Cyril Davies... British Blues Harp Pioneer

Paul Jones' Memories

Musicians' recollections of Cyril Davies
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Paul Jones is well known today - both for his work in film, television and radio as well as his fine musicianship. As singer and harmonica player, Paul fronted the famous R&B group Manfred Mann and has had tremendous success with the ever popular 'Blues Band'.

The following passages are transcribed from the BBC Radio 4 show, 'Footnotes' presented by Martin Wainwright and produced in Bristol by Alison Parks, March 10, 1995.

When I was at university in 1960 I thought that I had the only blues band in Britain - and then one day I found out that, right at the heart of things, Alexis and Cyril were opening up the doors for all of us.

He (Cyril) was the harmonica player, THE harmonica player of the time. The rest of us were sort of struggling to get to that level really but at the time he was THE man!

(From records)…that's how you learned, you found them where you could - merchant seamen and people like that had brought back from the States, and, it was in fact (Chris) Barber once again who brought over people and Alexis and Cyril who played with them, you know…the American greats. By the time you could go into a record shop in this country and there would be American Blues - that was because of people like Chris, Alexis, and Cyril.

He (Cyril) certainly formed what , in some ways, was the archetypal early sixties blues band, the Cyril Davies All Stars, which he formed directly after leaving Alexis…and he hired the whole of Screaming Lord Sutch's rhythm section. And, of course, those were guys who had more experience playing blues than half the people in actual blues bands in this country and it was a REAL, REAL blues band - probably the first sort of genuine blues band of its kind!

He was, actually, (a crowd-puller). He wasn't charismatic in the accepted pop-star sense, you know. I don't recall that girls ever screamed, although I shouldn't be surprised if some of them did, because it isn't always a question of fantastic looks…it's a question of definite-ness - and Cyril was one of the most DEFINITE people you would ever run into…when he sang you didn't look out of the window!

I suppose you'd say that as far as the harmonica is concerned, anybody who sort of took it up in those early sixties and then went on into rock would have to point to Cyril to say, "right - there, musically, is my Dad". But you wouldn't say, though, that he was sort of like the father of rock because you know there are alongside him - there are others like Alexis, like Chris Barber and so on and so forth.

He would have left a gap but there were so many people who kind of took the instrument up as a result of hearing him that by the time he died people were ready to sort of leap into the breach - I'm talking about, two of them in the Stones, both Mick and Brian Jones.


Paul Jones BBC2 Radio Show.
The Blues Band web site.
The Manfreds web site.

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