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Guess me and my tapeworm must go further down the road, 'Cause we eat so much, won't nobody give us no board - Me And My Tapeworm, Sylvester Weaver 1927

Author Topic: Reverend Gary Davis  (Read 10953 times)

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Offline Stuart

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Re: The Reverend
« Reply #45 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.

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: The Reverend
« Reply #46 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!

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« Last Edit: January 09, 2008, 06:13:02 PM by NevadaPic »
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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The Reverend
« Reply #47 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.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The Reverend
« Reply #48 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.
 
 
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline uncle bud

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Re: The Reverend
« Reply #49 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

Offline eagle rockin daddy

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Re: The Reverend
« Reply #50 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

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: The Reverend
« Reply #51 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.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #52 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

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #53 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. 

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If I don't meet you no more in this world, I'll meet you in the next one so don't be late...

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #54 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.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #55 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. 

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If I don't meet you no more in this world, I'll meet you in the next one so don't be late...

Offline Rivers

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #56 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.

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #57 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. 

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If I don't meet you no more in this world, I'll meet you in the next one so don't be late...

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #58 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!

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If I don't meet you no more in this world, I'll meet you in the next one so don't be late...

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #59 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?

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My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

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