Spencer Davis  

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Spencer Davis (17 July 1939 – 19 October 2020) was a Welsh musician and multi-instrumentalist, and the founder of the 1960s beat band The Spencer Davis Group. "Davies" is pronounced "Davis" in Wales, but would be misread as "Davees" in the US, so professionally he dropped the E from the spelling to avoid confusion.


Early life

Davis was born in Swansea, South Wales in July 1939. His father served as a paratrooper, and later worked as a GPO engineer, according to Davis in a 1966 television documentary, A Whole Scene Going. Influenced by his Uncle Herman's mandolin playing, Spencer Davis began learning to play harmonica and accordion at the age of six. He then attended Dynevor School, where he passed seven GCE O-level examinations. He moved to London when he was sixteen, and began working in the civil service as a clerical officer at the Post Office Savings Bank in Hammersmith, and for HM Customs and Excise. However, he went back to his old school to study for A-levels in languages, becoming Head Boy in 1959. In 1960, he moved to Birmingham, to read German at the University of Birmingham. In music circles, Davis was later known as "Professor".

Early music career

His early musical influences were skiffle, jazz, and blues. Influential artists include Big Bill Broonzy, Huddy Ledbetter, Buddy Holly, Davey Graham, John Martyn, Alexis Korner and Long John Baldry. By the time he was sixteen, Davis was hooked on the guitar and the American rhythm and blues music making its way across the Atlantic. With few opportunities to hear R&B in south Wales, Davis sought out any performance that came to town. When he heard a Dixieland band perform a skiffle version of the R&B song "John Henry", Davis formed a band called The Saints, with Bill Perks, later known as Bill Wyman.

When Davis moved to Birmingham, as a student he often performed on stage after his teaching work day was finished. While in Birmingham, he dated Christine Perfect, who later married Fleetwood Mac's John McVie. They busked and played in folk clubs with the Ian Campbell Trio. With Perfect on piano and Davis on 12 string guitar, they performed Canadian folk songs, such as "Spring Hill" and "Nova Scotia". They also interpreted W.C. Handy and Lead Belly songs.

The Spencer Davis Group

In 1963, Davis went to a Birmingham public house, the Golden Eagle, to see Muff Woody, a traditional jazz band featuring Muff and Steve Winwood. Steve, only fifteen at the time, was already gaining notice for his musical abilities. Muff, five years older than his brother, was an accomplished jazz musician. Davis persuaded them to join him and drummer Pete York as the Rhythm and Blues Quartet. Davis performed on guitar, vocals and harmonica, Steve Winwood on guitar, organ and vocals, Muff Winwood on bass, and Pete York on drums. Playing mainly R&B covers, the band performed first at the Golden Eagle, but within a year they had landed a regular gig at The Marquee, and by 1964 had adopted the name The Spencer Davis Group. The group had No 1 hits in the UK with consecutive single releases in 1966 ("Keep On Running" and "Somebody Help Me"). Steve Winwood sang lead vocals on all the Spencer Davis Group's hits up to "I'm A Man" in 1967.

The Spencer Davis Group continued after Winwood left to form Traffic in April 1967. The group split in 1969. Another version of the group with Davis and York appeared in 1973 and disbanded in late 1974. Various incarnations of the band have toured in recent years, under Davis' direction.

Solo career

After the group broke up, Davis moved to California and recorded an acoustic album with Peter Jameson, It's Been So Long for Mediarts in mid-1971. He followed it up with a solo album Mousetrap for United Artists, produced by and featuring Sneaky Pete Kleinow. Neither album sold well. Soon after, he moved back to the UK, formed a new Spencer Davis Group and signed with Vertigo Records. In addition, Davis was an executive at Island records in the mid-1970s.

Working as a promoter with Island Records, Davis worked with Bob Marley, Robert Palmer and Eddie And The Hot Rods as well as promoting the solo career of former Spencer Davis Group member, Steve Winwood.

Later life

While remaining an honorary member and supporter of the Wales nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, in later life Davis lived in Avalon on Catalina Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California.

In 2014, Davis was invited by producer Gerry Gallagher to record with Latin rock legends El Chicano as well as Alphonse Mouzon, Brian Auger, Alex Ligertwood, Ray Parker Jr., Lenny Castro, Vikki Carr, Pete Escovedo, Peter Michael Escovedo, Jessy J, Walfredo Reyes Jr. and David Paich and is featured on a remake of a song co-written by Davis, "The Viper", from Gallagher's most recent studio album due out in 2017.

Davis died from pneumonia on 19 October 2020 at the age of 81.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Spencer Davis" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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