CeDell Davis
@ The Whole Music Club, University of MN, Feb. 13, 1997

CeDell Davis and his wife Lois visited Minnesota for the first time from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. CeDell was born 70 years ago in Helena, Arkansas and has been performing blues for most of his life. An early bout of polio forced CeDell to develop an unorthodox style of playing the guitar. He plays left handed and uses a butter knife in his right hand in an over-handed slide technique that it totally unique. This style of playing gives his music a distinct, raw sound that is instantly recognizable. In recent years he has been confined to a wheelchair but at 70 years "young" CeDell has no problems getting around. He continues to tour the United States, Canada and Europe on a regular basis to the delight of his blues fans.

On stage Thursday night he said, "when you see CeDell, he comes to do the thing right." Meaning, he was going to make sure his audience was entertained with the best blues he could deliver. The appreciative response from the audience affirmed that statement. The Whole Music Club also offered the fans an intimate setting where they could get up close and personal with CeDell during the show. He spent all of his break signing autographs and stayed late after the show talking to blues fans of all ages.

CeDell was fortunate that night to have a supporting band of outstanding local musicians. Jeremy Johnson on guitar, John Schroder on bass and Steve Erickson on drums provided the musical backing that ideally complemented CeDell's unusual style of playing...no small feat. They had no rehearsal prior to the show and a few times CeDell was playing "stump-the-band", just to see them strut their stuff. At one point he said, "I'm not going to tell them what to do, I'm going to see if they've ever been down to Arkansas." He then started playing and after a few measures the band picked up on where he was heading and joined in with some tasteful support.

During his first song of the evening CeDell said he had never been to Minnesota before, "but I tell you one thing, when I'm gone, you'll remember me." He had the band and audience laughing with his easy going nature and good humor. As an introduction to one song he said don't anyone take offense to this song. He then jokingly sang "if you like fat women, come on down to Pine Bluff, Arkansas." CeDell's voice was also in fine form that night, sometimes sounding like a howl, sometimes deep and rough and sometimes just plain sweet. He plays and sings with all the rough edges. This was not some well rehearsed, slick stage show. This was down home, raw, from the gut, blues... the kind you would find in the juke joints of the south during the late 40's and 50's.

CeDell had plenty of stories to tell too. He knew all the blues musicians from the early days and played with most of them. He was there (even though just a young boy) when Robert Johnson died and has a very clear recollection of how he died and who was responsible. He said a lady by the name of Craphouse Bea was the one who gave Johnson the poisoned whiskey that killed him. When talking about the blues performers he said they all knew who CeDell was. Even though he was younger than most of them, he played with the likes of Jack Owens, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Robert Nighthawk, Houston Stackhouse, Big Joe Williams, Honeyboy Edwards, and Johnny Shines. This was certainly an entertaining evening of country blues.

Copyright 1997 by Ray M. Stiles. All rights reserved. All reviews are copyright protected. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.