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Reverend Gary Davis


Reverend Gary Davis (also known as Blind Gary Davis) was born on 30/04/1896 in Laurens, South Carolina in the Piedmont region. He was one of eight children, but the only one to survive to adulthood. Gary became blind when he was a child and his father placed in the care of his paternal grandmother after being treated badly by his mother. When Davis was 10, his father was killed in Birmingham, Alabama after being shot by a Birmingham sheriff.
Davis learned the guitar and played gospel, ragtime, traditional, blues and original tunes in four-part harmony.
In the mid-1920s Davis moved to Durham, North Carolina. In Durham, he would teach Blind Boy Fuller and he collaborated with various artists in the Piedmont Blues scene, such as Bull City Red. Other students of his include Stefan Grossman, David Bromberg, Roy Book Binder, Larry Johnson, Nick Katzman, Dave Van Ronk, Rory Block, Ernie Hawkins, Larry Campbell, Bob Weir, Woody Mann, and Tom Winslow.
In 1935, J.B. Long a store manager introduced Davis, Fuller and Red to the American Record Company. They would start recording with them.
In 1937 Davis became a Baptist minister. After his conversion, he started to prefer inspirational gospel music.
In the 1940s, Davis moved to New York after the blues scene in Durham started to decline.
In 1951, he recorded an oral history for folklorist Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold.
In the 1960s, his career was reinvigorated by the folk revival and he played at Newport Folk Festival.
In May 1972, Davis died of a heart attack in Hammonton, New Jersey.
Davis has influenced Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Wizz Jones, Jorma Kaukonen, Keb' Mo', Ollabelle, Resurrection Band, and John Sebastian. His version of "Samson and Delilah" was covered by Peter, Paul and Mary; as well as The Grateful Dead. Eric Von Schmidt credited Davis with three-quarters of Schmidt's "Baby, Let Me Follow". Darrell Mansfield has recorded several of Davis's songs.