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Rose Marie McCoy grew up on a farm in Arkansas. But at the age of 19, she left home and moved to New York City to try to become a singer.
"When I came to New York, I had six bucks," McCoy says. "I got a job working in a Chinese hand laundry and I learned how to iron shirts. Then I worked weekends in nightclubs, singing."
While she was waiting for her break as a singer, McCoy started to write songs, discovering that it came naturally to her. In the pop music world of the time, most performers relied on professional songwriters for their hits, and the entire songwriting industry was centered on one square block in New York City: 1619 Broadway. Better known as the Brill Building, the block housed a 10-story hit factory stuffed with songwriters, producers and music publishers.
After work, many of the employees would gather at a restaurant around the corner, called Beefsteak Charlie's. Soul singer Maxine Brown remembers that it was like a music marketplace.