Dick Davis Combo on Gateway: John Young sings!

When you think of the Chicago style of playing the tenor saxophone in the 1940s and 1950s  – strongly influenced by Lester Young – you will surely think of Gene Ammons. Others that come to the mind of those in the know are Tom Archia, Claude McLin and Von Freeman.

An almost forgotten figure from that school of  blowing way behind the beat is Dick Davis (April 15, 1917 – January 19, 1954) about whom you may learn a lot from the Miracle page of the Red Saunders Research Foundation.

Dick Davis at an unknown date.
From Galen Gart’s First Pressings

Before we reach the small sensation announced in the title of this post, I offer you a clip of the Dick Davis Combo playing “Memphis Train” from Miracle 109, recorded around January 1947. The personnel: Dick Davis: ts; Sonny Thompson: p, Eddie Calhoun: b; Jimmie Hoskins: dr. The voices to be heard on this special train are by the band members.

Richard “Dick” Davis was born in Jackson, Mississippi, his family moved to Chicago in 1924.  On graduating in 1938 – he was schooled by legendary Capt. Walter Dyett – Davis went to work as a professional musician. His first engagement with a  name band  was with Doc Wheeler’s Sunset Royals from 1938 on:

Doc Wheeler and his Sunset Royals in 1941: Joe Murphy: dr, Cat Anderson: tp, Jesse Brown: tp, Jimmy Harris: tp; Al Lucas: b, Dick Davis (ts), Cornelius Ringi: as, Bobbie Smith: as, Sam “The Man” Taylor: ts,
Nat Allen: tb, Doc Moran: tb. Originally published in New York
Amsterdam News, May 2, 1942. 
Taken from Franz Hoffmans Jazz Advertised

After World War II Davis was soon leading his own band , which was first billed as “Richard E. Davis & His Gold Coast Swingsters” or “Richard Davis & His Westcoast Swingsters”.

From the Chicago Defender, February 23, 1946.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s Jazz Advertised

From the Chicago Defender, July 13, 1946.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s Jazz Advertised

In summer 1946 Davis, with a combo that also featured fellow tenor saxophonists Eddie Chamblee and Tommy Jones, recorded a track called  Tenor-Mental Moods which was released on two different copies of Miracle 101 (One had Sorry We Said Goodbye as the flip, the other Blues In My HeartBenson Jump/Memphis Train from January 1947 then was the next record under Davis’ name.

In 1948, Davis’ group was the house band of  the New Savoy for a while:

From the Chicago Defender, March 6, 1948.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s Jazz Advertised

From the Chicago Defender, May 8, 1948.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s Jazz Advertised

In late spring or summer 1949 Davis recorded for Ivin Ballen’s Gotham label with a band consisting of himself, pianist John Young, who had started his career in Andy Kirk’s orchestra, Eddie Calhoun and Buddy Smith. The signing of Dick Davis was announced in Billboard, April 16, 1949. The session resulted in Gotham 182 (You Tell Me/Double Talk). Unfortunately I never heard this record (if you have a copy, please let me know!). All I could manage is to steal a screenshot from an ebay auction – notice Davis singing on this side:

The Dick Davis Combo on Gotham 182. Does anyone have a copy?

Up to now the two (and a half) Miracle Records and Gotham 182 were the only known records under Davis’ name. But two weeks ago I spotted a mysterious Dick Davis record on ebay that has not been documented in any of the standard blues, r’n’b and jazz discographies before – and I managed to acquire it. Wandering Blues/Down Home which might well have been originally recorded on the Gotham session was released on Carl Burkhardts Gateway Records apparently sometime in 1952. Up to now only two issues were known on the Gateway R’nB series: Gateway 5005 by Chuck Huguely with Johnny Smith’s Orchestra and Gateway 5002 by Chicago drummer Jump Jackson (if you have one of these two, again please let me know!).

So here is one side of the elusive Gateway 5001.

Apparently what makes this record a small sensation besides it’s rarity is, that it carries the only example of pianist John Young singing – which apparently he did not like to do, as he told ted Panken in this double interview (with Von Freeman):

John Young: The Quality Lounge was on 43rd Street. So if you know anything about 43rd Street, you know it wasn’t on the uppity-uppity-uppity-up. The Quality Lounge, I was in there with a fellow named Dick Davis who played tenor saxophone. I was the piano player, the drummer’s name was Buddy Smith, Eddie Calhoun was on bass. And I was singing.

Ted Panken: Singing, too.

John Young: But at that time I had laryngitis. When (?) asked me to sing, I suddenly developed a case of laryngitis. All three of them called it “lyingitis” — because it was a gitis that never left. But the Q was cool . . . Like I say, it was a relaxed joint. You could come in there with tennis shoes on if you wanted to. It wasn’t nothin’ uppity, you know. And it was on 43rd Street. We had a good time in there for a number of years …

From September 1951 on until his passing from lobar pneumonia in January 1954 Davis played with King Kolax’ band, accompanying Joe Williams, Johnny Sellers, Danny Overbea, the Flamingos and other Chicago singers for labels like Checker and Chance (look at the Red Saunders Research Foundation about Kolax for more information about Davis’ doings in Kolax’ band.

Some of these days I will maybe put the flipside of Gateway 5001 up on this blog well – Down Home is a slow instrumental blues featuring solos by Davis and Young as well as Calhouns prominent bass work. Until then!

9 Responses to “Dick Davis Combo on Gateway: John Young sings!”

  1. Gratulation to your webside – I guess you are also working at other histories of Chicago Jazzers. For information JAZZ ADVERTISED and also RED ALLEN-HIGGY-BIO DISCO and my DVD-collection is ulpoaded on pdf on easilty to copy clips now. Also perhaps of interest my youtubecannel All the best. Just Doc Wheeler & the Sunset Royals are a theme on the webb

  2. Pamela wilson Says:

    This was more then a pleasure for me to have heard and and read about my father I am so elated,.. I would love to find my brothers and otyher family memebers.

  3. pamela wilson Says:

    no i don,t have more pictures this is my first time seeimg my father since I was 4 yrs old. I,m going to try to locate other memebers of his family..

  4. pamela wilson Says:

    If you can find out anything more about dick davis,s family please let me know my email is wilsonpamela71@yahoo.com..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 120 other followers

%d bloggers like this: