"A singer and guitarist in the rural mould of Robert Johnson
and Mississippi John Hurt, he has got a voice like Howlin' Wolf
dipped in honey. He is also an enchanting storyteller, able to
deliver a shaggy-dog story while barking and simultaneously making
train noises on a harmonica - a reminder of a time when the phrase
"novelty song" didn't necessarily have music-lovers
running for the exits. He utilised ye olde food/sex metaphor in
Home Cooked Meal and made it sound dirtier than you would have
thought possible. He is fabulous."
-The Scotsman, May, 2000
"I disagree with Guy Davis. Contrary to his third album's
title, You Don't Know My Mind, I feel I do. He's smart and humane,
deals with his political alienation, thinks highly of sex and
understands that blues authenticity depends on forthright spirit
rather than perfect reproduction of the classics." - Charles
M. Young, Playboy, August, 1998
"It's difficult to know where to begin with the story of
New York City bluesman Guy Davis. Accomplished and acclaimed as
a musician, composer, actor, director and writer, Davis somehow
makes the term multi-talented seem woefully inadequate."
- Jim Musser, Icon Magazine, February 13, 1997
The Routes of Blues
Whether Guy Davis is appearing on "Late Night With Conan
O'Brien" or David Dye's "World Café" radio
program, in front of 15,000 people on the Main Stage at the famed
Winnipeg Folk Festival, or an intimate gathering of students at
a Music Camp, Guy feels the instinctive desire to give each listener
His Œall' is the Blues.
The routes, and roots, of his blues are as diverse as the music
form itself. It can be soulful, moaning out a people's cry, or
playful and bouncy as a hayride.
Guy can tell you stories of his great-grandparents and his grandparents,
their days as track linemen, and of their interactions with the
KKK. He can also tell you that as a child raised in middle-class
New York suburbs, the only cotton he's personally picked is his
BVDs up off the floor.
He's a musician, composer, actor, director, and writer. But most
importantly, Guy Davis is a ŒBluesman'. The blues permeates
every corner of Davis' creativity.
Throughout his career, he has dedicated himself to reviving the
traditions of acoustic blues and bringing them to as many ears
as possible through the material of the great blues masters, African
American stories, and his own original songs, stories and performance
His influences are as varied as the days. Musically, he enjoys
such great blues musicians as Blind Willie McTell (and his way
of story telling), Skip James, Manse Lipscomb, Mississippi John
Hurt, Elizabeth Cotton, and Buddy Guy, among others. It was through
listening to Taj Mahal that he found his way to the old time blues.
He also loved such diverse musicians as Fats Waller and Harry
Belafonte, who's song, "Scarlet Ribbons" is one of Guy's
His writing and storytelling have been influenced by Zora Neale
Hurston, Garrison Keillor, and especially by Laura Davis (his
late one hundred and five year-old grandmother).
Davis' creative roots run deep. Though raised in the New York
City area, he grew up hearing accounts of life in the rural south
from his parents and especially his from his grandparents, and
they made their way into his own stories and songs. Davis taught
himself the guitar (never having the patience to take formal lessons)
and learned by listening to and watching other musicians. One
night on a train from Boston to New York he picked up finger picking
from a nine-fingered guitar player.
Throughout his life, Davis has had overlapping interests in music
and acting. Early acting roles included a lead role in the film
"Beat Street" starring opposite Rae Dawn Chong and on
television as ŒDr. Josh Hall' on "One Life to Live."
Eventually, Davis had the opportunity to combine music and acting
on the stage. He made his Broadway musical debut in 1991 in the
Zora Neale Hurston/Langston Hughes collaboration "Mulebone,"
which featured the music of Taj Mahal.
In 1993 he performed Off-Broadway as legendary blues player Robert
Johnson in "Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil." He received
rave reviews and became the 1993 winner of the Blues Foundation's
"Keeping the Blues Alive Award² presented to him by
Robert Cray at the W.C. Handy Awards ceremony.
Looking for more ways to combine his love of blues, music, and
acting, Davis created material for himself. He wrote "In
Bed with the Blues: the adventures of Fishy Waters" -- an
engaging and moving one-man show. The Off-Broadway debut in 1994
received critical praise from the "New York Times" and
the "Village Voice".
Davis' writing projects have also included a variety of theatre
pieces and plays. "Mudsurfing," a collection of three
short stories, received the 1991 Brio Award from the Bronx Council
of the Arts. "The Trial," (later renamed, "The
Trial: Judgement of the People,") is an anti-drug abuse,
one-act play that toured throughout the New York City shelter
system, and was produced Off-Broadway in 1990, at the McGinn Cazale
Theater. Davis also arranged, performed and co-wrote the music
for an Emmy award winning film, "To Be a Man." In the
fall of 1995, his music was used in the national PBS series, "The
Most recently Guy collaborated with Dr. John on the music for
Whoopi Goldberg's children's show, "Littleberg" seen
on the Nickelodeon cable television network.
Davis performed in a theater piece with his parents, actors/writers
Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, entitled "Two Hah Hahs and a Homeboy,"
staged at the Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ in the spring
of 1995. The show combined material written by Davis and his parents,
with music, African American Folklore and history, as well as
performance pieces by Hurston and Hughes. Of Davis' performance,
one reviewer observed that his style and writing "sounds
so deeply drenched in lost black traditions that you feel that
they must predate him. But no, they don't. He created them.²
In the past few years, Davis has concentrated much of his efforts
on writing and performing music. In the fall of 1995, he released
his Red House records debut "Stomp Down Rider," an album
that captured Davis in a stunning live performance. The album
landed on top lists all over the country, including in the "Boston
Globe" and "Pulse."
Davis' next album, "Call Down the Thunder," paid tribute
to the blues masters, but leaned more heavily towards his own
powerful originals. The electrifying album solidified Davis' position
as one of the most important blues artists of our time. It was
named a top ten album of the year in the "Boston Globe"
and "Pulse." "Acoustic Guitar" magazine called
it one of the thirty essential CDs from a new generation of performers.
Davis' third Red House disc, "You Don't Know My Mind"
explodes with passion and rhythm, and displays Davis' breadth
as a composer and powerhouse performer. It was chosen as ŒBlues
Album of the Year' by the Association For Independent Music (formerly
known as NAIRD). The "San Francisco Chronicle" gave
the CD four stars, adding, "Davis' tough, timeless vocals
blow through your brain like a Mississippi dust devil."
Charles M. Young summed up Davis' own take on the blues best when
he wrote his review in "Playboy", "Davis reminds
you that the blues started as dance music. This is blues made
for humming along, stomping your foot, feeling righteous in the
face of oppression and expressing gratitude to your baby for greasing
Guy's fourth album, "Butt Naked Free", was produced
by John Platania, former guitarist for Van Morrison and now touring
regularly with Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriquez. In addition to
John on electric guitar, the album included other musician friends
such as Levon Helm (The Band), multi-instrumentalist, Tom "T-Bone"
Wolk (Hall & Oates, Carly Simon, ŒSaturday Night Live
Band), drummer Gary Burke (Joe Jackson), and acoustic bassist,
Mark Murphy (Walt Michael & Co., Vanaver Caravan). The musicians
all performed the song, ³Waitin¹ On the Cards to Fall²
from this album on the Conan O¹Brien show.
Album number five is called "give in kind", and was
also produced by John Platania. Music critic Dave Marsh wrote,
"Davis never loses sight of the blues as good time music,
the original forum for dancing on top of one's sorrows. Joy made
more exquisite, of course, by the sorrow from which it springs."
Album number six, "Chocolate to the Bone" continues
the long streak of success and accolades. "Down Beat"
magazine, the Jazz industry Œbible', gave the album a rare
four and a half star review (which nearly never gives a five star
review). The photos for the album's cover and liner notes were
shot by famed Civil Rights photographer and long-time family friend,
The new CD is called "Legacy" and is the fourth album
produced by John Platania. Musically it looks back towards the
acoustic roots of the blues as well as looking forward to its
influences today with the playful Rap-inspired song, "Uncle
Tom's Dead". Guy's son Martial, whose photo has adorned a
couple other Davis albums, makes his singing debut on this fun
interchange of ideas about music and history between father and
The album¹s cover and liner note cartoon was drawn by noted
comic book artist, Guy Davis, who has drawn comics such as Sandman
Mystery Theatre, the Nevermen, and many others.
Davis Family Vineyards of California (http://www.davisfamilyvineyards.com),
located on a ridge top in the center of California¹s renowned
Russian River Valley will sponsor the album release tour. Family
patriarch Guy Davis is releasing a special, limited-edition ³Guy
Davis² Cabernet ("Bluesman's" favorite) to mark
Guy has contributed songs on a host of ŒTribute' and ŒCompilation
albums', including collections on bluesmen, Charley Patton and
Robert Johnson, a Putamayo Records collection called, "From
Mali to Memphis", for tradition-based rockers like the Grateful
Dead, songwriters like Nick Lowe, and for Bob Dylan's 60th birthday,
and alongside performers like Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and
Bruce Springsteen for a collection of songs written by his friend,
legendary folksinger, ŒUncle' Pete Seeger.
Most recently Guy had the honor of appearing in the PBS special
on Jazz and Blues artist, Howard Armstrong.
One project that Guy is most proud to be involved with was produced
by his friend Larry Long for the Southern Poverty Law Center's
"Teaching Tolerance" campaign. It's a CD collection
of enriching songs combined with a Teacher¹s Aide booklet
of interactive projects children can participate in, combined
together to help teach diversity and understanding. It will be
distributed in early 2004, and the plan is to eventually send
it to every school in the country.