Monday, August 20, 2012

Walter Davis

Walter Davis was a St.Louis blues pianist, well recorded in the 1930s and 1940s. He is usually mentioned as part of litany of Missouri players that could include Pettie Wheatstraw, Henry Townsend, Roosevelt Sykes. It's not too well known that Missouri was a hotbed of blues activity at one time. Sunnyland Slim told me he more or less spent 10 years in the area, after leaving Mississippi but before going to Chicago. Davis style is something like the other Mo. players.. but different too. He had a staccato approach that shows the way to drone-like rocknroll (and even the Velvet Underground) more than boogie woogie does! His lyrics could be racy, and quite evocative, as Doing Something Wrong (I Can Tell by the Way You Smell). His biggest song perhaps (recorded widely by others) was ComeBackBaby. I wouldnt mind crediting him with the original Sloppy Drunk. He did a number called Sweet Sixteen that was used in part for a later version by St. Louis's Charles Berry. Davis (no relation to jazz player Walter Davis Jr.) had a dry drawly way of singing, that set the tone for a lot of West Coast singers like Charles Brown and even Ray Charles. I thing I have somewhere between 4 and 6 Davis songs on vinyl, yknow, on compilations. Imagine my rapturous ardor to find on five LPs (with 20 + numbers on each)(more than 100, total) from a complete Davis series! I could have gone into hundreds of used record stores hundreds of times and never found more than one of these. The Web is amazing. Digitization makes all sort sof things readily available. Criswell predicts that a young Brooklyn band (called the Waxen Wayne Fontana Labels) will have a brief fling and bring back the Walter Davis sound in 2019. - Jack Vaughan

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