Born in Alabama in 1894, Cow Cow Davenport is best remembered for his song "Cow Cow Blues" which is one of the earliest recorded examples of Boogie-Woogie, or Barrelhouse, piano playing. For a time he also performed using the stage name 'Memphis Slim' although Peter Chatman was better known by that alias. Davenport's father was a Pastor and his mother played church organ, and it was she who taught Davenport to play piano.  At one time Davenport was set to follow in his father’s footsteps and become ordained but he was expelled from Theological School for playing ragtime in church.  His early career was in vaudeville and he toured with an act called Davenport and Company with singer Dora Carr. They recorded together in the mid 1920’s but the act broke up when Dora got married. Davenport then teamed up with Blues singer Ivy Smith in 1928 and it was at this time that he recorded "Cow Cow Blues" in Chicago for both Brunswick and Vocalion Records for whom he also worked as a talent scout. In 1930 he moved to Cleveland, Ohio and toured the vaudeville circuit, performing and recording with Sam Price.

Disaster struck in 1938 when, at the age of 44, he suffered a stroke that partially paralysed his right side. He carried on performing as a vocalist and he regained enough use in his right hand to enable him to start piano playing again.  During the early 1940’s Davenport fell on lean times and for a while he worked as a cloakroom attendant in a New York night club.  In 1942 The Freddie Slack Orchestra had a huge hit in America with "Cow Cow Boogie". This started the “boogie-woogie” craze and led to renewed interest in Davenport's music. Despite several attempts he never really achieved any further lasting success and he suffered poor health in the last decade of his life. He died in 1955 of heart failure.