Cyril Davies... British Blues Harp Pioneer

Guestbook - email us your memories and photos.

May 26, 2006 - It would please me to see your honest opinions here as well as any additional information you might supply. Many thanks. Todd

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  • December 22, 2011 - Adrian McGrath - Andalucia, Spain - I was looking for a way to let 'interested' people know that the 'Washboard Band' (performing 'Oriental Man') was now on YouTube; the group was made-up of members from Steve Lane's Southern Stompers. I found your interview with Steve Lane via Google and from there I found a page on Traditional Jazz which had your I sent the link -

    If you have any other idea as to how I could publicize the YouTube video I would be grateful. I did hear Cyril Davies a few time in the early 60's (not sure of exact dates), once some of the (now) Rolling Stones also played.

    My wife and I used to go to Steve┤s gigs in various places in North London and Hertfordshire (though we did not know until later that we were there at the same time).

  • October 17, 2011 - William Neal - Scotland - Hi ...WOW!... YES!... What a memory! The Cyril Davis All Stars played at our Guildford Art School Party bash at the Civic Hall Guildford. Long John Baldry was there along with Rod the Mod, in fact, I seem to remember Julie Driscoll also made an appearance? Country Line Special has been Special in that your site mention's comments from Top Topham, (Yardbirds) Dick Forcey (Phillip Good Hand Tait & the Stormsville Shakers) and Clive Murray White, all of whom were art students with me at Guildford then in the early 60s. Country Line Special was simply awesome! Nobody put over the energy, and emotion like Cyril, nobody has ever got even close to the raw excitement he delivered. NOBODY! I became consumed with learning this number, it became a feature with our 6 piece blues band The Smokestakks, everyone said it was one of our best numbers, and although I always looked forward to playing it, I never got the thing as gutsy and emotive as Cyril, I must have played it a zillion times, That first train whistle note is just packed with expectancy! Yet every time I hear Cyril's recording, I know full well my very best efforts just ain't it, What a man. Thanks for a great site. William Neal (rock album artist for E.L.P.) -

  • October 15, 2011 - Keith Randall - UK - Dear Sir(s), The website is mostly superb but is somewhat let down by a 'howler': Preaching The Blues is not in any connected to Robert Johnson's Preachin' Blues....A quick listen to both recordings makes this abundantly clear! PS - Er...are you sure that he died of alcoholic poisoning? As for the cause of death, I don't suppose that his drinking helped - it never does, does it? - but I always believed that it was leukemia. (Ed. Thanks for the feedback and I'm glad you like the site. The folks who read the site remain the best editors! Of course, I should have caught that much earlier. It may take a couple of weeks but we will have that changed...again many thanks. On Cyril's death certificate they put the cause down as 'endocarditis', which is inflammation of the heart lining)

  • May 7, 2011 - Jimmie MacGregor - Scotland - Todd, I played the Albert Hall 2 or 3 times - once with the City Ramblers Skiffle Group, once with Robin Hall on a folk evening, and then on the great Pop Prom: Top of the Bill Del Shannon, and Cliff Richard and the Shadows. Melody Maker gave Robin and me a great review, which of course I've lost. Cyril was probably on that (folk evening) show but I'm not sure. He was very much a presence around all the clubs in those days and made a great impression with Alexis Korner...big guy, big personality, big talent - a real powerhouse!

  • April 20, 2011 - P. Rivers - France - We're talking of events that happened almost 50 years ago - God forbid, that makes me feel ancient! - and the memory does tend to fade after a while so I've obviously forgotten a lot to say the least.

    I lived in Twickenham with my parents and used to go over to Eel Pie Island twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays. After I'd left School and was working, I was a free agent and so I used to go to most of Cyril's gigs. I'd usually get home from work, have a quick bite to eat, get changed and then get public transport to wherever he was playing. Occasionally I'd see him at the Crawdaddy Club which had moved from The Station Hotel, opposite Richmond Station, to Richmond Athletic ground, and Cyril would sometimes join in and play with whoever was playing there, although I don't recall him ever actually having a booking there.

    Wednesdays and Sundays the gig was always Eel Pie Island. Dancing on that sprung floor was exhilarating and if you stood in the middle you didn't even have to move - the floor did that for you. I remember the mural painted as the backdrop for the stage, the footprints on the ceiling and the long bar down the right hand side (I used to drink half-pints of Watneys Red Barrel beer or gin and orange). Cliff Barton and Geoff Bradford had joined the 'All Stars', Long John Baldry sang and later in '63 Rod Stewart was there too. The Velvettes were Cyril's backing group, with Mumsie as the lead, I think they were from South Africa. John Baldry's sister often came to the gigs with John; she was lovely and we got on well. And of course, the Rolling Stones used to play there too. A friend of mine, Jill, who used to live along the road from my parents and who I used to go over to the Island with, used to go out with a policeman called Eddie, and he would come over to the Island with us to check out if there was any trouble as it had quite a reputation, but there never was.

    Most Fridays, the gig was at the Railway Hotel by Harrow and Wealdstone station. After work I used to get the train from Richmond to Willesden, then change trains to Harrow & Wealdstone. The room where the music was played was in the basement; it wasn't very big and was very smoky, but the atmosphere was brilliant.

    I often went to the Marquee in London, usually Saturdays, then there were gigs in Guildford and Reading (can't remember the names of the places) and occasionally Brighton. In Brighton I remember walking down to the sea-front from the gig, and there was a photo booth; the date I wrote on the back of the photos is Friday 13th August 1963.

    In August '63 Cyril and the band were performing at the 3rd National Jazz Festival, which was held at Richmond Athletic Ground. The Stones had released their first record 'Come On' and they had some promotion cards, one of which I still have with all their autographs. I remember meeting Acker Bilk and Terry Lightfoot and I must have met loads of other performers then as there was a great line-up.

    Sometime in '63 (can't remember when) [ed. Saturday, September 21st] there was a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London and Cyril and the All Stars were taking part. I think that's where I met Diz Dizley.

    Towards the end of '63, Cyril started to become ill. One day he didn't turn up at Eel Pie Island and I remember Geoff telling me that he'd got pleurisy, although I didn't really know what that was. After a couple of weeks or so, Cyril was back playing but you could see that he didn't have much energy and was in pain and suffering. Early in the New Year I was at Eel Pie Island and I remember Geoff and Cliff telling me that Cyril had died. John took over the band and renamed them the 'Hoochie Coochie Men' and I continued going over to the Island for a while, but it wasn't the same for me without Cyril. I hope you find what I've written a little bit interesting, and that maybe you can use some of it on the website. Kindest regards.

  • April 05, 2011 - Bruno Ceriotti - Bari, Italy - I know your terrific website because I love so much British blues music and the great late Cyril Davies, Alexis Korner and others. The 'family trees' and/or 'performance lists' and/or stories, you can see in my blog, were from different sources like books, magazines, newspapers, CDs, album notes, posters, ads, press, other websites, and obviously dozens and dozens of conversations between me and some of surviving members of most of the great rock bands of the 60s-70s (both UK and US). I'm a rock historian for 20 years now and so I do interviews for my blogs and for the various websites I'm collaborate with, mostly with the former members of these bands. For example, for The Artwoods family tree I spoke with my friend Colin Martin who was the drummer of the band after Keef Hartley left them. By the way, I've already have in my archive some sort of 'Cyril Davies/Alexis Korner chronology' but I didn't post it in my blog because you already have done a terrific work about Cyril's career. I've much respect for the work you've done with your site (and the work others have done on websites like The British Sound Blogspot

  • March 07, 2011 - Jimmy Powell - UK - Cyril and I were in the same agency (Malcolm Nixon)at the time Cyril was doing a lot of session work and played on my first 2 singles in 1962. We were good friends as were Alexis and Dick Heckstall-Smith and Graham Bond all old jazzers then, bless them; there were a lot of us used to meet up and jamů great days. I was number one harmonica player in the U.K. in the New Musical Express (or was it the Melody Maker?) in, I think, 63/64 thanks to Cyril; I was hooked on the sound and took it up myself. Anyway, good luck with the get together (Cyril Tribute at Eel Pie Club); pity 50 years laterů not many off the old ones around. At 68 I should be grateful! So good look happy fishing. Jimmy Powell

  • March 03, 2011 - Don Vosper - Bristol, UK - Hi. Just found your website whilst following some harmonica links. I'm very pleased to find the excellent site on Cyril Davies. I did a few searches some time ago and didn't find it for some reason. Not a great deal from me I'm afraid but I did enjoy going to see the All Stars with long John Baldry at the Marquee in the 1960's. I did realise that (Cyril) died some years ago but didn't remember that it was so soon after I had seen him around.

    I was mainly interested in Modern Jazz and used to go there to see Johnny Dankworth Big Band and the Dudley Moore Trio. I think it was half a crown to get in. Catching a 14 bus or underground from Fulham; walking home on one or two occasions after missing the last bus or train. Rhythm and Blues was becoming popular around that time and I quite enjoyed the music although never became a staunch follower. Occasionally went to see Manfred Mann at the Six Bells in Chelsea. I think it was with the Cyril Davies band that I saw Sonny Boy Williamson one night. I seem to remember that he didn't have too many teeth and wore a bowler hat throughout the performance. Great days!! Bit late in the day but I've just started to learn to play the harmonica, not blues though - English and Irish folk. By the way I never did get to Eel Pie Island; my connection with it now is that a friend of mine has his boatyard there.

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