Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis

When someone like Bob Dylan says he’s “One of the wizards of modern music,” pay attention. And if you’re a blues aficionado, you need to pay special attention because the Reverend is one of the kings of Piedmont Blues. Ian Zack was very thorough in this well-researched tome, interviewing former students, fans and scrutinizing public records, to put together the bittersweet story of a blind man who grew up the son of poor Southern sharecroppers, then moved to North Carolina where he made his living as a street performer, and finally to New York, where he gained notoriety in the folk boom of the fifties and sixties. Players like Bob Weir (Grateful Dead), Stefan Grossman and Ry Cooder consider him a mentor. (There’s even a great story about a shy young guitarist who couldn’t bring himself to play for him. The player? Eric Clapton.) Years after his death, he continues to inspire musicians and fans, even if they don’t realize it. His “Cocaine Blues,” made famous by several including Jackson Browne, is known to many. Still, he’s not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (even though they feature BB King and Buddy Guy) and when Rolling Stone published a list of the top one hundred guitarists, Davis was not included.

This should be required reading for anyone interested in the blues and especially for guitar players. – Courtesy of SingOut Magazine –

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