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A hundred years old legend:
Wild Bill Davis

Blog
A hundred years old legend: Wild Bill Davis

10.12.2018

Text: Cem Kayıran
Illustration: Saydan Akşit
Translation: Yetkin Nural

When we look at the musicians who left a solid mark on the music history, it is possible to notice that sometimes it is a song, an album or their playing style that is the highlight of their career. For Wild Bill Davis, becoming one of the most important musicians of jazz history was not only a simple matter of talent: Davis was the Pioneer who made Hammond Organ a solo instrument.

Born in Missouri on 24 November 1918, Wild Bill Davis, or William Strethen-Davis with his real name, started developing an interest in music with home practices he did besides his father who was a soloist. After his music studies in Alabama and Texas, Davis moved to Chicago in 1939 and worked as the arranger and guitarist of Milt Larkin during three years. In 1943, he did an arrangement for pianist Earl ‘‘Fatha’’ Hines and started his own piano recordings in 1945.

Davis’s first piano performance on record was in the Buster Bennett album that came out from Columbia label. In the following years he worked with names such as Louis Jordan, Tiny Bradshaw and Claude McLin. Even though there was some controversy about him bringing the church organ onto the stage, Wild Bill Davis’ pioneering move became an important beacon for the future.

Wild Bill Davis is refered as the founder of the guitar-drums-organ trio that has became a cherished jazz default since the 1950’s. Davis released numerous collaborative records from prestigious labels and by the 60’s he was a prominent Hammond musician, who received invitations from names like Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Hodges. The pioneer musician spent 70’s in Europe, playing with artists like Slam Stewart and Buddy Tate. Between 1978-80 Davis was taking part in Lionel Hampton’s orchestra, and later on he spent the remaining years of his music career taking the stage at jazz festivals as the honor guest, until he passed on in 1995.

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