“Cosmo” Cosdon, widely considered to be the greatest singer to
emerge from Louisville’s first wave of rock ’n’ roll bands in
the late 1950s, died early Friday. He was 71..
Cosdon was also a
veteran of the thoroughbred horse-racing community as a trainer,
jockey agent and bloodstock agent. He trained Rae Jet, last-place
finisher in the 1969 Kentucky Derby.
“He had two great
interests: music and horses,” said longtime friend and band mate
Wayne Young. “I’m not sure if horses weren’t first.”
Cosdon battled cancer last year and was diagnosed as cancer- free in
January, said lifelong friend Jim Harbolt, but the chemotherapy
weakened his immune system and led to cerebral histoplasmosis, which
causes lesions on the brain.
Harbolt said Cosdon
requested no visitation or funeral, but a celebration of his life is
being planned. A concert to raise money for Cosdon’s medical bills
will be Oct. 6 at Jim Porter’s Good Time Emporium.
legacy in Louisville will be as a singer and showman, said Marvin
Maxwell, who remembers Cosdon galvanizing audiences as a member
of The Sultans in the early 1960s. Maxwell later performed with
Cosdon in the Shufflin’ Grand Dads, which began in 1992, and the
current incarnation of Soul, Inc.
“He was Mr.
Showman,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell said that in 1992, the
Shufflin’ Grand Dads, which also included Young, performed at a
festival in Mainz, Germany, as part of a sister-cities
“You can see on the video that it was pretty
ho-hum, but when we brought Cosmo on the people got to their feet and
he got them so wound up that we had five encores,” Maxwell
recalled, “and I swear before the last one I heard the stage
manager say, ‘We’d better let them go on again or the crowd’s
gonna tear the stage down.’ “And it was Cosmo who got them
up and going.”
Cosdon debuted in 1959 as singer of The
Sultans, and the band’s 1961 single, “It’ll Be Easy,” was the
first by a local group to reach No. 1 on Louisville radio stations.
He broke away to start a solo career in 1961 and immediately scored a
No. 3 hit with “I’m A Little Mixed Up,” a raw slice of blue-eyed
Young met Cosdon on the recording session for “I’m
A Little Mixed Up” and was briefly a member of Cosmo and The
Counts, which was formed shortly after “I’m A Little Mixed Up”
was released. Cosmo and The Counts became Cosdon’s best-known
group, performing off and on for decades.
voice had crossover appeal, Young said, with a strong rhythm and
blues feel. He frequently sang at The Cherry Club in Lebanon, Ky., a
successful black nightclub, and was a regular at clubs throughout
Kentucky and Indiana.
“He was a natural entertainer
and he could just light people up — it was amazing,” Young said.
“He could still do it. His voice had gotten better over the years,
but it was the energy that he brought that was so impactful.”
he had to do was get up on stage and he had the audience in his
hands,” Maxwell said. “He did that better than anybody I know of
in this area.”
Contact Jeffrey Lee Puckett at (502)
582-4160, jpuckett@courier-journal. com, and on