Reverend Gary Davis, also Blind Gary Davis, (April 30, 1896 – May 5, 1972) was an American blues and gospel singer and guitarist, who was also proficient on the banjo and harmonica. His finger-picking guitar style influenced many other artists and his students in New York included Stefan Grossman,David Bromberg, Roy Book Binder, Larry Johnson, Woody Mann, Nick Katzman, Dave Van Ronk, Tom Winslow, Rory Block, and Ernie Hawkins.
He has influenced Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Jackson Browne, Townes van Zandt, Dave Van Ronk, Wizz Jones, Jorma Kaukonen, Keb' Mo', Ollabelle,Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Resurrection Band, and John Sebastian of The Lovin' Spoonful.
Gary Davis was born in Laurens, South Carolina, and was the only one of eight children his mother bore who survived to adulthood. He became blind as an infant. Davis reported that his father was killed in Birmingham, Alabama, when Davis was ten, and Davis later said that he had been told that his father had been shot by the Birmingham High Sheriff. He recalled being poorly treated by his mother and that before his death his father had given him into the care of his paternal grandmother.
He took to the guitar and assumed a unique multi-voice style produced solely with his thumb and index finger, playing not only ragtime and blues tunes, but also traditional and original tunes in four-part harmony.Bull City Blues, Durham, North Carolina
In the mid-1920s, Davis migrated to Durham, North Carolina, a major center for black culture at the time. There he collaborated with a number of other artists in the Piedmont blues scene including Blind Boy Fuller and Bull City Red. In 1935, J. B. Long, a store manager with a reputation for supporting local artists, introduced Davis, Fuller and Red to the American Record Company. The subsequent recording sessions marked the real beginning of Davis' career. During his time in Durham, Davis converted to Christianity; in 1937 he would be ordained as a Baptistminister. Following his conversion and especially his ordination, Davis began to express a preference for inspirational gospel music.
In the 1940s, the blues scene in Durham began to decline and Davis migrated to New York. In 1951, well before his "rediscovery", Davis's oral history was recorded by Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold (the wife of Alan Lomax) who transcribed their conversations into a 300+-page typescript.
The folk revival of the 1960s re-invigorated Davis' career, culminating in a performance at the Newport Folk Festivaland the recording by Peter, Paul and Mary of "Samson and Delilah", also known as "If I Had My Way", originally a Blind Willie Johnson recording that Davis had popularized. Blues Hall of Fame singer and harmonica player Darrell Mansfield has also recorded several of Rev. Davis song's. Bob Dylan famously covered Rev. Gary Davis, Dave Von Ronk, and Eric Von Schmidt's song "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down".
Many of his records were published posthumously.
|1954||Blind Gary Davis - The Singing Reverend||Stinson||SLP 56||first LP, recorded April 1954 with Sonny Terry, red vinyl|
|1956||American Street Songs||Riverside||RP 12-611||Side A Pink Anderson: Carolina Street Ballads, side B Rev. Gary Davis: Harlem Street Spirituals, recorded January 29, 1956. Also released as Gospel, Blues and Street Songs on Riverside RLP 12-148 (1961), Original Blues Classics OBC 524 and OBCCD 524-2|
|1960||Harlem Street Singer||Prestige||1015||recorded August 24, 1960, also Bluesville BVLP 1015, Original Blues Classics 547, Fontana 688-303-ZL (UK 1965). RenamedPure Religion! and reissued as Prestige Folklore 14028 and Prestige 7805 (1972). Remastered and reissued as OBCCD-547-2 (1992). Reissued on Fantasy 24704.|
|1961||A Little More Faith||Prestige||1032||recorded August 10, 1961 in Memphis(?). Also Bluesville 1032, XTRA 5042 (UK 1967), OBCCD-588-2. Reissued on Fantasy 24704.|
|1961||Say No to the Devil||Bluesville||1049||also XTRA 5014 (UK 1966) and OBCCD 519-2.|
|1962?||Pure Religion and Bad Company||77 (UK)||LA 12/14||recorded June 1957 in NYC, also Folklyric 125, reissued as Smithsonian Folkways SFW 40035 (1991) with 2 additional cuts.|
|1964?||Pure Religion!||Prestige Folklore||14028||also Prestige 7805 (1972), reissue of Harlem Street Singer.|
|1964||The Guitar and Banjo of Reverend Gary Davis||Prestige Folklore||14033||recorded March 2, 1964, NYC, all instrumentals, also Fantasy OBCCD 592-2. Retitled as The Blues Guitar And Banjo Of Reverend Gary Davis on Prestige 7725.|
|1964||Rev. Gary Davis/Short Stuff Macon||Xtra (UK)||1009|
|196?||The Legendary Reverend Gary Davis, New Blues and Gospel||Biograph||12030E||also Blue Moon BMLP 1.040 (c.1987)|
|1968||Rev. Gary Davis at Newport||Vanguard||73008||recorded 1965|
|1968||Bring Your Money, Honey||Fontana (UK)||SFJL 914||recorded Cambridge, MA|
|1970||Reverend Gary Davis 1935-1949||Yazoo||L-1023||Also Yazoo CD 2011 (1994) as The Complete Early Recordings of Rev. Gary Davis and Document DOCD 5060 (UK 2003) with 2 extra tracks.|
|1971||Ragtime Guitar||Transatlantic(UK)||TRA 244||recorded 1960-1971, also Kicking Mule 106 (1974), Sonet SNKF 133 (1977) and Heritage HT 309 (UK 1985).|
|1971||Children of Zion||Transatlantic(UK)||TRA 249||recorded 1962, Swarthmore College, PA, also Kicking Mule 101 (1974), Sonet SNKF 152 (1978), Heritage HT 308 (UK 1985) and on Shanachie 97024, Blues & Ragtime (1993)|
|1971||The Legendary Reverend Gary Davis, Blues and Gospel, Vol 2||Biograph||12034E||recorded March 17, 1971|
|1972||When I Die I'll Live Again||Fantasy||24704||reissue of Prestige/Bluesville 1015 and 1032|
|1973||Lo I Be with You Always||Sonet (Sweden)||SNKD 1||also Kicking Mule cassette tape (no number, 1984), reissued on Shanachie 97024, Blues & Ragtime (1993)|
|1973||O, Glory - The Apostolic Studio Sessions||Adelphi||1008||final studio album recorded March 1969, reissued as Genes GCD 9908 (1996) with additional tracks.|
|1973||At The Sign of the Sun||Heritage (UK)||??||1962, San Diego, CA. Also HT CD 03 (UK 1990).|
|1974||Let Us Get Together||Sonet (Sweden)||SNKF 103||also Kicking Mule cassette tape (no number, 1984)|
|1976||Sun is Going Down||Folkways||FS 3542||recorded 1966|
|1984||I Am A True Vine||Kicking Mule||no number||cassette tape|
|1984||Babylon Is Falling||Kicking Mule||no number||cassette tape|
|1985||I Am A True Vine||Heritage (UK)||HT 307||recorded 1962-63, NYC, also HT CD07 (UK 1991)|
|?||Reverend Gary Davis||Heritage (UK)||CD 02||reissue of Children of Zion and Ragtime Guitar|
|1988||Blind Gary Davis||Document(Austria)||DLP 521||recorded live in spring 1976 at Al Matthes in Toronto|
|1988||Blind Gary Davis 1962-1964, Recorded Live||Wolf (Austria)||120.915|
|1988||Blind Gary Davis At Allegheny College, Meadville, PA., 1964-Afternoon Workshop||Document(Austria)||DLP 527|
|1993||Rev. Gary Davis: Blues and Ragtime||Shanachie||97042|
|2002||The Sun of Our Life: Solos, Songs, A Sermon 1955-1957||World Arbiter||2005||previously unissued session tapes and sermon from mid 1950s|
|2003||If I Had My Way: Early Home Recordings||Folkways||SFW40123||recorded in 1953 by John Cohen|
|2007||Lifting the Veil: The First Bluesmen (1926-1956), Rev. Gary Davis and Peers||World Arbiter||2008||unissued session tapes from 1956–57, recorded by Fred Gerlach & Tiny Robinson. Liner notes quote a 1951 interview with Davis.|
|2007||Reverend Gary Davis Live: Manchester Free Trade Hall 1964||Document(Austria)||DOCD-32-20-14||recorded May 8, 1964, Manchester, England|
|2009||Live at Gerde's Folk City, February 1962||Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop||SGGW 114/5/6||3-CD set|
|2010||Reverend Gary Davis||Field Recorders Collective||FRC116||recorded in 1952 in NYC by John Cohen|