to Cry," and "That's All I Need to Know" ended up credited to L.C. Cook in order to prevent them, as Sam Cooke compositions, from falling into the hands of the latter's earlier publishers. After Sam Cooke's death, he toured with the Upsetters, and announced planned recordings of his own, including a tribute to his brother, but by the end of the 1960s L.C. Cook had receded into the background. L.C. Cook tried to make the same sort of jump from gospel to popular music that his brother had done. He was never in the right place, with the right song, however, despite a powerful voice of his own. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi


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