Rev. Gary Davis

A masterful guitarist and a powerful singer whose music was influenced by country blues, ragtime and religious pieces, Rev. Gary Davis (1896-1972) was a consistently memorable performer.

Almost completely blind from birth and totally blind by the time he became an adult, the self-taught Davis began playing guitar when he was six. He became a street musician in his native South Carolina where his guitar playing greatly impressed his contemporaries. He made his first solo recordings in 1935, 15 selections that were a mixture of blues and spirituals. Davis, who became an ordained minister in 1937 and a street singer in New York in the early 1940s, did not re-enter the recording studios until 1954 when he made an album for Stinson.

Gospel, Blues and Street Songs is a 1956 recording for Riverside, a project that Davis shared with Pink Anderson. By the time Davis recorded Harlem Street Singer in 1960, he was being rediscovered by the folk and blues revival movements. While his singing on this Bluesville set and its follow-up Have a Little Faith deals with religious matters and faith, his guitar playing is as heated as any blues player’s. Say No to the Devil also features Davis playing harmonica and 12-string guitar on two songs apiece.

One of the most popular performers on the blues circuit of the 1960s, Rev. Gary Davis became a favorite of younger folk and blues performers. 1964’s The Guitar and Banjo of Rev. Gary Davis is a rare instrumental album featuring Davis mostly on guitar (including his versions of "The Maple Leaf Rag,” "Slow Drag,” and "Fast Fox Trot”) plus two songs on banjo and one on harmonica.

Rev. Gary Davis was very active up until the time of his 1972 death. Even today, few blues guitarists can match his intensity, passion, and sincerity.