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Guide to the Troyce Key Papers
MS 83  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
The Troyce Key papers include correspondence, photographs, financial records, flyers, publicity material, and publications documenting the musical career of blues musician and nightclub owner Troyce Key. The papers are organized in to four series: Eli Mile High Records, Eli’s Mile High Club & Restaurant records, photographs, and assorted material.
Background
Blues musician and night club owner Troyce Key (1937-1992) was born on September 7, 1937 in Jordon Plantation, Louisiana to Verdell and Lula May Key. The child of white sharecroppers, his father at one time worked on the railroad while the family lived in a box-car. In 1938, the Key family decided to move to Oregon but ran out of gasoline and money in Bakersfield, California. The family worked as migrant workers picking cotton and grapes and settled near Fresno, California where Troyce Key attended various schools. His father played the guitar and harmonica and often sang at local house parties. Troyce Key began playing guitar as a teenager and moved to Mississippi and absorbed the country music and blues playing of local recording artists as well as those from Texas. In Mississippi he contracted tuberculosis, having a lung and some ribs removed. While recuperating at a sanatorium in the Sierras, he listened to donated rhythm and blues recordings played by staff for the benefit of the patients, becoming hooked on the music and buying a guitar. Key befriended teenage patient R.C. Gardner, and the pair tried to copy the songs that were played. Discharged in 1956, Key and R.C. began gigging around Fresno, playing R & B and Elvis Presley-influenced music. They guested on Al Radka’s House Party, a local T.V. program. Female viewer fans wrote admiring letters of Key's Elvis impersonations. Other fans called Key the “mad coon.” By 1958 he was traveling to the Bay Area to perform at rock & roll dances with a group called the Campus Kings.
Extent
5 linear feet (11 boxes + 1 oversized box)
Restrictions
Permission to publish from the Troyce Key Papers must be obtained from the African American Museum & Library at Oakland.
Availability
No access restrictions. Collection is open to the public.