Born in Laurens, South Carolina, Davis became blind at a very young age. He took to the guitar and assumed a unique multi-voice style, playing not only ragtime and blues tunes, but also traditional and original tunes in four-part harmony. In the mid-1920s, he migrated to Durham, North Carolina, a major center for black culture at the time. While there, Davis collaborated with a number of other artists in the Piedmont blues scene including Blind Boy Fuller and Bull City Red. In 1935, a store manager with a reputation for supporting local artists introduced Davis (as well as Fuller and Red) to the American Record Company. The subsequent recording sessions marked the real beginning of Davis’ career. It was also during his time in Durham that Davis converted to Christianity; he would later become ordained as a Baptist minister. 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 City. By the 1960s, he had become known as the “Harlem Street Singer” and also acquired a reputation as the person to see if you wanted to learn to play guitar. The folk revival of the 1960s re-invigorated Davis’ career, culminating in an performance at the Newport Folk Festival and the recording by Peter, Paul and Mary of “Samson & Delilah.” Also known as “If I Had My Way,” it was originally a Blind Willie Johnson recording that Davis had popularized.
Edited by In2TheBlues on 20 Feb 2013, 08:45
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