A Welsh guitarist, harmonica player, and vocalist, Spencer Davis became one of the elder statesmen of mid-’60s British rock. As part of the Spencer Davis Band, which formed in Birmingham in 1963, Davis scored chart-topping hits on both sides of the Atlantic, including “Keep on Running” and “Somebody Help Me” in the U.K. and a pair of Top Ten singles, “Gimme Good Lovin'” and “I’m a Man,” in the United States. The band — which also featured a teenaged Stevie Winwood on vocals, guitar, and organ, Muff Winwood (Stevie‘s brother) on bass, and Pete York on drums — continued to mix commercial pop tunes and blues-inspired R&B until the Winwoods departed in 1967. Inspired by American blues musicians, including Leadbelly and Muddy Waters, Davis left a career as a college English professor to form the Rhythm & Blues Quartet. After performing a series of gigs at Birmingham nightclub, the Golden Eagle Pub, the group became the club’s resident band. Soon after adding regular Tuesday night sessions at the Marquee in London to their schedule, they changed their name to the Spencer Davis Group.
Although he briefly kept the band together following the departure of the Winwood siblings and recorded two minor hits, “Mr. Second Class” and “Time Seller,” Davis disbanded the group. After a short stint playing alongside guitarist Alun Davies, he then moved to California in 1970. Remaining active as a musician, he recorded a solo album that quickly went out of print, formed a new blues-pop band called Davis, York, Hardin & Fenwick in 1973, and then launched an acoustic blues band with Richard Landis and Peter Jameson. For much of the remainder of the ’70s and early ’80s, Davis worked behind the scenes. After serving as a consultant for a California video company, he worked as an independent producer and publicist for Island Records, where he helped to guide the early careers of Robert Palmer and Bob Marley, and served as head of A&R for a small Hollywood-based independent label. In addition to recording an impressive solo album, Crossfire, featuring guest appearances by Dusty Springfield, Flo & Eddie and Booker T. Jones, he produced the Spokane, WA-based group USK and Canada’s Downchild Blues Band.
Forming a new version of the Spencer Davis Group in 1984, Davis toured throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. By 1987, the group averaged more than 100 shows a year. Davis appeared as a guest during concerts by the Grateful Dead, Gary U.S. Bonds, Levon Helm, Bruce Springsteen, Peter “Herman” Noone, Downchild, and Alvin Lee.
Joining with ex-Iron Butterfly and Blues Image guitarist/vocalist Mike Pinera, ex-Rare Earth drummer/vocalist Peter Rivera, and ex-Sugarloaf bassist/vocalist Jerry Corbetta, Davis formed the Classic Rock All Stars in 1993. During the two years that he worked with the group, Davis was featured on an album, Double Live and performed in North America and Japan. Davis‘ original songs were featured in such films as Iron Eagle, Big Chill, Mr. Destiny, Days of Thunder, Mr. Holland’s Opus, and Notting Hill. He recorded numerous advertising jingles in the mid-’90s and appeared in a co-starring role on the television comedy Married with Children. The following decade saw him continuining to record new material, and the solo effort So Far was issued in 2008.
Date of death: October 19, 2020