Cyril Davies... British Blues Harp Pioneer
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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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July 16, 2012 - Martin Bright - Berkshire, UK - I first saw Cyril with Alexis Korner's Blues Inc, at the Ealing Club, about 1962. Alex was interested in the kind of jazz Charles Mingus was making, very blues based, & he used modern jazz tenor player Art Themen, who is playing very well today, being an established star on the UK jazz circuit. The contrast with Cyril's harp was striking, it worked very well live, but was never caught on record.
Alex's band was booked somewhere else for 10 weeks & some small young lads took over. We were snooty at first, I don't think they even had a name, but my pal found out that the singer's name was Jagger, & they've done well since.
I think Cyril worked as panel beater, &/or lived in Wealdstone, to be frank, a very poor part of Harrow. When he got his own band together they frequently played at the Railway Hotel Wealdstone. The pub has been demolished, but nearby roads have been named after assorted musicians who played there including Moon Road, or whatever, since the Who were a regular Tuesday band & even made a film down there - I remember it because their manager was very cross with me for being drunk & disorderly on his "set".
Talking of which, Cyril had a problem with the drink, & at that period he often failed to complete a set but had associates like Long John Baldry & Rod Stewart who were more than happy to deputise in the hope of getting noticed. Mick Jagger turned up a couple of times with a notorious groupie, before the word was coined, but never sang. Sadly, but memorably, I arrived early from a day at Harrow Art College, it was about 7.00 pm, & bought my ticket. There was a load of crumpled clothing on the floor, & as I stepped over it, it moved & it was of course poor old Cyril…out of his head since late afternoon. He was such a good musician & so dedicated, but his alcoholism must have killed him. I'm not preachy about this, since I drink about 10 times as much as my doctor says I should, but Cyril was really ill, & his friends must have been saddened rather than amused. In those days pubs closed at 10.30, sometimes earlier & gigs started by 7.30.
I've just remembered that one week a band failed to materialise & the replacements were the Yardbirds on probably their first gig. They knew about six tunes, three of which were Bright Lights Big City, which they played in each of their four 20 minute sets. A very inauspicious start.
PS I think Cyril's band that he started after he left Alexis included some rather good musicians who'd been with Screaming Lord Such, a local Harrow boy who modeled himself on Screamin' Jay Hawkins but was essentially a comedian. Hope there's something of interest here.
January 23, 2012 - Alan Balfour - Southampton, UK - Good to see that Roger Trobridge has given his Cyril Davies labour of love a long overdue make over.
I still have my 45 of Country Line Special, sadly it's really beat up due to the dreaded "autochanger" causing other discs to land on top of it. Shame that at the time it didn't occur to me to put it last in the stack, rather than first.
What is really collectable is the Pye EP of his two singles and it used to change hands for silly sums. In the late 70s/early 80s I persuaded PRT (as they were then) to reissue it due to its scarcity. I was fully expecting to see a facsimile of the original sleeve. Nah, apparently the powers that were at PRT thought otherwise and it came in a plain white sleeve. To make matters worse it hardly sold and the remaining copies were melted. I guess this must also be a "collectors item".
What irked me was that a friend very kindly went to all the trouble of taking the cover of his Pye EP to a photographic studio to have produced superior colour photo front and a b/w one of reverse. These were given to PRT and they didn't do a damned thing with them.....I must look out the correspondence. http://www.charliegillett.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=54&t=19873
February 19, 2012 - Bert Rogers - Hampshire, UK - We remember Cyril from the fifties when we used to see him at the Round House Pub in Wardour Street, Soho, playing with Alexis Korner and Bob Watson in a skiffle / blues group called 'Alexis Korner's Breakdown Group' (we still have the LP). It was 1956 -1957 (the year we got married; I can't remember a member ship card but I will ask around some of my mates that used to go to the club).
Cyril was playing 12 string guitar at that time and we remember him singing Green Corn, Skip To My Lou - also Lead belly and Woody Guthrie Songs (as we all did and do!) This was a great Blues & Skiffle Venue.
We also saw Big Bill Broonzy, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Ken Colyer and Long John Baldry - who used to do an interval spot, we think he was doing his National Service as he sometimes appeared in army uniform.
A bit more info that springs to mind...we used to see Nancy Whiskey at the Round House before she was famous; she used to sing in the interval. Her partner was a chap called Bob Kelly - a great blues piano player from Glasgow.
But who could forget Cyril's harp version of Country Line Special, which he recorded much later.
Ahh! Happy days and great memories and hope this added information helps.
March 11, 2012 - Keith Shafe - UK - Hi Roger, I was wondering if I could place a tribute on the site for Brian (Knight); I drove him in return for guitar lessons some time ago and he was a fantastic guy. I am sad to hear of his passing and would like to pay my respects. Kind regards.
June 26, 2012 - Peter - Hello, I was around at that time- which dates me. Unfortunately I never saw Cyril live, but someone gave me his 45 EP and I was hooked. All these years later something came up this morning that had the name 'Cyril' in it, and my mind flashed to Cyril Davies. Googled it and came up with your site. The video was a totally unexpected treat, and quite made my day. Thank you.
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Introduction: Cyril Who?
Cyril's Denham Home
Cyril and Leadbelly
With Alexis at The Roundhouse
Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated
Cyril Davies' R&B All Stars
Musicians' recollections of Cyril Davies
The background to the developing London blues scene
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