CEDELL DAVIS

R.I.P.  June 9, 1926 / September 27, 2017



the Funky Soul story - Cedell Davis 01

 

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 Cedell’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.

 

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Cedell 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 Cedell 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.

 

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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 remains. 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 Cedell’s song, “If You Like Fat Women”, there are “more fat women there than any place I ever saw.”

 

Many listeners find Cedell difficult: his sense of time, his sense of structure, that timing, not to mention his lyrics. Cedell is a remarkable communicator, and quite possible the greatest hard core vocalist around.

 

Cedell Davis died on September 27, 2017 from a heart attack at 91 after 64 years of musical career.

 

 

source : Fat Possum Records website

 

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Discography


1993 / Feel Like Doin' Something Wrong

the Funky Soul story -  CeDell Davis ‎– Feel Like Doin' Something Wrong

A1. I Don't Know Why

A2. Every Day Every Way

A3. She's Got The Devil In Her

A4. Boogie Chillen No. 2

A5. Baby, I Love You So

A6. If You Like Fat Women

A7. Guitar Boogie

 

B1. Falling Rain Blues

B2. In The Evening

B3. Sit Down On My Knee

B4. Got To Be Moving On

B5. Reconsider Baby

B6. Murder My Baby

B7. Green Onions


1998 / The Horror Of It All

the Funky Soul story - Cedell Davis - The Horror Of It All (1998)

A1. Coon Can Mattie

A2. Chicken Hawk

A3. Keep On Snatchin It Back

A4. The Horror

A5. Come Here Baby

 

B1. Worried Life

B2. Cold Chills

B3. Mistreatin Me

B4. I Want You

B5. If You Like Fat Women

B6. Tojo Told Hitler


2002 / When Lightnin' Struck The Pine

the Funky Soul story -  Cedell Davis And Friends ‎– When Lightnin' Struck The Pine (2002)

01. Pay To Play

02. Come On And Ride With Me

03. Woke Up This Morning

04. So Long, I Hate To See You Go

05. Give Me That Look

06. Love Me A Little While

07. Cold Chills

08. One Of These Days

09. Propaganda

10. Rub Me Baby

11. Hold Me Baby


2016 / Even The Devil Get's The Blues

the Funky Soul -  Cedell Davis ‎– Even The Devil Get's The Blues

01. Play With Your Poodle

02. The Silvertone

03. Love Blues

04. Crap House Bea

05. She's Got The Devil In Her

06. Can't Be Satisfied

07. Kansas City

08. Got To Be Moving On

09. People Of The Mountain

10. Dust My Broom

11. Cold Chills

12. Catfish Blues

13. Grandma Grandpa

14. Ain't Plannin' On Dyin'

15. Rollin' And Tumblin'