He's got some Blind Willie McTell and some Fats Waller, some Buddy Guy and some Taj Mahal. He's got some Zora Neale Hurston and some Garrison Keillor. He's a musician, composer, actor, director and writer. But most importantly Guy Davis is a bluesman. The blues permeate every corner of Davis' creativity. Throughout his career, he has dedicated himself to reviving the traditions of acoustic blues and bringing them to as many ears as possible through the material of the great blues masters, African American stories, and his own original songs, stories and performance pieces.
Davis' creative roots run deep. Though raised in New York, he grew up hearing accounts of life in the rural south from his parents and especially his grandparents, and they made their way into his own stories and songs. Davis taught himself the guitar (never having the patience to take formal lessons) and learned by listening to and watching other musicians. One night on a train from Boston to New York he picked up finger picking from a nine-fingered guitar player.
His influences are wide and varied. Musically, he enjoyed such great blues musicians as Blind Willie McTell (and his way of telling a story), Skip James, Mance Lipscomb, Mississippi John Hurt, Elizabeth Cotton, and Buddy Guy, among others. It was through Taj Mahal that he found his way to the old time blues. He also loved such diverse musicians as Fats Waller and Gustav Holst. Zora Neale Hurston and Garrison Keillor have influenced his writing and storytelling.
Throughout his life Davis has had overlapping interests in music and acting. Early acting roles included a part in the film Beat Street and on television in One Life to Live. Eventually Davis had the opportunity to combine music and acting on the stage. He made his Broadway debut in 1991 in the Zora Neale Hurston/Langston Hughes collaboration Mulebone, which featured the music of Taj Mahal. In 1993 he performed Off-Broadway as legendary blues player Robert Johnson in Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil. He received rave reviews and became the 1993 winner of the Blues Foundation's W.C. Handy "Keeping the Blues Alive" Award.
Looking for more ways to combine his love of blues, music, and acting, Davis created material for himself. He wrote In Bed with the Blues: The Adventures of Fishy Waters an engaging and moving one-man show. The Off-Broadway debut in 1994 received critical praise from the The New York Times and the The Village Voice. Davis also performed in a theater piece with his parents, actors/writers Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, entitled Two Hah Hahs and A Homeboy. Of Davis' performance, one USA Today reviewer observed that his style and writing "sound so deeply drenched in lost black traditions that you feel that they must predate him. But no, they don't. He created them." Davis' writing projects have also included a variety of theater pieces and plays Mudsurfing, an award winning collection of three short stories, The Trial (an anti-drug abuse one-act play that was produced Off-Broadway in 1990). Guy also arranged, performed, and co-wrote the music for an Emmy Award winning film, To Be a Man. In the fall of 1995, his music was used in the national PBS series, The American Promise
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