Central Music Festival will be featuring none other than the legendary duo of Guy Davis and Fabrizio Poggi at The Elks on Oct. 12th.
The show is being touted as an homage to Sonny & Brownie, as reflected in Davis’ and Poggi’s latest collaboration Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train – A Look Back at Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, released in 2017.
“You’re going to hear a good deal from that, and you will also hear some from my Kokomo Kidd CD and some from my Juba Dance CD,” he said during a recent chat of the upcoming show.
Meanwhile, Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train – A Look Back at Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, honours those two influential artists, not only on Davis’ career but to musicians around the world.
The CD features the original title track penned by Davis, songs by both Sonny and Brownie, as well as songs known to have been recorded and performed by the duo which were written by their contemporaries such as Libba Cotton and Leadbelly.
“We decided to make it sort of a love letter to Sonny & Brownie.”
It proved a quick recording for Davis.
“I had less than 24 hours in the recording studio, and then I had to go back on the road. Who knew someone was going to nominate it for a Grammy Award?”
Davis has indeed spent his musical life carrying his message of the blues around the world, from the equator to the Arctic Circle. His travels have earned him the title, ‘An Ambassador of the Blues’.
“I was raised north of New York City, and both of my parents were actors and writers,” he said. “And that’s mostly who we had coming by our home – actors and friends from the theatre who were in the entertainment industry.”
His folks got him into piano lessons when he was about eight, but it just didn’t grab him.
“Both of my sisters had to take them, too. I was the first one to quit – I was just bored out of my mind,” he added with a laugh, noting how he wanted to be accomplished on the instrument pretty much right away. “I wanted to play like Fats Waller right away or not at all.
“We also used to listen to music by Harry Belafonte, and if there was any jazz it was Fats Waller. There wasn’t any blues played in the home, though,” he noted reflectively. “The first people I heard singing the blues were white college boys. I don’t remember how old I was – I was really young. But they were doing something that to my mind now sounds something like Howlin’ Wolf, but I couldn’t tell you at the time what they were playing.
“But I know that when I heard it, not only did it sound good but it sounded familiar,” he said. “It sounded like it was something that was already inside of me and just needed to get unlocked. That was my response to it.”
A bit later, his grandmother came to live with the family.
“They were the same people that the blues came up out of, back at the turn of the 20th century,” he noted of his grandparents. “When I heard their voices and I heard their stories, it was so much about what the blues is all about.
“And my granddad, who I didn’t know very well, was a head man on a team of track liners and spike drivers, so he knew all of these work songs that ultimately became the blues as well. I also remember playing a record of Taj Mahal’s recording of the Track liner’s song, and when it was over, my grandmother sang two more verses of it that weren’t on the record,” he explained. “She knew them from my granddad.
“Music was something natural and organic to me, but I didn’t know that I could make a living at it,” he said. Then back in about 1980 or 81, he auditioned for a gig with a nightclub band in Greenwich Village.
It was during this time that a real taste for show biz was sparked, too.
“I wasn’t getting a lot of money at this club, but I was learning my craft as an entertainer. And eventually, music gigs came along.”
His 1995 debut, Stomp Down the Rider, indeed marked the arrival of a major talent.
As his career unfolded, a gift for acting also surfaced. His one-man play, The Adventures of Fishy Waters: In Bed With the Blues, premiered off Broadway in the ‘90s and has since been released as a double CD.
“Not only do I love it, but it’s what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said of singing, playing and recording. “My feet are walking the path that they are supposed to be on. And as a musician, I get to tell stories.
For advance tickets, visit www.centralmusicfest.com.