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Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => Topic started by: HardLuckChild on March 15, 2005, 10:19:19 PM

Title: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: HardLuckChild on March 15, 2005, 10:19:19 PM
When I first became interested in the blues, I disliked Reverend Gary Davis. I thought that his lyrics and music were extremely repetitive. However, my tastes have matured and I've discovered that I love his voice and guitar playing. I'd like to buy a Davis album, but I want to avoid one that is solely religious material and is lyrically repetitive. Does anyone have an idea of which Davis album I should purchase? My friend has his Document disc, so let's exclude that one. The Demons & Angels box set looks to have a great balance of sacred and secular music, but I noticed that nobody wrote a review for it on Amazon.com. Is this a bad sign? Now that I know a bit more about guitar playing, I'm really blown away by his playing. I read online that Davis had a dislocated wrist (I think?) which allowed him to play in an amazing fashion.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: frankie on March 16, 2005, 05:23:56 AM
The account I recall seemed to indicate that he had broken his wrist (the *right* wrist, iirc) after he moved to NYC (about 1942 or so) during a trip back south.  That would have been after his initial recordings, which were already pretty amazing.  Maybe he fell twice?  Another time when he was younger?  Not sure...  It's probably simplest to attribute his facility on the guitar to his talent, intelligence and dedication to the instrument.

You might like Blues & Ragtime on Shanachie - it's almost exclusively his secular music with only the stellar Children of Zion thrown in for good measure.  The Guitar and Banjo of Reverend Gary Davis might be a good choice for you since it's all secular and all instrumental.  On the other hand, his greatest artistic achievements are, in my opinion, his sacred music - you get the whole package there.  For that, you might try Harlem Street Singer, a wonderful album by any standard.  The CD If I Had My Way:  Early Home Recordings consists of recordings done by John Cohen in the 50's and has some wonderful moments.  I'm not sure that I'd suggest it to someone who hadn't heard Harlem Street Singer yet, but it is amazing music (some other singers are peppered throughout, though).  The Demons and Angels set has a lot of great music, but it's not any kind of "greatest hits" or anything along those lines, so you might be better off waiting to see if you warm up further to his sacred music and singing style before checking it out.

I'm a hardened Rev. Davis nut, think he's as beautiful a singer as Ray Charles and that *nobody* plays guitar better, so take my advice with that in mind...  My kids can recognize his music instantly!
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: uncle bud on March 16, 2005, 06:51:50 AM
Blues and Ragtime is definitely a must. It is a great compilation of RGD's secular material with stunning playing throughout and some lesser known gems, as well as classic instrumentals like Cincinnati Flow Rag, Twelve Sticks, Buck Dance. A no brainer in my opinion. But as Frank says, RGD is at his most inspired on the religious material and Harlem Street Singer is probably the pinnacle of his studio recordings. (I am not a religious person at all, not trying to promote that angle here.) There is a little bit of repetitiveness on this I guess, but not much. The Gospel, Blues and Street Songs album with Pink Anderson tracks doesn't give you a lot of Davis but what's there is pretty jaw-dropping. These together with the early recordings form some of the key reference points for study of Gary Davis, IMO.

For something slightly different and not necessarily representative, I really like the O Glory CD on Genes. It has some of my favorite versions of his songs like O Glory How Happy I Am, Let Us Get Together, and There's a Destruction in this Land.

I haven't warmed up to the Early Home Recordings disc of John Cohen material. Not sure why. There's certainly some fascinating stuff there, but I'd say it's for someone who already has a lot of Davis essentials.

The Demons and Angels set is great. If you become an RGD fan, you need to buy it. Frank isn't recommending it wholeheartedly out of modesty ;) since he did the excellent song transcriptions in it. It's all over the place but in a great way. Perhaps again it's for someone who has already got some other Davis material, but it sure covers a lot of the RGD spectrum and is a nice mix of secular and spiritual.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: frankie on March 16, 2005, 12:41:30 PM
I haven't warmed up to the Early Home Recordings disc of John Cohen material. Not sure why. There's certainly some fascinating stuff there, but I'd say it's for someone who already has a lot of Davis essentials.

I don't disagree, but in the interest of speeding up the "warming up" process, check out the following songs specifically:

Twelve Gates to the City:  my favorite version of this song may very well be this one.  Listen to the repeated triplets underneath the vocal - amazing.  The understated vocal harmony is great, too and seems to really prod Davis on.  The tempo and execution are just perfect...  a slow-rocking groove somewhere between a prayer and a commandment.

He Knows How Much We Can Bear - beautiful, beautiful, beautiful - great chords, wonderfully sung.  In F.  Other recordings of this song include a double-time section, which I don't miss here.

A Friend Like Lonely Jesus - this one took a while to grow on me.  It's in F and has an insistent 12/8 feel.  This one is such a masterpiece of restraint.  The guitar break is probably what drew me into it - it seems to create it's own little world and pulls you right in.  Exquisitely crafted and executed, but still spontaneous sounding.

I Belong to the Band - this also might be my favorite recording of this song - he sounds very relaxed and the tempo is slower than his 1935 recordings (no surprise there, I guess) but his groove is deep. 

I'm struggling to remember the name of the other singer present on a few tracks - I want to say Kinney Peebles, but I'm not sure...  anyway, his songs are fun to listen to as well.  He's a good singer and has a lot of personality in his voice...  at any rate, give it a chance - maybe start with those four songs, or even just Twelve Gates to the City.  There's something magical going on there.

My theory is that the first track, If I Had My Way, is sufficiently different sounding from the recording most of us are (very very very) familiar with that it may have inadvertently turned me off from the recording as a whole initially.  Not that it's bad, just that the later recordings of it sound more developed - this earlier recording, to my ear, lacks some of the harmonic crunch that makes the later recordings so exciting - like the use of the G minor chord during the chorus, for instance.

It did take me a while to settle into its deeper sections, but it was worth the effort.

excellent song transcriptions in it.

Thanks, UB...  I did the best I could at the time...
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: uncle bud on March 16, 2005, 06:09:14 PM
I haven't warmed up to the Early Home Recordings disc of John Cohen material. Not sure why. There's certainly some fascinating stuff there, but I'd say it's for someone who already has a lot of Davis essentials.

I don't disagree, but in the interest of speeding up the "warming up" process, check out the following songs specifically:

Twelve Gates to the City:? my favorite version of this song may very well be this one.? Listen to the repeated triplets underneath the vocal - amazing.? The understated vocal harmony is great, too and seems to really prod Davis on.? The tempo and execution are just perfect...? a slow-rocking groove somewhere between a prayer and a commandment.

Yes, this slowed down version is very cool. A shame about the recording quality. The guitar is rather muffled.?

Quote
He Knows How Much We Can Bear - beautiful, beautiful, beautiful - great chords, wonderfully sung.? In F.? Other recordings of this song include a double-time section, which I don't miss here.

I agree, this is worth the price of admission alone. It is one of my "forgotten favorites" of the Rev (i.e., I forget how much I like it and where it's found on other recordings). It goes by the name We Are the Heavenly Father's Children on this disc. I would add a couple more "beautifuls" to your description. For those who object to Davis as a frenetic player with straining vocals, this is a good antidote. Astounding performance. Where is it on other discs? I can't find it!

Quote
A Friend Like Lonely Jesus - this one took a while to grow on me.? It's in F and has an insistent 12/8 feel.? This one is such a masterpiece of restraint.? The guitar break is probably what drew me into it - it seems to create it's own little world and pulls you right in.? Exquisitely crafted and executed, but still spontaneous sounding.

This is another reason to get this disc. It's an unusual style for Davis, it seems to me. Much more simple, chordal and gospel-y. RGD playing slow can really tear me up. You're right, the break is wonderful.

Quote
I Belong to the Band - this also might be my favorite recording of this song - he sounds very relaxed and the tempo is slower than his 1935 recordings (no surprise there, I guess) but his groove is deep.?

Again, I agree here. Serious groovosity on this one. The original is almost superhuman. This one is deeply human. Tremendous vocal. I think I prefer this one. Cool showy ending as well. If I could play one Rev. Davis tune...

Quote
I'm struggling to remember the name of the other singer present on a few tracks - I want to say Kinney Peebles, but I'm not sure...? anyway, his songs are fun to listen to as well.? He's a good singer and has a lot of personality in his voice...? at any rate, give it a chance - maybe start with those four songs, or even just Twelve Gates to the City.? There's something magical going on there.

Checking the liner notes says your memory is correct. I really like the tracks with Peebles. He's a very appealing singer as you say, and it's so unusual to hear Rev. Davis singing with someone else or backing someone. One of my favorites on the disc is The Uncloudy Day. This a great gospel tune somewhat in the style of Let Us Get Together, but more chordally complex, and features a great vocal duet from Peebles and RGD. Also interesting is He Stole Away, which RGD nuts will recognize as the Twelve Sticks guitar part, but again with duet vocals from Peebles and RGD! These duets are really cool and in a way make the disc for me. Got On My Traveling Shoes is also great, in a Samson and Delilah vein.

Quote
My theory is that the first track, If I Had My Way, is sufficiently different sounding from the recording most of us are (very very very) familiar with that it may have inadvertently turned me off from the recording as a whole initially.? Not that it's bad, just that the later recordings of it sound more developed - this earlier recording, to my ear, lacks some of the harmonic crunch that makes the later recordings so exciting - like the use of the G minor chord during the chorus, for instance.

It did take me a while to settle into its deeper sections, but it was worth the effort.

Yes, you're probably right. And I've sold it a bit short since I do like a good chunk of it a lot. Plus it's unusual. Some of the other familiar tunes are lesser versions IMO though, You Got to Move, There's a Destruction. Shine On Me is disappointing insofar as I'm a nut about Blind Willie Johnson's version, which is transcendent. Plus there's a couple marching band tunes which never really did it for me. Part of the problem is also - and I'll duck saying this - the sound. They're home recordings and very much sound like it. Unlike exclusively prewar-recorded artists, we're used to RGD in pretty good recordings. So all these things make this a disc for the person who already has a slew of RGD recordings, IMO.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: frankie on March 17, 2005, 08:41:13 PM
It goes by the name We Are the Heavenly Father's Children on this disc. I would add a couple more "beautifuls" to your description. For those who object to Davis as a frenetic player with straining vocals, this is a good antidote. Astounding performance. Where is it on other discs? I can't find it!

That's because it's going by the wrong name on this CD.  The title should be "He Knows How Much We Can Bear".  It was written in 1941 by Phyllis Hall and was a successful song for Roberta Martin (http://www.dovesong.com/MP3/MP3_RobertaMartin.asp).  On "Live and Kicking" it's listed as "How Much We Can Bear" and I have a cassette copy of a Rev. Gary Davis/Short Stuff Macon LP - I think it was a UK release - that has it listed as "He Knows Just How Much We Can Bear".  It might be easier to find if the name was at least consistent...

Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: uncle bud on March 17, 2005, 09:14:32 PM
Live and Kicking was the one disc I didn't check, thinking, "oh it's not on that one."

I don't know whether it's true or not, but the story behind this disc (and others in the same series from Dave van Ronk and Sonny and Brownie) which was recorded in Montreal is that Michael Nerenberg, who recorded it here in 1967, needed some money 30 years later to repair his van. He went to the Justin Time label with the tapes and ta-da.

Nerenberg is not someone I've bumped into here, not that I'm totally connected. He mentions in his notes that of the many recordings he made of RGD, this is his favorite. I think I need to bump into this fellow....
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: uncle bud on April 29, 2007, 08:34:56 PM
I guess I?m not completely surprised by the opinions of people expressing varying degrees of dislike for the music of Rev. Gary Davis in the ?who-do-you-not-love? thread (http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=114&topic=3420.0). I was going to post this there, but this post got way out of control ( :P) and I thought it might be best on its own. As a player who is regularly held up as the pinnacle of ragtime blues guitar achievement to all of us guitar nerds ? even if he?s really a gospel musician ? his overall style is not necessarily listener-friendly at times. His voice can be harsh and grating, even to fans like me. I?m always amazed whenever I see that comment of Davis?s about Lemon?s singing. If anyone can let out a blood-curdling yell, it?s the Rev. I?m surprised Van Ronk didn?t take the opportunity to playfully point that out, but he could holler pretty loud himself.

Some of RGD?s songs can be relentless, a combination of constant forward motion from the driving guitar parts and the raw vocal, often put out at the top of his range. I?m thinking for example of something like ?The Great Change in Me? from the early recordings. I think it?s a masterpiece but could understand how it might not be someone?s cup of tea. In fact, while they?re always listed as essential, the early recordings are definitely not what I?d start anybody on if I was charged with converting them to Davis. Rediscovery-era recordings also can feature a harsh vocal ? whether from some of the cheap, home recordings, as Rivers notes in the other thread, or from the delivery ? but they seem more approachable.

The ?right? records can help a lot, IMO, though what those might be is a matter of opinion. ?At Newport? is very listener-friendly, to my mind. His singing is great on it, and I think the Rev. generally flourishes in front of a real audience. The record has a tremendous version of Samson and Delilah, as well as great versions of I?m Going to Sit Down On the Banks of the River (listed as ?I Won?t Be Back No More? here) and You Got to Move (just a delight). It?s a bit of a ?hits? record, has 12 Sticks, Buck Dance, Death Don?t Have No Mercy. The new version of the CD has two extra tracks, although I kind of like the way the old version ended with I Will Do My Last Singing in This Land Somewhere (another wonderful performance).

But I have to say that if one is looking for emotive, Gary Davis is one of the most emotive and expressive singers I?ve ever heard. If one were to explore his entire repertoire (OK, so the naysayers aren?t about to commit to that ;) ), I think you?d find an enormous range of vocal styles: ferocious top-of-his-range singing, fiery sermons, comic deliveries, stark and hoarse stuff like on the ?Pure Religion and Bad Company? record, and fragile and deeply expressive as on some of his later recordings. Many times it works, sublimely ? sometimes it just doesn?t.

Just a few examples of the sublime from a record that some critics dismiss as a lesser work, ?O, Glory ? The Apostolic Studio Sessions?, his second-to-last (I think) studio record. (Sound on this one is great, BTW.)  Listen to ?Lo, I Be With You Always?, ?There?s a Destruction In This Land? and ?O, Glory?. ?Lo, I Be With You? has Larry Johnson on harp and is I think the best version of this song from Rev. Davis. Very bluesy, great singing, wonderful interplay between the two musicians. ?There?s a Destruction?? is a song that appears on a number of records but is perhaps at its most gentle here and just beautiful, IMO, whatever one thinks of the message. The last one, ?O, Glory?, is my favourite version of this truly great song, and I can?t listen to it without become quite emotional myself. It?s taken at a very relaxed pace and the singing is some of Davis?s most moving.

Some other examples of how deeply expressive Davis can be for me are ?I Heard the Angels Singing? from either the ?From Blues to Gospel? record or the ?Reverend Gary Davis? CD on Heritage (now unavailable, but some of the recordings appear on the Demons and Angels boxed set, including ?Angels Singing?, I believe).

I think to hear Davis at his expressive best, one has to listen to his religious music. I am not religious at all, but I am deeply moved by him when he is truly in the zone. His ragtime is dazzling, his blues is off-the-beaten path and wonderful, but his religious material to me is the most overwhelming, and is the most authentic expression of his genius. I could go on and on about my favourite Rev. Davis recordings (obviously!). I could also mention a slew of tunes that I don?t enjoy, from every record of him out there ? or in a number of cases, songs that I don?t appreciate yet. Some of the material has taken me years to come to the point where I suddenly decide, Wow, that?s just an amazing piece of music. ?Children of Zion? is just one that comes to mind in this respect.

I don?t think that if you don?t love his music that there?s something wrong with your ears or taste or anything. There are people I have immense respect for who have said they just don?t like his music, and that?s a perfectly legitimate response. Paul Rishell, for example, who is simply one of the best country blues players out there right now. But I would say to anyone on the fence, keep listening when you get the urge or opportunity to check Davis out, especially material you haven?t heard, because you never know. Frankly, I rank him with J.S. Bach and Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis (another problematic genius).

As for him belittling other players, I wonder if there is a bit too much generalizing going on, whether it?s here on Weenie or in the documented record we have of Rev. Davis?s opinions from Stefan Grossman, Bruce Bastin and others. I can think of three ?put-downs? off the top of my head: the Lemon comment, the comment about Fuller (perhaps rooted in some jealousy of Fuller?s substantial commercial success), and the ?I thought we were going to see a guitar player? comment, about whom I don?t know. We know he was vain about his own talents ? although one could make an argument that this was just being realistic ;). Yet at the same time we have him speaking highly of Blind Blake, Willie Walker and Lonnie Johnson.

I never met the Reverend unfortunately, but while the stories I?ve read certainly have some hair-raising moments ? ranging from general irascibility to waving guns around ? there?s also a huge generosity evident in the man?s teaching of so many young and almost exclusively white guitar enthusiasts, a group of people completely alien to his social and cultural background and experience in the South. Sure, he made a little money off them ($5 a lesson according to Roy Book Binder), but he regularly had them into his house, taught them as much as they could take in from his vast genius, the lessons could last an entire day, and he seems to have accommodated them much more than any of us would accommodate strangers.

Two incidental things worth reading in this respect are the liner notes to the Folkways CD ?If I Had My Way: Early Home Recordings? from John Cohen, and a story from Rolly Brown on the Reverend Gary Davis website at http://www.reverendgarydavis.com/stories.html. The Cohen notes show Davis taking in a guy who wasn?t even trying to learn guitar from him. The Rolly Brown story in particular is really worth reading in its entirety on the website ? as are the rest of the stories there ? but I?ll quote from it extensively here:

Quote
I had a Gibson "country western" model at this time, and I played a bit for him (at his request). He kindly said, "You'll be alright...you just keep on". He took the guitar from me, brought it up to about an inch away from his face, and said, "Hmmmmm....mahogany!" I guess he had that little bit of sight. Then we went off to his 2 hour workshop, where he sat in the student union basement and played for 3 hours straight. I was just amazed by his hands, and the music that came out of his guitar. There was counterpoint and melody and bass movement, but his left hand seemed always to be holding a chord. It totally transformed my vision of how the left hand should operate. To this day, that weekend probably did more for my guitar playing development than any other 48 hours in my 39 years of intensive guitar playing.

At the end of the afternoon, we had two hours to kill till we left for the airport. Reverend Davis had already been playing guitar all day long, but he turned toward me and asked, "Well, what do you want to learn?" I was dumbfounded by his generosity, but recovered quickly, and started naming tunes: Buck Dance, Slow Drag, Talk on The Corner, 12 Sticks,....he went through them all pretty patiently. I didn't ask questions because I figured he probably was just a great "ear" player, but when I had trouble following him on the downward chord sequence in Slow Drag, he finally, exasperated, said "C, Bb6, F with an A in the bass, and Ab!"...so much for my stereotypes about old illiterate blues guys...

After two hours of this, we took the Reverend to the airport and sent him off to New York. I think it was about a year later that he passed away. I envy those guys who got to study with him for years in New York, but I also value the brief time I spent with him, and I worked hard to make the most of it for a long time afterward.

I saw a lot of the old blues guys perform: Lightnin' Hopkins, Bukka White, Fred McDowell, Furry Lewis, Roosevelt Sykes, and others. None came close to Gary Davis, in my opinion. And none was more beloved. He was a man of great spirit, and he WAS the greatest.


Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Johnm on April 29, 2007, 10:48:08 PM
Thanks, Uncle Bud, for your thoughtful and balanced post on Rev. Davis.  You raise so many points that there are a lot of potential points of entry for reponse.  A couple of points that you raise, or that have been raised earlier, occur to me:
   * Re Rev. Davis's well-publicized lack of enthusiasm for the playing of other guitarists, it seems only fair to point out that the notion that musicians should be generous in their assessments of their fellow players' work is of pretty recent vintage.  Historically, it has been pretty much of a dog-eat-dog situation in the music profession, with musicians jealously guarding the aspects of their music that they felt most proud of and most distinctively their own, and at best, tolerating, or at worst, trashing the music of most of their peers.  In the '60s, when everyone became beautiful, this way of assessing the work of one's peers became unfashionable.  Rev. Davis was enough of the era that he came up in that he wasn't going to change at that point and start praising the work of players he didn't rate that highly.  I suspect that he wasn't really worse than most of the other musicians of his era in this regard.  Speaking ill of players who have lesser natural gifts though, smacks of a lack of grace, and I think this is the reason that Davis's comments (and you're right, there are not all that many) along these lines rub so many people the wrong way.
   * I think one of the reason that some people dig in their heels when it comes to acknowledging Davis's greatness and his musical achievements is that so many of his fans praise him intemperately, and seem deaf to his shortcomings.  For instance, I think that what Rev. Davis played was perfectly amazing, but I'm often not enthralled with how he played it.  Whether from playing on the street for years or some other reason, he never seemed to develop or care about developing a good tone on his instrument.  A good percentage of the time, he sounds fundamentally sloppy and crashy to me.  I think Blind Blake, Blind Lemon, Scrapper Blackwell, Lonnie Johnson, Josh White, and Snooks Eaglin, among others, all had a better tone on the guitar than did Rev. Davis, and generally did a better job of playing what they played than he did.
   * I agree with you that the essence of what Rev. Davis did is in his religious material, and his range within that is huge.  It is by no means an unvarying, monochromatic expression of "God is great", and examines every nuance of faith that can be imagined, I think.  My favorite is "He Knows How Much We Can Bear" (with a different title) on the recently released John Cohen recordings on Smithsonian Folkways.  It is just beautiful.  He goes so many different directions, though, and was really a striking composer in the style.
   * Fans love to rave about Rev. Davis's harmonic complexity and counterpoint, but his greatest genius to me has always seemed to be his rhythmic sense, which was equalled perhaps, but never surpassed.  Listen to his accompaniment for "Got On My Travelling Shoes" on the Smithsonian Folkways record.  It is die happy stuff, and nobody but Davis (so far) ever did or could do something like it.
   * Maybe Rev. Davis knew Rolly Brown's guitar was mahogany by smelling it. 

all best,
Johnm                   
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: outfidel on April 30, 2007, 08:30:15 AM
Somewhere, I read of Rev Gary Davis putting down John Jackson by saying something like, "The only song I ever hear him play is 'John Henry'" . Whatever the exact quote, it seems unfair, since Jackson was a terrific interpreter of Blind Blake & Willie Walker, and he had a broad repertoire.

On the other hand, I assume RGD also admired Blind Willie Johnson, since he covered at least two of his songs (Samson & Delilah/If I Had My Way as well as Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning).

To my ears, the best RGD recordings are the ones he did for Prestige/Bluesville in the early 60s: Harlem Street Singer, Have A Little Faith and Say No the Devil. The acoustics and sound quality are terrific -- e.g., listen to the shout of "woaah" at the 4:30 mark of "Crucifixion" off of Harlem Street Singer -- probably because they were recorded in the great state of New Jersey. :)
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Stuart on April 30, 2007, 08:54:48 AM
-- probably because they were recorded in the great state of New Jersey. :)

Which can be either a blessing or a curse!  ;)

A while back there was an article in the paper about a person from Tibet who was a Tibetan Buddhist and was here to talk about his faith. He said that many people think of themselves as human beings who on occasion have a spiritual experience, and went on to say that perhaps they should think of themselves as spiritual beings who just happen to be having a human experience--something that I think about whenever I listen to Rev. Gary Davis--that he was a spiritual being who just happened to be having a human experience. 
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Bunker Hill on April 30, 2007, 10:49:37 AM
RGD sure do court controversy and debate in these parts. >:D

He is the subject of a lengthy thread entitled Academic Writing On The Blues. Click the RGD tag at the foot of the page to find it.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: tommersl on April 30, 2007, 02:37:44 PM
Interesting thread. I think Van Ronk was playing a similar style to RGD, so I'm not surprised he easily shared RGD views about anything. But I'm not sure RGD actually attacked Lemon's skills, it seems to me it's just the way Van Ronk describes it more than RGD actually wanted to belittle Lemon judging from Van Ronk text.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: outfidel on April 30, 2007, 03:41:13 PM
Well in this instance, Van Ronk was disagreeing with  RGD, who was belittling BLJ:

"I remember one time I asked him about Blind Lemon Jefferson. Well Lemon was a little older than Gary but they were sort of contemporaries...I thought and still do think that Lemon was a very good guitarist. Gary disagreed (laughter). Gary started to play a very accurate pastiche of Lemon's Black Snake Moan, and Gary just opened his mouth and let out with this incredible blood curdling scream, and then he stops and says, 'Man, he couldn't have sung no louder if someone was cutting his throat.' "

Dave Van Ronk on Rev Gary Davis
as quoted in Robert Tilling's Oh, What A Beautiful City, p 29
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: tommersl on April 30, 2007, 11:19:51 PM
The text is weird. First we have to accept that Van Ronk had a thought on his mind that Lemon was a good guitarist and that  "Gary disagreed (laugher)". What does it mean? Maybe Van Ronk said to RGD that he thinks Lemon is a good guitarist, and RGD burst into laughing(?). After that, we are looking to read anything about Lemon's guitar skills, all we get is a comment about Lemon's vocals! That his vocals were not loud enough to RGD taste! As I consider RGD own vocals, I doubt theres a big surprise in such RGD's comment. So Lemon guitar was behind a not too loud vocals, Gary Davis had to never play instrumentals so I'd believe that for him calculating guitar skills is also by considering calculation of loudness of singing.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Rivers on May 01, 2007, 08:15:21 PM
Uncle Bud, great post,very timely. Agree totally re. Live at Newport, stunning vocal and, almost as an afterthought, guitar.

The recording that always gets me though is on the Gospel Blues & Street Singers album (w/Pink Anderson, & Pink is truly great on it too). In fact the whole program is indispensable. The very last track always brings a major lump to my throat, There Was A Time That I Was Blind. I can't think of anything else I've ever heard by any artist that is so sincere and uncontrived.

JohnM, you're dead right, "head cutting" was the name of the game back then. Maybe it still is!  ;D
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Parlor Picker on May 02, 2007, 01:24:22 AM
The very last track always brings a major lump to my throat, There Was A Time That I Was Blind. I can't think of anything else I've ever heard by any artist that is so sincere and uncontrived.

 ;D

Exactly - that's the track I meant. Amazing voice and guitar and steeped in emotion.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: jostber on May 03, 2007, 05:53:18 AM
Love the Gospel Blues & Street Singers record. This is also a great one with Mr.Davis:

Pure Religion & Bad Company -
http://www.amazon.com/Pure-Religion-Company-Rev-Davis/dp/B000001DHR/ref=pd_bbs_4/102-7708198-2811344?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1178196625&sr=8-4


Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: davispicker on May 03, 2007, 01:57:43 PM
Thanks, Uncle Bud, for the thread on the Rev, who has always been my favorite artist.  His singing and playing of the gospel tunes have always moved me deeply since I started listening to him back around 1975 or so.  I listen to him all the time and never grow tired of it.  For many years I listened to him without attempting to really play any of his songs.  Then a few years back I started to delve more into his playing, inspired by a lesson from Ernie Hawkins, who transmits so much about the spirit of the Rev as a person.  Ernie also understands and plays the Rev's repertoire incredibly well and is a wonderful teacher.  In any case, I find the variety of styles that the Rev mastered to put him in a league of his own.  He is one of those musicians who is difficult to define precisely because he incorporated so many traditions and styles into his playing, and in turn he influenced a wide variety of people in different ways.  Some of you may have seen this wonderful description of the Rev by Allan Evans.  If not, I highly recommend it.

http://www.arbiterrecords.com/notes/2005notes1.html
 (http://www.arbiterrecords.com/notes/2005notes1.html)

Cheers,  Brian
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: davispicker on May 09, 2007, 03:51:08 AM
Hi again, good folks,

Just this morning I discovered a wonderful article on Ernie Hawkins in which he relates a lot about his experience with RGD.  Thought I would post the link to it here for ya'll.

http://erniehawkins.com/DirtyLinenOct06.pdf (http://erniehawkins.com/DirtyLinenOct06.pdf)


Cheers,

Brian
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: eagle rockin daddy on May 16, 2007, 06:23:26 AM
This is a really great thread.  I?ve been meaning to add my thoughts for a while as I?ve been thinking a lot about this topic, my relation to the music and message of Rev. Davis.  I share many of the thoughts already expressed, and I fall into the camp of admirers. 
As I think about this I realize that for me, studying Rev. Davis technique involves both my heart and my mind.  His music has always gone right to my heart.  I feel a deep connection with it that I can?t explain.  There was also that feeling of, Wow, I wanna do that, and that is where my mind comes in, because I need to use my mind to figure out what he is doing, and how I can learn his technique.  I am constantly amazed at how he developed a technique and understanding of the guitar that allowed him to express himself musically.  I am also amazed at how well this technique allows me to play other forms of music than his, to express what I hear in my head.

Sure sometimes his performance just charges ahead, but that?s what he was trying to do.  You can hear it.  He starts out slow and chugs along, then all of a sudden something clicks, his playing deepens, the rhythm increases, he connects with the music and off he goes.  I love it.  Two of my favorite tracks are ?There?s a Bright Side Somewhere? and ?I?ll Fly Away? from ?A Little More Faith.

Another aspect of his music that took me a long time to get any kind of understanding is the performance of his repertoire.  It is one thing to connect with Rev. Davis? music, another to make the commitment to learn how to play and sing it, and yet another to perform it.  I love sharing this music with others, but somehow sharing Rev. Davis? stuff takes on another meaning.  I feel like Ernie does in the interview linked above, that in some small way I am continuing his life work, which I see as sharing a message of hope, joy, love, faith and peace (his personal faults aside).  For some reason carrying his message is important to me.  I neither know nor care why, it just is.  I feel grateful to be a small part of his work.

For me, connecting with this wonderful music and learning how to share it has been an important part of my personal journey.  I believe we are all on a journey, and my paths includes Rev. Davis.  The lessons I learn through my love of this music parallels and deepens the lessons I have learned in other areas of my life.  I guess it is all the same anyway.  If nothing more, coming home from a busy day, or with morning coffee, being able to pick up my guitar and play and sing a few notes is a joy.

?Oh Glory how happy I am???..


Mike
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Johnm on June 02, 2007, 05:29:02 PM
Hi all,
In the deep recesses of the Main Forum I found an old thread on Rev. Davis that touched on some of the topics brought forward by Uncle Bud in the thread he started more recently.  Since there was some information in the old thread not included in the new one, it seemed to make sense to merge the two threads.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: BLOOZMAN on June 06, 2007, 07:26:41 PM
HEY REV..............

52 DAYS AND COUNTING.....

SEE YA' SOON,

CALVIN
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Parlor Picker on June 07, 2007, 12:59:28 AM
HEY REV..............

52 DAYS AND COUNTING.....

SEE YA' SOON,

CALVIN

What?? Please explain to a simple Limey.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: GhostRider on June 07, 2007, 12:34:30 PM
PP:

The Port Townsend CB camp/festival starts July 29, 2007. A truely not-to-be-missed event.

Alex
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Parlor Picker on June 08, 2007, 12:47:42 AM
Thanks Alex - I was in a Rev. Gary Davis sort of mind, so never made the connection to PT. 

M.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: uncle bud on June 08, 2007, 06:07:23 AM
Unfortunately, the Rev. won't be at PT, at least not in body, so like Parlor Picker, I'm still confused by the original message.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Parlor Picker on June 08, 2007, 06:11:32 AM
Uncle Bud - Nice to know I'm not alone in my confusion. 
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Slack on June 08, 2007, 09:28:18 AM
HEY REV..............

52 DAYS AND COUNTING.....

SEE YA' SOON,

CALVIN

What?? Please explain to a simple Limey.

C'mon fellars.  52 days and counting refers to the number of days until Port Townsend.  The count down is tracked by a module on the left side menu.  Bloozman and davispicker are both going apparently.

 ::)
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: uncle bud on June 08, 2007, 12:08:50 PM
I got the reference to Port Townsend starting in 52 days, but I had no idea who it was addressed to (Rev in a thread on Rev. Gary Davis when we have no user named Rev is a little confusing) or why it was in this thread...
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Rivers on June 08, 2007, 08:23:08 PM

The text is weird. First we have to accept that Van Ronk had a thought on his mind that Lemon was a good guitarist and that  "Gary disagreed (laugher)". What does it mean? Maybe Van Ronk said to RGD that he thinks Lemon is a good guitarist, and RGD burst into laughing(?). After that, we are looking to read anything about Lemon's guitar skills, all we get is a comment about Lemon's vocals! That his vocals were not loud enough to RGD taste! As I consider RGD own vocals, I doubt theres a big surprise in such RGD's comment. So Lemon guitar was behind a not too loud vocals, Gary Davis had to never play instrumentals so I'd believe that for him calculating guitar skills is also by considering calculation of loudness of singing.


I've been meaning to reply to this. Van Ronk's low-key punch line is "Gary disagreed".

If I'd been there I also would have laughed out loud, knowing the little I know. Gary was a natural force, a brilliant artist in his own right, just like Lemon before him. Enter the jester Dave Van Ronk, who had a serious knack of bringing out the humor in a situation. Great artist X comments on great artist Y, sort of thing. That's why it's a totally brilliant, funny and revealing quote.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Frosty Morn on June 15, 2007, 09:41:42 AM

I don't see it mentioned in this thread, so I will suggest that emusic.com is a great resource for building your RGD library.

Like the original poster to this thread, I did not appreciate or understand the music of Gary Davis when I first heard it.  In recent years I've come to appreciate how wonderful those recording are and have taken on the task to learn some of those licks.  They *do* repeat from tune to tune, to it's quite an economical style.   ;)    Hardly a day goes by that I don't sit down with a guitar, and now it's more than likely that I'll spend some of the time playing some Gary Davis.  So, I guess his music is part of my daily life!

Title: The Reverend
Post by: NevadaPic on January 08, 2008, 06:46:09 PM
"I thought Rev. Gary Davis was absolutely the best American overall guitarist. He's a total genius. If he had sight he would have been more than a genius."  Danny Kalb

I don't know Mr. Kalb and I don't mean to chastise him.  But I think that it was because of the Reverend's blindness that he was such an excellent guitar player.  He did not have the distraction of sight thus his hearing was more acute, his tactile sense through his fingers was more acute and his knowledge of the fingerboard was more intuitive.  He (the Reverend) could focus more on the playing rather than being distracted by what might be happening about him.  I am constantly amazed with what I hear from his playing.  Am I alone if thinking this or am I just full of it?

On the other hand, I would have been happy to be actually behind the Reverend when he pulled out his 'piece of pistol' whenever he felt it necessary. 

Pic
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: Rivers on January 08, 2008, 07:02:57 PM
I think this applies to many unsighted players. Willie McTell, Willie Johnson, Connie Williams, Joe Taggert, Blind Blake, Snooks Eaglin are just a few off the top of my head. These players have something special going for them musically. It's a good exercise to play with your eyes closed sometimes. I can't keep it up for long.

And welcome to weenie campbell NP!
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: NevadaPic on January 08, 2008, 07:41:14 PM
Rivers,

Thanks Friend I can't agree more.  I do play with eyes closed or in the dark every now and again and sometimes I surprise myself.  I did not mean to discount the many other players who lack the sense of sight.  I was asked not long ago the question "If you had to lose one of your senses which would it be?"  I think you know how I responded.  I think that folks that play the blues feel so much that it has to come out one way or the other.  That it comes out the way it does just strikes a chord in us all. 

I just recently heard the Reverend singing the lyrics to "I'm Throwing Up My Hands", "Can't Be Satisfied", "Mountain Jack" from the album 'Rev. Blind Gary Davis 1935 - 1949'.  What a performance.  I am a huge fan of the Reverend's for a lot of reasons...  But I have a lot of the music of most of the other folks you mentioned waiting in the wings for further review.   Thanks for the welcome!

Pic     
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: Rivers on January 08, 2008, 08:04:25 PM
I really recommend, if you don't know it already, the song "There Was A Time That I Was Blind" on Gospel Blues & Street Songs, disc is shared half and half with Pink Anderson. I can't think of anything more heartfelt in country blues, very revealing about Gary's feelings about his blindness. He could be acting out in that inimiccable Gary way but I don't think so. Worth picking up for that alone but the rest of the tracks on the CD are really good too.
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: Mr.OMuck on January 08, 2008, 08:23:21 PM
I really recommend, if you don't know it already, the song "There Was A Time That I Was Blind" on Gospel Blues & Street Songs, disc is shared half and half with Pink Anderson. I can't think of anything more heartfelt in country blues, very revealing about Gary's feelings about his blindness. He could be acting out in that inimiccable Gary way but I don't think so. Worth picking up for that alone but the rest of the tracks on the CD are really good too.

IMO thats RGD's best post 78 recording, and thats saying a lot since he made so many great ones.Blow Gabriel is mind blowing! And then you get Pink Anderson doing Greasy Greens?!?@#$#@&? What more could an aspiring fingerpicker ask for?

www.myspace.com/mromuck (http://www.myspace.com/mromuck)
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: rjtwangs on January 08, 2008, 08:24:32 PM
Nevada, I absolutely agree with you! I believe his blindness was what made him great, for all of the reasons you mentioned, plus the fact that he had that gift of music. You could also add the name Doc Watson to that list. It is very inspirational to listen to the music of these gifted musicians.

RJ
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: Mr.OMuck on January 08, 2008, 08:29:25 PM
It seems to be a pan cultural phenomenon. Take a listen to the great Blind Turkish-Armenian Oud player
Udi Hrandt. Very moving playing, he's like the Gary Davis of Turkish music.
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: Rivers on January 08, 2008, 08:30:38 PM
Not to mention Lemon Jefferson. I think I agree with you OMuck, Street Songs is a great CD. Probably the best version of Keep Your Lamp Trimmed & Burning that I know of. And Pink is in great form on it too.
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: Mr.OMuck on January 08, 2008, 08:45:39 PM
While we're on the subject of my late esteemed mentor; have you ever noticed a bit of a schism in the country blues world between those that worship at the alter of the ancestors of Muddy, and those who gravitate towards more spiritually themed music like RGD or Blind Willie Johnson? I get whiffs of attitude sometimes towards RGD's music, like its somehow uncool, from those who came to early blues via Chicago ca. 1950.
Know what I mean?
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: Rivers on January 08, 2008, 09:12:23 PM
Could that be a New York thing OMuck? I really dunno, just guessing here. I hadn't really noticed it. I don't distinguish between blues and gospel, it's all great music to me. I know what you mean but it's probably on an individual basis, in other words some individuals, probably musicians themselves, have feelings or attitudes like that.

I try (and fail miserably probably) to be a radical centerist about music. If you get too emotional about it you can miss out on a lot of good things and people start to think you're some kind of freak. Not that I care what people think but hey.

Case in point, I thought I couldn't stand Muddy, for years. It was only the re-release of the early recordings, and reading about the Chicago scene in the Forties, that hipped me to his place in the scheme of things. Everybody has their story, but folks may not  be ready to listen depending on where they're at at that particular moment.

PS I didn't get into this music by either of those two routes, just making the point the old blues fan base is not really a polar situation but a mix.
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: dave stott on January 09, 2008, 10:23:28 AM
IMHO

There does seem to be a contingent of people that will not allow a disparaging word to be spoken about the Rev. with respect to his playing or his personal life.. Almost like there is an 11th commandment

"thou shalt not speak poorly of the Rev"..

Whereas it seems Muddy Waters fans openly discuss his faults & accept him as is.

Dave
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: Johnm on January 09, 2008, 01:04:21 PM
Hi all,
Not to disparage Rev. Davis's gifts or those of any other of the great blind musicians who recorded Country Blues and Gospel, but I have long been dubious of the claim that loss of one sense requires compensatory adjustments by the other senses that allow for special achievement.  Quite apart from the natural gifts that people like Rev. Davis, Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Willie Walker, et al were blessed with, and those gifts were considerable (!), I think the greatest factor contributing to their musical achievement was time--time to work on their music and develop the instrumental and vocal skills that would gain them recognition later.  For musically talented, sightless persons of their background and place and time in the world, musical performance probably represented their best opportunity for a self-supporting adult life.  With next to nothing available at that time in terms of social services, SSI income and the like, and families that in most instances could not or were not willing to support a blind adult family member, these musicians had a powerful incentive as youngsters growing up to become musicians.  And I don't care how talented you may be, (and for my money, no one in the Blues has ever equalled, let alone surpassed Lemon's talent and musicality) you do not develop the kind of mechanism Lemon, Rev. Davis, Willie Walker, Willie Johnson and others had on their instruments without hundreds and thousands of hours or playing and practice.  There are plenty of talented people, but these people put the time in to realize themselves musically.  It does them an injustice to attribute their achievements to "talent".  They worked like crazy to get as good as they became.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: eagle rockin daddy on January 09, 2008, 04:17:52 PM
John,

you mean this takes work?  I thought all you had to do was go down to the cross-roads.........


Mike
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: Stuart on January 09, 2008, 04:59:32 PM
I met Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry back in the early 70's. I asked them how they got into music. Brownie replied, "I'm crippled and he's blind. What else could we do and have a decent life?"

Sometimes circumstances dictate. As John said, let's not overlook hard work, as raw talent is rarely enough.
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: NevadaPic on January 09, 2008, 05:59:36 PM
Practice makes perfect or rather perfect practice makes perfect.  Ya'll are so right.  Without that solid foundation all you've got is wishful thinking.  Nevertheless the lack of sight made their alternatives of making a living pretty slim as ya'll point out.  Thus in a roundabout way it supports my original contention.  I guess if he had had his druthers he'd a rather not be blind in any event.

I personally don't put the Reverend on a pedestal.  He was human like the rest of us; he obviously liked the ladies; he didn't mind a bit of drinking every now and again; he was seemingly always smoking a cigar and some folks that knew him seem to hint at his smoking a little weed when it was put before him too.  All of these things just make him more likeable in my eyes.  Yet I do put his guitar playing on a pedestal.  He did too by all accounts.

Quote
I get whiffs of attitude sometimes towards RGD's music, like its somehow uncool, from those who came to early blues via Chicago ca. 1950.
Know what I mean?
Mr.OMuck I know what you mean.  It's hard to put a finger on it though.  I get whiffs of attitude from some folks in general when expressing any degree of spirituality or religion.  I guess it's not any different.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a live and let live kind of a fellow.  But on the other hand I know what know...  Anyways, I'm a huge fan of Muddy as well.  At least I actually got to see him play in Toronto in the summer of 1970 (or was it '71?).  Their music speaks for itself.  It makes me want to jump and shout!

Pic   

         
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: Mr.OMuck on January 09, 2008, 10:11:06 PM
Quote
I think the greatest factor contributing to their musical achievement was time--time to work on their music and develop the instrumental and vocal skills that would gain them recognition later. 

Spoken like a true time deprived son of the late twentieth- early twenty first century John!
I think all your points are on target and thank you for reminding people of the lack of social services during that period. Where I part company is in the talent issue. Sorry but I don't think any amount of time or practice will produce a Gary Davis or a Blind Lemon or a J.S.Bach, W.A. Mozart or a Michelangelo, Rembrandt or VanGogh. Unfortunately I think there really is such a thing as genius and while in the absence of cultivation it can't flourish, neither will any amount of hard work, suffering or railing against an unjust universe cause it to suddenly manifest in someone who doesn't have it. If it was the case that it could be forced through sheer force of will and hard work then you would have had a thousand Heifitzes, and Glenn Goulds, not to mention Einsteins instead of just one.  The good news is that the work the rest of us do is also worthy of consideration and makes a great contribution to culture and human happiness.
Bukka White once asked me why I didn't have a record out and I replied that I thought there were a lot of people out there better than I was, whereupon he said "A lot of people better than me too, but I still does it!" of course HE was fucking BUKKA WHITE and I am just me..but there ya' go.
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: Mr.OMuck on January 09, 2008, 10:53:30 PM
IMHO

There does seem to be a contingent of people that will not allow a disparaging word to be spoken about the Rev. with respect to his playing or his personal life.. Almost like there is an 11th commandment

"thou shalt not speak poorly of the Rev"..

Whereas it seems Muddy Waters fans openly discuss his faults & accept him as is.

Dave

Wellll Dave... I'm not one of those who puts the Rev on a pedestal for anything other than his superb artistry. As for not saying a disparaging word...let us just say that during one of my lessons a teenage neighbor girl came into the house and headed from the front door to the kitchen to see Mrs. Davis about something. That took her right between RGDs chair and mine at just about the same time that I stood up to get something or other out of my guitar case. This was all in a pretty tight space and I noticed that she was attempting to get past the good Rev and me with, let us say a certain degree or alacrity, that in retrospect one realizes was borne of experience.  Being a worshipful seventeen year old myself at the time, I hardly would have imagined that the reason for her fleetness of foot had to do with certain, shall we say, irreligious, unholy, and apparently uncontrollable impulses which occasionally took control of RGDs hands.
To my embarrassment and dismay I discovered this the hard way when after she had speedily moved past the "danger zone" I was left standing in front of RGD still very much IN the "danger zone". And found a pair of hands grabbing at parts of me that no man had ever grabbed at hitherto. I shouted something smart like"HEY' whereupon RGD realized that he was not groping his intended grope-ee but rather his male student whereupon he uttered a disappointed "oh" and after a moment of awkwardness we settled back into our lesson. I figured "Hey he's blind'. So while there may be other of his students who enjoyed a closer relationship with him, chauffeured him, lived with him, studied for a longer time, as far as I know I am the ONLY one of his (male) students who was groped by Reverend Gary Davis!

BTW I don't think this incident casts any doubt whatsoever on the sincerity of his religious beliefs. People are a crazy mix of conflicting impulses. I don't approve of his attempted grope of her and his inadvertent grope of me but neither do I think it makes him an evil person.
 
 
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: uncle bud on January 10, 2008, 12:43:34 AM
Speaking of the Rev., email from Stefan Grossman's outfit brings news of a new RGD video collection on DVD. Much will be familiar to Guitar Workshop customers, but it's still nice to be able to get it all in one place. And there's stuff on there that doesn't look familiar to me.

http://guitarvideos.com/dvd/13111dvd.htm
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: eagle rockin daddy on January 10, 2008, 04:49:15 AM
More stories!!  More stories!!!!

Has anyone seen the latest Sing Out!?  There's a fantastic article about the Reverend by Eric von Schmidt (not a typo).  He writes about Gary growing up, and why he went into music.  As others have said, it had to do with the times.  If you were black and blind at that time, you had few options, and music was one of them.  Clearly Rev. Davis is a musical genius, and the circumstances of his childhood led him to a life in music and praise. There is some info int the article about Rev. Davis' blindness, and how it was caused by a doctor's mistake.  Hmmmm.  I believe that there are no coincidences in life, and as I write this I realize: what a mistake!  What would have happened if Rev. Davis had not been blinded?  I sure hope all my 'mistakes' have such results.

Personally I put Rev. Davis on a pedestal.  His music and technique are amazing, and as I get older I love his message and his humanity makes it real.

I also think that we are all given gifts and talents that we hone through work.  Nothing I do as far as music will ever come close to Rev. Davis because while I may approximate his technique after decades of practice, I doubt I will could ever develop his technique or write songs as he did.  It's a lot harder to go from 0 to 1 than to go from 2 to 100.  I feel the same way about Muddy.  I think of Muddy as one of the great 'Boss Men' of American music of the 20th century, along with Rev. Davis, Bill Munroe, Louis Armstrong.  A very short list.

And I did get to see him once also, and see that famous slide solo.  One of the best concerts ever.  Otis Rush opened, followed by Buddy and Junior, then Muddy's big band. wow

Mike
Title: Re: The Reverend
Post by: Bunker Hill on January 10, 2008, 08:09:12 AM
Has anyone seen the latest Sing Out!?  There's a fantastic article about the Reverend by Eric von Schmidt (not a typo).  He writes about Gary growing up, and why he went into music.  As others have said, it had to do with the times.  If you were black and blind at that time, you had few options, and music was one of them.  Clearly Rev. Davis is a musical genius, and the circumstances of his childhood led him to a life in music and praise. There is some info int the article about Rev. Davis' blindness, and how it was caused by a doctor's mistake.  Hmmmm. 
FWIW in 1969 Bruce Bastin acquired copies of medical and welfare records on RGD from the 30s. The information can be found in the RGD chapter of his 1986 book Red River Blues. It makes for salutory reading.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Johnm on January 10, 2008, 12:30:16 PM
Hi all,
Since there was already a fairly lengthy thread devoted to Rev. Davis and a lot of new Weenies at the site who are admirers of Rev. Davis and his music, I merged the earlier thread with Nevadapic's "The Reverend" thread, figuring that the merger would make the old thread's discussion easily available to newbies here and create a single source thread for discussion of Reverend Gary Davis. 
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: NevadaPic on January 10, 2008, 04:52:39 PM
Thanks Johnm for the merger.  I read most of the original thread which you merged into but I was hesitant to resurrect it so I started a new one.  Anyways had I not been such a dumb s*** kid I could have seen and maybe even met the Reverend myself when I was coming of age back in upstate NY in the late 60's.  Mr. O'Muck I don't envy most folks but I do envy you and others what with your experience with the Reverend.  From what I read about him, from what I have heard him say in his recorded commentaries and from what I heard others like you relate about him, he just sounds like he was a good guy and fun to be around.  He sure inspired a lot of folks, taught 'em as much as he could and continues to teach us through his music and his disciples.  Ya have to admire him for that. 

Pic       
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Mr.OMuck on January 10, 2008, 05:18:45 PM
I was a pretty slow learner and RGD was never anything but patient. I teach and have taught various things over the years, and have observed many others teach, and as a teacher he was superb. Generous, hilarious, mysterious, deep, inventive and endlessly interesting. And THEN THERE WAS THE MUSIC! My lessons were at least three hours minimum and many times concluded with a delicious home cooked meal courtesy of Mrs. Davis, that dear steady spirit. All for a whopping FIVE BUCKS! Dropping out of college to do that was a decision I've never regretted. It gets more special with the years as his greatness keeps unfolding. I only regret that I never thought to get a photo of myself with him, although I do have hours of taped lessons.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: NevadaPic on January 10, 2008, 07:07:47 PM
Wow!  Mr.OMuck thanks for the insight.  Thanks for passing on your experience with him and Mrs. Davis.  I think his spirit lives on in you and others with whom he interacted with.  I think we need a lot more of his spirit in this day and age.  Good move dropping out of college to concentrate on the important stuff.  Rare is the person that recognizes opportunity when it knocks. 

Pic   
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Rivers on January 10, 2008, 08:45:28 PM
Nevada, please don't hesitate to revive an old thread on weenie. We actually encourage people to do so. There's that silly message that comes up about 'this topic has not been posted in for 5000 days, consider posting a new... blah blah'. Ignore it, we just don't know how to turn it off. There's lots of good unfinished conversations in the bowels of the site, please feel free to bring them back to life.
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: NevadaPic on January 11, 2008, 04:52:28 PM
Rivers,

Thanks for the heads up.  I did see the message and it caused me to start the new one.  There is such a wealth of information and opinion on this site that I haven't even begun to scratch the surface.  I guess sooner or later I will revive some of them if I feel I have something to contribute.  For now I am honestly in awe that this place exists and that there are so may kindred spirits.  Thanks all for making me feel so welcome!  It's not often that ya hit the jackpot but I sure have here. 

Pic
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: NevadaPic on January 17, 2008, 06:22:42 PM
Quote
I really recommend, if you don't know it already, the song "There Was A Time That I Was Blind" on Gospel Blues & Street Songs, disc is shared half and half with Pink Anderson. I can't think of anything more heartfelt in country blues, very revealing about Gary's feelings about his blindness. He could be acting out in that inimiccable Gary way but I don't think so. Worth picking up for that alone but the rest of the tracks on the CD are really good too.
Thanks Rivers for the reminder about this song.  You are absolutely correct regarding the sincerity of this piece.  As I listen to it now it puts my own personal challenges in perspective.  Music is all about feeling and expressing it.  One of my favorite versions of 'Samson and Delilah' on that disc besides!

Pic   
Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: Mr.OMuck on January 18, 2008, 08:24:40 AM
I just read the chapter on RGD in Bruce Bastin"s book "Red River Blues". It is so profoundly sad. I misted up as i read it. The idea of an artist of this stature  (or anybody else for that matter) having to justify their right to exist to mostly indifferent case workers is awful. Who got to play golf or take a sail that day?
His perseverance and eventual success is amazing but hardly compensates for the kind of privation he was forced to endure. Here was an artist as great as his contemporaries Picasso, Stravinsky, or Joyce, to place him in an appropriate cultural context, and while Picasso had some lean times early on, and Joyce had his ongoing struggles, their lives were relative cakewalks compared to Gary Davis'. How about we erect a monument to him somewhere? We could commission a sculptor like Thom Otterness to do it. Make it an edition, place one in Greenville, and one in Harlem or Jamaica sell the rest for a blind musicians fund maybe?

http://www.myspace.com/mromuck (http://www.myspace.com/mromuck)
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Title: Re: Reverend Gary Davis
Post by: dave stott on January 18, 2008, 09:14:44 AM
there ought to be a monument to all of the older blues artist for what they had to enure..

if I recall correctly, Blind Boy Fuller was refused social assistance money, because he earned too much pan handling on street corners.

Dave
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