The St. Louis Blues of Walter Davis

Publisher: Agram Blues Books


Product Details:

  • Format:                       Hardback
  • Publication Date:        December 2021
  • Price:                           35 Euros / 40 Euros CD Included
  • Publisher:                    Agram Blues Books

The St. Louis Piano Blues of Walter Davis

“A blues feeling is just, I don’t know, it’s, I don’t know if one could really describe it. It’s something that, that gets over, comes over an individual. You sit down at the piano, you start to touching the keys, softly. Next thing, look like you can just see yourself some place you never been before. And then that’s what make that blue feeling come over you. That’s the way it has always appeared to me.”

Walter Davis, interviewed by Paul Oliver, Albany Hotel, St. Louis, Missouri, 25th August 1960.

After the publication of my recent book on Smokey Hogg, (’The Texas Blues Of Smokey Hogg’) I decided to turn my attention to the great Walter Davis, another blues artist who was extremely popular, (as his extensive recording career testifies, which lasted from 1930 through to 1952), but about whom little is known.

It was obvious that nearly sixty years after his death in 1963 the details of his life would be hard to pin down, which only made the challenge more enticing.

Walter Davis also offered a different approach to the blues, and a different career pattern, from those of my previous subject.

Smokey Hogg was among the most open and personal of blues singers; Davis seems to have been determined to exclude his private life from his recordings (unlike the alcoholic Hogg, he was also a near teetotaller).

Hogg went from record company to record company without regard to contracts; Davis stuck with RCA Victor/Bluebird, apart from a brief engagement with Bullet Records between 1949 and 1951. In total 184 sides.

Where Hogg was content (or more likely, was only able) to play in G, Davis’recordings feature no fewer than eleven keys.

Walter Davis has always fascinated me because of his distressing voice, his clever, often insightful lyrics, and above all his idiosyncratic piano style. It was probably to his advantage that Davis could not read music; unfettered by rules and conventions, he developed a unique modal style which influenced many blues pianists, and continues to impress.

The book on Walter Davis is scheduled for publicationlater this year and will contain a biography, a musical analysis and a chapter on Walter’s musical influences

It will be accompanied by a CD including Paul Oliver’s interviews with Walter Davis and his guitarist, Henry Townsend; both sides of Bullet 328 (the only Davis 78 still unreissued); and a selection of the best-sounding Walter Davis test pressings and 78s from the collections of Paul Swinton and Dave Williams.

As with the Smokey Hogg publication, every entry will contain discographical details, the song lyrics plus an analysis of the recording:

Price:   10 Euros.


1 Mr. Davis’ Blues 12 June 1930 Victor V38618

2 M. & O. Blues 12 June 1930 Victor V38618

3 That Stuff You Sell Ain’t No Good 10 June 1931 Victor 23282

4 Minute Man – Part 1 25 February 1935 Test

5 Sweet Sixteen 25 February 1935 Bluebird B-5931

6 Ashes In My Whiskey 31 October 1935 Test

7 Think You Need A Shot 3 April 1936 Bluebird B-6498

8 Good Gal 5 May 1937 Bluebird B-6996

9 What Is Wrong With You 17 June 1938 Bluebird B-7792

10 Honey Bee Blues 17 June 1938 Bluebird B-8474

11 Your Time Is Comin’ 17 December 1938 Test

12 New “Come Back Baby” 21 March 1941 Test

13 All My Money Gone 21 March 1941 Bluebird B-8802

14 Don’t You Want To Go? 5 December 1941 Bluebird B-9027

15 Just Want To Talk Awhile 5 December 1941 Test

16 Frisco Blues 5 December 1941 Bluebird B-8961

17 Biddle Street Blues 5 December 1941 Bluebird B-8961

18 My Life Depends On You ca. March 1950 Bullet 328

19 Come On Baby ca. March 1950  Bullet 328

20 Tears Came Rollin’ Down 27 July 1952 RCA Victor 20-5012

21 What May Your Trouble Be  27 July 1952 RCA Victor 20-5168

22 Walter Davis Interview 25 August 1960