British Blues Boom, Listen!, Mods and Their Music

Three Essential Songs: Cyril Davies

A very brief introduction in Three Songs I Can’t Stop Listening To. Second in a series. 

A well-deserved blue plaque in Ealing, West London

Dick Heckstall-Smith called Cyril Davies a “fully fledged genius.” And like many geniuses, Davies was magnificent, and extreme, and died young.

He was in the British blues scene from the very first and blew through it like a hurricane. Yet he never gave up his strenuous day job as a panel beater, and he never sought fame in the charts. Almost all the recordings that survive are live. He came to play; he didn’t seem to care whether someone was recording him.

And I don’t know much about harmonica, but I can tell he’s good. “It says here ‘on harmonica,’ but in fact on about eight harmonicas, which he plays separately, one at a time,” Brian Matthew marveled when Davies’ incarnation of Blues, Inc. appeared on the BBC’s Jazz Club. (Absolutely Essential Track 1 – plus bonuses.)

Famously, Mick Jagger, beginning on the instrument, asked Davies, “How do you bend a note?” and Davies impatiently replied, “Well, you get a pair of pliers…”

When Davies died suddenly in January 1964, it marked the end of the first era of British blues and rhythm & blues. He didn’t live to see the glory days of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Faces – but certainly he lived on in them.

Two(ish) More Absolutely Essential Tracks:
2. Here, Davies has got his mojo workin’, and it works on me. Long John Baldry and the Velvettes on backing vocals.

3. And here, a delightfully spirited rendition of two numbers that may be the blues, but certainly don’t have the blues.

Learn more on this site dedicated to Davies.

By the way, have you seen this amazing work of art about Long John Baldry?

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