Cyril Davies... British Blues Harp Pioneer
The Cyril Davies R&B All Stars - Part Three
Cyril was definitely aiming to be a working class hero; it was always his intensity that struck you." Near the end he went yellow and had to walk with a stick. He passed away on January 7, 1964, aged 31 - endocarditis was the recorded cause.
Tributes were immediate and heartfelt: Alexis Korner told Melody Maker, "despite musical differences which caused us to split about a year ago, I never ceased to consider Cyril by far the finest blues harmonica player in Britain. He was one of the really strong, driving forces behind the R&B movement over here." Graham Bond told Melody Maker, "It's very hard to know what to say. The whole band was completely hung up when we heard about it. We all worked with him a great deal and we all feel a personal sense of loss."
Following the death of Davies, Long John Baldry took over the All-Stars and rechristened them the Hoochie Coochie Men, adding Rod Stewart on vocals and Ernie O'Malley on drums. The passing of time has allowed more than one version of the 'Hoochie Coochie Men' story:
Story one - Rod got his lucky break at nineteen years old when he was invited to join Long John Baldry's Hoochie Coochie Men formed from the R&B All Stars just before their leader, Cyril Davies, died. The story goes that Baldry, who had seen Rod playing harp for the Dimensions at Ken Colyer's club in London's Oxford Street, found Rod the worse for drink on Twickenham railway station and it was there that he asked him to join his band. During the journey to Waterloo station Long John explained that he was thinking of breaking up the All Stars and forming a new band. At Waterloo, Rod took the tube back to Highgate telling himself that this might be the sort of break he'd been waiting for. It was a couple of days later he heard the unexpected news that Cyril Davies was dead.
Story two - "I would be at the railway station singing with a bunch of guys, playing harmonica and singing while waiting for the train. One night, and this is absolutely true, Long John Baldry heard me singing at the station. He was on the other platform, waiting to go the other way. This is after Cyril Davies died of alcohol poisoning, which I thought was a very heroic way to go. Baldry says to me, 'Why don't you join the band?' which was called the Hoochie Coochie Men. This is '64, just after the Stones first record came out. Baldry was taking a piss. He said, 'I will pay you £35 a week,' which was a good wage for singing three, four nights, three songs a night. I thought, this guy has got to be mad. We did our first gig at Manchester University. We had one rehearsal, one single rehearsal. I said to John, "What am I going to do? I only know one song, 'The Night Time Is the Right Time'," the Ray Charles thing. And John says, 'Don't worry. Just get up there and sing.' One of the guys in the band gave me a pill. It was a black pill, a black bomber. I didn't know anything about drugs, but I took it. It made the song last for almost an hour. I just kept singing the same verses, over and over. That is how I got started." - Rod Stewart
They issued one single and album, 'Long John's Blues', before disbanding.
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