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Rev. Gary Davis

Born April 30, 1896, Laurens, South Carolina, the partially blind GARY DAVIS taught himself guitar at the age of six, gradually adapting an advanced technique that assured him newfound confidence when he became totally blind some years later. His story was of the delta blues, ragtime and gospel preacher (he cut several 78s for ARC Records between 1935 to 1949), at times credited to BLIND GARY DAVIS or REVEREND GARY DAVIS; there were a few LPs that popped up on Stinson, Riverside and Bluesville-Prestige Records. However, in keeping with the nature and genre of this book, DAVIS had a spell during the 50s and 60s as a prime innovator in the folk movement. Stints at Gerde’s Folk City venue in ‘62/’63 and the Newport Folk Festival in ’65 (CDs are available of the time), secured his place in the minds of stars like DYLAN, TAJ MAHAL, DAVID BROMBERG, DONOVAN, Jorma Kaukonen, RY COODER and STEFAN GROSSMAN, the latter two student protégés of the guitar virtuoso. GROSSMAN was to bring the man to his Kicking Mule stable, while Nat Joseph, boss of Transatlantic Records, had unleashed the “Harlem Street Singer” – the name of a great Bluesville LP – to a Brit audience earlier in the 60s. Of his folk-influenced songs, choice cuts to find are `Cocaine Blues’, `Twelve Gates To The City’, `Samson And Delilah (If I Had My Way)’, `Hesitation Blues’, `Death Don’t Have No Mercy’, `Baby, Let Me Lay It On You’ (or `Baby, Let Me Follow You Down’) and the bawdy `Wouldn’t Say Quit’. Sadly, Gary died in Hammonton, New Jersey, May 5, 1972, leaving an untold legacy and numerous exploitation releases.
(c) MC Strong 2010/GFD

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