Guy Davis
@ The Cedar Cultural Center, June 19, 1997
By Kristie Stiles

Guy Davis - 6/19/97
The Cedar Cultural Center
Photo © 1997 by Kristie Stiles
On his way to a folk festival in Regina, acoustic blues man Guy Davis stopped in the Twin Cities with two of his old friends. Backstage before the show he was kind enough to introduce me to them. "Black Betty" is a twelve-string Gibson, black in color, and "Grandma," a classical acoustic. "Grandma" has a nice sound and stays in tune, explains Davis, but she's been to the "hospital" a few times due to some mishaps at Delta Airlines.

After a grin and his famous contemplative expression, Davis continued with a story about a man called "Old Sarge." Old Sarge, actually Abe Jennings, had learned a song from Leadbelly while in Mississippi. After he played the song during the show, Davis finished the story by explaining that Old Sarge had been sitting on a bench in Harlem playing when Davis rode by on his bike and heard it. The song was so appealing that he turned his bike around for another listen, and another, and another until he had it down. When Davis finally wrote it down he couldn't remember all the words so most of the middle was made up, but it still belongs to Leadbelly and partly to Old Sarge.

The show got underway when "Black Betty" began boppin' along to the "Georgia Jelly Roll". Now there are two reasons why I love a Guy Davis show, the first, is the endless supply of wonderfully descriptive stories and the second, is the often encouraged audience participation. On numerous occasions we were asked to sing, clap and stomp along to parts of songs. During "New Shoes" we were asked to stomp and clap "like an old southern Baptist church" throughout the entire song. "Dust My Broom" began when Davis revealed how he wanted to yell out that particular phrase in the middle of a Wall Street board room meeting! He dedicated "If You Love Somebody, You Better Tell 'Em Right Now" to his friend and confidant Bob Feldman, president of Red House Records. This song progresses through your mother, father, brother, sister and "somebody" but when Davis played the song down in Flagstaff, Arizona, a little boy came up to him after the show and told him he had forgotten someone. When Davis asked who, the boy replied, "your pet!"

Guy Davis - 6/19/97
The Cedar Cultural Center
Photo © 1997 by Kristie Stiles
Before Davis could play his next song, the "Minglewood Blues," he had to tune and then re-tune his guitar. Davis comically explains, "they always revert to the key of R-sharp." "This song," he explained, "was for all the men in the audience." Talking to the women, he said you have to forgive us men because "we can't always go shopping with you!"

Guy Davis tells us the stories he heard while he was a child. One of the finest story tellers he gives credit to is his Grandma Laura. She is now 99 years old and despite several heart attacks the only thing she complains about is her arthritis. Whenever he talks to her on the phone she always says, "come by and see me when you can." He then began to play a slow, traditional sounding blues on his classical guitar now appropriately named "Grandma."

It was now time for the song that originally wet my appetite to the sounds of Guy Davis, "The Road Is Calling." This autobiographical song is so amazing and powerful when performed on stage it's almost too bad the album version isn't as alive. The harmonica lulled the audience through the soft chords and slow lyrics as they sat mesmerized in astonished silence.

Upon conclusion of the final song, "Georgia Rag," he looked up at the crowd, grinned and said that he didn't need an encore! Well, he hadn't stepped down off the stage for longer than a few seconds when his shifty face fixed into a wide grin after hearing the standing ovation. He was back onstage in a second much to the audience's delight and played a song called "By and By" as the audience sang along, concluding with "everything is gonna' be all right."

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Copyright © 1997 by Ray M. Stiles
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