Spencer Davis (born Spencer David Nelson Davies; 17 July 1939 – 19 October 2020) was a Welsh multi-instrument musician and founder of the 1960s beat band the Spencer Davis Group.
Davis was born in Swansea, South Wales, on 17 July 1939. His father was a paratrooper. He began learning to play harmonica and accordion at the age of six. He attended Dynevor School and became proficient in languages. He moved to London when he was 16 and began working in the civil service as a clerical officer at the Post Office Savings Bank in Hammersmith and then for HM Customs and Excise. However, he went back to his old school to study for A-levels in languages, becoming head boy in 1959. In 1960, he moved to Birmingham, to read German at the University of Birmingham. In music circles, Davis was later known as “Professor”.
His early musical influences were skiffle, jazz and blues. Musical artists who influenced Davis include Big Bill Broonzy, Huddy Ledbetter, Buddy Holly, Davey Graham, John Martyn, Alexis Korner and Long John Baldry. By the time he was 16, Davis was hooked on the guitar and the American rhythm and blues music making its way across the Atlantic. With few opportunities to hear R&B in South Wales, Davis attended as many local gigs as practical. He formed a band called the Saints with Bill Perks (later known as Bill Wyman).
When Davis moved to Birmingham as a student, he often performed on stage after his teaching day. While in Birmingham, he formed a musical and personal relationship with Christine Perfect who later found fame in Fleetwood Mac.
In 1963, Davis went to the Golden Eagle in Birmingham to see the Muff Wood Jazz band, a traditional jazz band featuring Muff and teenager Steve Winwood. Davis persuaded them to join him and drummer Pete York as the Rhythm and Blues Quartet. Davis performed on guitar, vocals and harmonica, Steve Winwood on guitar, organ and vocals, Muff Winwood on bass and Pete York on drums. They adopted the name the Spencer Davis Group because Davis was the only one who liked doing press interviews. The group had No 1 hits in the UK with consecutive single releases in 1966 (“Keep On Running” and “Somebody Help Me”). Steve Winwood sang lead vocals on all the Spencer Davis Group’s hits up to “I’m A Man” in 1967.
The Spencer Davis Group continued after Winwood left to form Traffic in April 1967. The group recorded two more albums before splitting in 1969. Another version of the group with Davis and York appeared in 1973 and disbanded in late 1974. Various incarnations of the band toured in later years under Davis’ direction.
After the group broke up, Davis moved to California and recorded an acoustic album with Peter Jameson, It’s Been So Long, for Mediarts in mid-1971. He followed it with a solo album, Mousetrap, for United Artists, produced by and featuring Sneaky Pete Kleinow. Neither album sold well. Soon after, he moved back to the UK, formed a new Spencer Davis Group and signed with Vertigo Records. In addition, Davis was an executive at Island records in the mid-1970s. As a promoter for Island Records, Davis worked with Bob Marley, Robert Palmer and Eddie And The Hot Rods as well as promoting the solo career of former Spencer Davis Group member Steve Winwood.
In 1993, Davis formed the supergroup the Class Rock All-Stars. He left the group in 1995 to form World Classic Rockers with former Eagles bassist Randy Meisner, singer Bobby Kimball and guitarist Denny Laine.
Davis retained an affinity for Germany, having studied the language and played in clubs in Berlin early in his career. He watched the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 with his son.
Davis was an honorary member and supporter of the Wales nationalist party, Plaid Cymru. From the mid-1970s on, Davis lived in Avalon on Catalina Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California. During the summer of 2012 the Catalina Island Museum hosted an exhibition called “Gimme Some Lovin’: The Spencer Davis Group”, to celebrate Davis’ musical career. To complement the museum show the museum also hosted a symposium on “The British Invasion”, where Davis was joined on a panel by among others Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees and a July Fourth concert featuring Davis singing his hits with a backing band named “The Catalina All Stars”.
Davis died from pneumonia on 19 October 2020 at the age of 81. (wikipedia)
And here´s one his finest solo album (without the “Group”)…
And this is the history of these recordings:
And so we can hear a wonderful mix of Blues, R & B, some sentimental tunes (“The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress”) and two original Spencer Davis Group songs (“On The Green Line” and “Don’t Want You No More).
This album was only released in Germany … and it´s a criminally underrated … maybe no one know this album. And his backing group was really pretty good !!!
So … listen and enjoy…
Bobby Crew (keyboards)
Spencer Davis (vocals, guitar)
Bob Metzger (guitar)
Billy Ruff (drums)
David Wintour (bass)
01. 24 Hours (Harrison/Tree) 5.34
02. Lady Cop (Harrison/Tree/Fosson) 4.22
03. Sensitive Kind (Cale) 5.07
04. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (Webb) 4.42
05. On The Green Line (Winwood) 3.41
06. Pockey Way (Neville/Porter/Modeliste/Nocentelli) 5.05
07. I’ll Take Your Love (Williams) 6.15
08. Don’t Want You No More (Hardin/Davis) 4.44
09. Strong Love (Malone/Silvers/Brown) 2.54
10. Route 66 (Troup) 3.35
11. Easy Rider (Traditional) 5.20
12. Knock On Your Door (Crew/Tree) 3.36
13. Spiral Times (Metzger/Crew) 3.34
“I’ve known Spencer since I was about 13–he would have been about 22. I was playing a show at Birmingham University with my brother and his band. Spencer, who was a student at Birmingham, was playing with a small group of musicians. We met and the the seeds of The Spencer Davis Group were sown.
Spencer was an early pioneer of the British folk scene, which, in his case embraced folk blues, and eventually what was then called “Rhythm and Blues”. He influenced my tastes in music, he owned the first 12-string guitar I ever saw, and he was taken with the music of Huddie “Lead belly” Ledbetter, and Big Bill Broonzy. I’d already got a big brother who influenced me greatly, and Spencer became like a big brother to me at the time.
He was definitely a man with a vision, and one of the pioneers of the British invasion of America in the sixties. I never went to the U.S. with Spencer, but he later embraced America, and America embraced him.
I feel that he was influential in setting me on the road to becoming a professional musician, and I thank him for that.
Thank you, Spencer.” (Steve Winwood)
Spencer Davis (17 July 1939 – 19 October 2020)