Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Davis, Eddy

Davis, Eddy, banjo, singer; He received his formal training at Purdue University, University of Chicago and both the Cosmopolitan and Chicago Conservatories of Music. Mr. Davis has appeared on stage at most major concert venues throughout the world including: Paris' Olympia Theatre, London's Royal Festival Hall and New York's famed Carnegie Hall. He has performed with a diverse roster of talents that include: Jabbo Smith, Turk Murphy, George Brunis, the original Dukes of Dixieland, Tom Waites, Leon Redbone, George Segal, Gene Krupa, Freddie Hubbard and Benny Goodman. He can be seen in Mike Figis' film "One Night Stand" and heard on many sound tracks including "Fried Green Tomatoes" where he is accompanying Patti LaBelle.

In his associations with filmmaker Woody Allen, Mr. Davis has composed music for the film "Celebrity" and has appeared as an actor in "Sweet and Lowdown." He is also the leader/musical director for "The New Orleans Jazz Band" (Allen featured on clarinet) which appears Monday evenings at New York City's "Cafe Carlyle," an upper eastside supper club."The New Orleans Jazz Band" played a highly successful tour of Europe which spawned a film entitled "Wild Man Blues." This film won honors at the "Sundance" and "Venice" film festivals. This band can be heard on a "Music Masters" CD entitled "The Bunk Project" and on a CD featuring selections from "Wild Man Blues."

Whether as a creator, conductor, producer and/or director, Davis has been the force behind such projects as: "The New York Banjo Ensemble"; the "Jazz Leggs" revue at Berlin, Germany's famed vaudeville house "The Friedrichstadt Palast"; "III Music" (The New York Society for the Preservation of Illegitimate Music), most known for their show "The Best of Spike Jones"; "Davis' Early Tin Pan Alley Orchestra," a seven piece salon orchestra performing "The Roots of American Jazz"; two seasons of the "New York in Messina" festival of Messina, Sicily; conductor of the revival of the 1920's musical "Whoopee" and composer for "The Big Apple Circus," a New York institution.

I was born in Indiana. I grew up on the banks of the Wabash. My family traveled with a wild west show. My father was a calf roper and bull rider. My mother was a fancy trick rider and star in the pageant. My brother was a trick roper. Later he became a calf roper and steer wrestler. He is now a veterinarian and rodeo producer. Along the way I rode a few steers and roped calves.

In junior high school I started playing music. Originally drums, then tympani, string bass, tuba, woodwinds and brass. At the age of 14 I was playing with a dance band. It was what was known as a territory band. I played 2nd tenor sax (it was a tenor band) on the dance numbers, then the leader (who played drums) would go out front and sing rock and roll, and I would go back and play the drums. I was earning union scale with this group which was called Paul Kenny's Medicine Men. Scale at that time in Lafayette, Indiana was $12.25 for a three hour job. In 1958, having a desire for more money, I was drafted by a Dixieland band The Salty Dogs at Purdue University which was across the river in West Lafayette. This is when I learned to play the tenor banjo (also known as the tango banjo).

After graduating high school, I attended Purdue University for a year. During that period The Salty Dogs performed many times in Chicago. After those experiences, I decided I should pursue music in the Windy City--so I piled my belongings into my Austin Healy and headed out for Chicago. I became a composition student first at Cosmopolitan Conservatory of Music, then switched to the Chicago School of Music. Both were located in the Creative Arts Building at Wabash and Van Buren Streets in the Chicago Loop. I was living at the Lawson YMCA on Chicago Avenue which was located across the Chicago River from downtown Chicago in what is known as the Near North Side. A couple of blocks away was the infamous Rush Street.
I started playing music at Burton Brown's Gaslight Club. This was the original key club, before the Playboy chain. Then I started my own band at Bourbon St.  (Bob Scobey's club on Rush Street). For the next eight years I worked for The Syndicate. First in this club (playing opposite the original Dukes of Dixieland), then around the corner at the Velvet Swing. During this period, Woody Allen was performing comedy at Mr. Kelly's. This famous night club was a block away and on occasion Mr. Allen would bring his clarinet and sit in with my band.

In 1968, I went to Los Angeles to open a new club The Fire Station Inn. For the next year I worked for the David Merrick office playing banjo and guitar with various productions of "Hello Dolly" starring Eve Arden, Betty Gable, and Ginger Rogers. In 1969, I came to New York City to read "Mame" at the Winter Garden; then went out with Celeste Holm on the National Tour of the show ending up back in Chicago. There I organized a comedy musical trio known as "Banjo's Unlimited." In 1971, I came back to New York to put together a Las Vegas show for Your Father's Moustache; then in 1972 back to Los Angeles to open a show for Disney called "The Class of 27."

In 1973, I spent June, July and August in Florence, Italy where I wrote an instructional book "The Theory Behind Chord Symbols." That winter I worked Las Vegas, Jackpot, Reno, Tahoe, etc. All of the Nevada casinos with Big Tiny Little of Lawrence Welk fame.
I went back to Florence for the summers of 1974 and 1975. In 1976 I conducted and orchestrated a musical "The Life and Times of Warren G. Harding." That winter I made a European tour that took me behind the Iron Curtain to Debrecen, Hungary. Ever since then I've performed regularly in Budapest and other major cities in Europe and England.

During the 1980's I had a group in residence at Michael's Pub in New York City. Productions included "Roots of American Jazz" with Davis' Early Tin Pan Alley Orchestra (a seven piece salon orchestra); "The Great Freddie Moore" (an outstanding vaudevillian of the 1920's) and "The Best of Spike Jones"(which became "The New York Society for the Preservation of Illegitimate Music" -- a/k/a "III Music").
I organized, performed and recorded with "The New York Banjo Ensemble." I recreated the banjo parts for Maurice Peress' new Paul Whiteman Orchestra at Town Hall in 1984 (recorded for Music Masters). The origina1 1924 concert introduced George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue. Later, during a series of Carnegie Hall anniversary concerts, I once again worked with Mr. Peress. First recreating a 1912 concert about the black composer/conductor James Reese Europe and his "Clef Club Orchestra." The second involved recreating the 1927 concert of the Music of George Antile (also recorded on Music Masters).

Throughout the 1980's I recorded and performed with Leon Redbone, Tom Waits, Jabbo Smith, George Segal, Turk Murphy, Freddie Hubbard, and accompanied Pattie LaBelle on the sound track of Fried Green Tomatoes. Also on sound tracks for "Sohpie's Choice," "Radio Days," etc.
I produced two seasons of "New York in Messina." This was a 25-member troup of New Yorkers performing in and around Messina, Sicily.
I was musical director/conductor for the revival of the 1920's musical "Whoopee" (National Company).  In 1993, I was musical director/conductor, co-creator of "Jazz Leggs," a revue at Berlin, Germany's famed vaudeville house "The Friedrichstadt Palast" which ran for one year.
In 1995, I performed on a live, two-hour, Roman television broadcast of the music of George Gershwin which spawned a video and CD. My co-stars were Chaka Khan, Dionne Warwick and the one and only king of the mouth organ Larry Adler.

During the 1980's and 1990's I renewed my association with Woody Allen. We perform every Monday evening at New York's Cafe Carlyle. We have produced a CD of New Orleans Jazz featuring Allen on clarinet. It is on the Music Masters label and is called The Bunk Project. The group, sometimes known as Eddy Davis' New Orleans Jazz Band with Woody Allen or Woody Allen's New Orleans Jazz Band with Eddy Davis Musical
Director, performed a two-month European Concert Tour. Included were concerts at the Royal Festival Hall in London and the famous Olympia Theatre in Paris.

One of the things I am most proud of, in my lifetime, is my association with many early jazz greats: Junie Cobb, Darnell Howard, Albert Wynn, Bobby Shoffner, George Mitchell, George Brunis, Gene Krupa, Cutty Cutshall, Eddie Condon, Ray Nance, Freddie Moore, John Williams Jr., Doc Cheatham, Benny Goodman, Don Ewell, Dick Wellstood, Milt Hinton and many more. I have performed on many recordings including twelve under my own name. I did a series of recordings on my own label New York Jazz which featured many of these greats along with several of the up and coming stars including Howard Alden, Dan Barrett, Frank Vignola, Ken Peplowski, Greg Cohen, Jon-Erik Kelso and Vince Giordano. At this time I must make mention of my long-time associates and friends Lou MiCallef and Stanley King.

I wrote a song for Woody Allen's movie "Celebrity," and also appear in his film "Sweet and Lowdown" and am also in a Barbara Koppel documentary called "Wild Man Blues" which documented the Woody Allen and Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band's concert tour of Europe (of which there is a DVD and separate CD of the same title.) I also appear in a film by director Mike Figgis called "One Night Stand." If you look for the crowd scene at Grand Central Station in Manhattan, you should see me with a ten-piece brass band I put together for the movie.

Contact information:
Eddy Davis
Carnegie Plaza #1406
162 West 56th Street
New York, NY 10019 USA
Phone/Fax (212) 765-7560

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