Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Billy Davis ( Part 2 )

  Recording and Advertising Executive Extraordinaire.

            He was one of the key architects in the development of the soul music we so love today!

Davis Jr decided to move to Chicago in 1962 in search of greener pastures where he could further develop the creative skills he had acquired while working in the Detroit Soul scene during the mid-1950s to the early 1960s.
In a typically brilliant move, Leonard Chess, with a growing interest in the Soul market which was dominated mainly by Motown and Stax at the time and well aware of the strength of Billy Davis’s previous success with Berry Gordy, decided to offer him a contract to develop a strong R&B division at Chess, in line with Motown and Stax.
With Davis present in the creative role as producer, songwriter and arranger in the Chess organisation, the opportunity arose to create a more soulful sound and to move the label away from the Blues-dominated sound of the label up to then. He persuaded Leonard Chess to hire musicians with a Jazz background and arrangers for long term session work. Maurice White once said about Billy:

“He taught me how to break down a song and build it up again”.


Maurice White
The co-founder and musical architect of Earth, Wind &  Fire    

The knowledge White obtained from Davis during recording sessions was the foundation that helped him become a formidable band leader, record producer, record label owner and songwriter.

The production skills Davis developed whilst working with Berry Gordy’s sister Gwen Gordy’s Anna label in Detroit can be heard on such classic tracks as “All I Could Do Was Cry” by Etta James, “Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass and on many other tracks. On “Rescue Me”, which was produced live in the studio, you can hear the Motown influence, but with a Chicago soul sound put into the mix. Billy Davis spent seven years at Chess and also held the position of repertoire director.

Davis Jr greatest achievement was to produced the first and only number-one R&B and Soul hit on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles Chart for a female artist at Chess  Records The single “Rescue Me”, recorded by Fontella Bass, which arrived at the R&B summit on the 30th October 1965. “Rescue Me” typified the new Chess: built on a bed-rock of Satterfield’s bass and White’s drums, powered by Gene Barge’s horn section, and propelled by the call-and-response of singer and background vocalists.

This record became a hit in several major Europe markets including the UK. You can hear this single on movie soundtracks and it has been used in marketing campaigns across the USA and in Europe.

Researched and compiled by
 Mr K Tomlin Music Historian 

©RCM Music/Signaturesoundsonline 2013

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About Me

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Old Harlow, Essex, United Kingdom
Kevin Tomlin has over 34 years of teaching experience in Jamaica, England and America, including 15 years teaching music history of black origin and visual art in South Florida, U.S.A., through Arts in Education. Tomlin created special training programmes and workshops for music teachers in South Florida schools, using music history as the foundation, to build exciting programmes of study and support materials for education professionals. Since 2000, he’s taught music history, geography, religious education, history, visual arts and performing arts at schools in Hertfordshire and Essex, at both primary and secondary levels. He conducts research and provides consultancy services for multi-media organisations, schools, recording artists, cultural and faith-based groups and entertainment professionals.

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