Leroy Carr (March 27, 1905 – April 29, 1935) was an American blues singer, songwriter and pianist who developed a laid-back, crooning technique and whose popularity and style influenced such artists as Nat King Cole and Ray Charles. He first became famous for "How Long, How Long Blues" on Vocalion Records in 1928.

Carr was a native of Nashville, Tennessee, born on March 27, 1905. The family lived on the city's north side, not far from Fisk University, and his father John Carr worked as a porter at nearby Vanderbilt University. Accounts of Carr's early life disagree with one another in many respects, but at some point after his parents separated he left Nashville with his mother for Louisville, Kentucky, and then for Indianapolis, Indiana, a growing city that was a center for automobile-industry jobs until Henry Ford's innovations shifted the focus of black migration to Detroit, Michigan. Carr taught himself to play the piano. He may have dropped out of high school, but he had more formal education than most country blues players of the same time.

Joined Circus After a restless period that included a stint in a traveling circus and another in the U.S. Army in the early 1920s, Carr returned to Indianapolis and got married in 1922. He had one daughter. For a while, Carr worked in a meat-packing plant, but by the mid-1920s he was gravitating toward the city's Indiana Avenue nightclub strip, a rowdy area with abundant musical opportunities and also many bootleg liquor outlets, a temptation that snared Carr both as a drinker and as a bootlegger himself. It wasn't long before Carr's name became well known among black Indianapolis families looking for musicians to play at house parties or "rent parties" held to raise money when the bills came due. He found work in the notoriously wide-open city of Covington, Kentucky, in the mid-1920s and traveled to other cities as well.

It may have been through involvement in the liquor underworld that Carr met Scrapper Blackwell (1906-1962), a guitarist whose real name, according to Samuel Charters, was Francis Black. Blackwell made several recordings before joining with Carr on record, and some historians have stated that they were brought together by a talent scout from the Vocalion label in 1928. But others point out that even their very first recordings together show the uncanny mutual awareness that was to be one of their trademarks, suggesting that Carr and Blackwell had probably performed together along Indiana Avenue for several years.

"How Long, How Long Blues," the very first recording Carr and Blackwell made, was a hit from the start. Outwardly there was nothing very extraordinary about it; its theme of a man watching a train carry his lover away from town had been repeated in numerous blues lyrics, and although Carr and Blackwell were both solid, infectious instrumentalists, neither was a brilliant virtuoso. Yet "How Long, How Long," in the words of blues historian Elijah Wald (writing in the New York Times), "had an effect as revolutionary as Bing Crosby's pop crooning, and for similar reasons." Carr seemed a singer born to the microphone. While country blues singers, performing in the street or in a noisy rural juke joint, projected their voices with powerful, deep-in-the-lungs shouts, Carr, Wald wrote, "sounded like a cool city dude carrying on a conversation with a few close friends."

Although his recording career was cut short by his early death, Carr left behind a large body of work in his blues recordings. His partnership with guitarist Francis Hillman "Scrapper" Blackwell combined his light bluesy piano with a melodic jazz guitar that attracted the sophisticated urban black audience. His vocal style moved blues singing toward an urban sophistication and influenced such singers as T-Bone Walker, Charles Brown, Amos Milburn, Jimmy Witherspoon, Ray Charles among others.

Count Basie and Jimmy Rushing used some of Carr's songs and Basie's band shows the influence of Carr's piano style.

His music has been covered by notable artists such as Robert Johnson, Ray Charles, Big Bill Broonzy, Moon Mullican, Champion Jack Dupree, Lonnie Donegan and Memphis Slim.

Carr died of an alcohol-related illness shortly after his 30th birthday, what made him a key figure in American music was his records, not his lifestyle. His followers dominated blues for more than 20 years and affected every aspect of the African-American pop scene.

In Chicago, studios filled up with piano-guitar duos and Carr clones like Bumble Bee Slim and Bill Gaither (billed as "Leroy's Buddy"). In Mississippi, Muddy Waters recalled "How Long" as the first song he ever learned. In Kansas City, Count Basie recorded Carr's hits as piano solos.

On the West Coast, T-Bone Walker and Charles Brown made Carr's smooth urbanity the hallmark of the L.A. style. In New York, vocal groups from the Ink Spots to the Dominoes harmonized on Carr compositions. Nat King Cole's first hit, "That Ain't Right," was a Carr-inflected blues, and the R & B historian Arnold Shaw traced soul ballad singing from Carr through Dinah Washington and Sam Cooke to Otis Redding and Jerry Butler.