He had been playing guitar prior to his polio and decided to continue in spite of his handicap, and developed his knife method as the only way he could come up with of still playing guitar. Davis passed away on September 27, 2017. He had recently suffered a heart attack. Davis was born in Helena, Arkansas, United States, where his family worked on a local plantation. He enjoyed music from a young age, playing harmonica and guitar with his childhood friends. Once he sufficiently mastered his variation on slide guitar playing, Davis began playing in various nightclubs across the Mississippi Delta area. He played with Robert Nighthawk for a ten-year period from 1953 to 1963.
While playing in a club in 1957, a police raid caused the crowd to stampede over Davis. Both of his legs were broken in this incident and he was forced to use a wheelchair since that time. The hardships resulting from his physical handicaps were a major influence in his lyrics and style of blues playing. Davis moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas in the early sixties and continued his artistic work. In recent times, Davis' music has been released by the Fat Possum Records label to much critical acclaim.
His 1994 album, produced by Robert Palmer, Feel Like Doin' Something Wrong, received a 9.0 from Pitchfork Media who called it "timeless." The Best Of CeDell Davis (1995) was also released, with help from Col. Bruce Hampton and The Aquarium Rescue Unit. The Horror of It All followed in 1998. His album When Lightnin' Struck the Pine, released in 2002, included work by musicians Peter Buck, Barrett Martin, Scott McCaughey, and Alex Veley. Discography The Introduction To Living Country Blues USA - 1981 (1 track of the 12) Living Country Blues USA Vol.
5 - 1982 (4 tracks of the 12 tracks) Living Country Blues USA Vol. 10 - 1982 (1 track of the 13 tracks) Feel Like Doin' Something Wrong - 1994 The Best of CeDell Davis – 1995 The Horror Of It All – 1998 When Lightning Struck the Pine - 2002 Highway 61 - 2003 Keep It to Yourself: Arkansas Blues, Vol. 1 - 2004 (4 tracks of the 23 tracks) Last Man Standing - 2015 Even The Devil Gets The Blues - 2016 --------- Cedell Davis was born Ellis Davis on June 9, 1927, in Helena, then a booming river town on the Arkansas bank of the Mississippi. He grew up there and in the upper Mississippi Delta around eight miles south of Tunica, on the E.M.
Hood plantation, where his brother lived. Together with one of his childhood friends, Isaiah Ross (future Sun recording artist Dr. Ross the Harmonica Boss), Cedell began playing blues, first harmonica, then some guitar. Then tragedy struck -- during his ninth and tenth years he grappled with severe polio. He returned to Helena, to his mother, who was locally renowned as a healer, though she worked as a cook, and there he began the painful process of relearning, in fact rethinking the guitar, which he could no longer play in the conventional manner.
"It took me about three years," he recalls. "I was right- handed, but I couldn't use my right hand, so I had to turn the guitar around; I play left-handed now. But I still needed something to slide with, and my mother had these knives, a set of silverware, and I kinda swiped one of 'em." This was the beginning of a guitar style that is utterly unique, in or out of blues. The knife-handle on the strings produces uneven pressure, which results in a welter of metal-stress harmonic transients and a singular tonal plasticity.
Some people who hear Davis's playing for the first time think it's out of tune, but it would be more accurate to say he plays in an alternative tuning. Because the way he hears and plays intervals and chords is consistent and systematic. Davis began playing around the Delta as a young man, and over the years he continued to work in some of the world's most dangerous dives. Somehow he learned to project a kind of presence that defuses violence, keeping him miraculously whole amid raging chaos. There is something Buddah-like about that presence, a sense of having learned to deal with a physically violent world with his mind.
It also enables him to compose and sequence verses for new songs on the spot and hold them in his memory for as long as necessary. Over the years Davis has played in Southern juke joints with a number of other musicians. His most significant and longest-lasting association was with the great Robert Nighthawk, who was considered the Delta's finest slide guitarist by no less an authority than Muddy Waters. They worked together for ten years straight, roughly 1953-'63, trading off "bassing" and lead duties song by song. During the early part of his time with Nighthawk, Cedell was based in St.
Louis, where he got to know Big Joe Williams, Charlie Jordan, J.D. "Jelly Jaw" Short, and other leading lights. But during the last part of 1957, he was badly injured in a St. Louis tavern, when an apparent police raid caused a massive stampede.
Before that, CeDell could at least walk on crutches. But his legs were broken in so many places during the stampede that he has been largely confined to a wheelchair ever since. On June 5, 1961, he "came back home to play." At first he was based in Helena, but after he secured a regular gig with Nighthawk at the Jack Rabbit (later the Jungle Hut) in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, he settled there, and there he remained. Pine Bluff's other claims to fame include a massive U.S. Government chemical and biological warfare research and storage facility, located nearby; and according to Davis's song, "If You Like Fat Women," there are "more fat women there than any place I ever saw." Many listeners find Davis difficult: his sense of time, his sense of structure, that timing--not to mention his lyrics.
Davis was a remarkable communicator, and quite possible the greatest hard core vocalist around. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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