Billy Davis

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Billy Davis
Billy Davis.jpg
Background Information

Birth Name

JC Billy Davis


April 29, 1938
Bentonia, Mississippi





Years Active

1956 -Present






No Cover Productions, Jett Plastic Recordings

Associated acts

Billy Davis and The Rainmakers,
Hank Ballard and the Midnighters,
Billy Davis Rhythm Machine
The Little Rascals


J.C. "Billy" Davis was born in Mississippi and was raised in the Delta Town of Belzoni before moving 13 years later to Detroit. His first name, J.C., doesn't signify anything, Billy has stated. He was called Billy for most his young life. Several years later after moving to Detroit's Black Bottom neighborhood, he took up the guitar learning from Bosie Gatlin and formed Billy Davis and The Upsetters in 1956 a group managed by a young Berry Gordy. Eighteen months later he was spotted by Hank Ballard who persuaded him to join the Midnighters. In 1959, Davis on tour with the Hank Ballard and the Midnighters in Seattle met the teenaged Jimi Hendrix, becoming a sort of mentor to the future legend, teaching him what he knew about guitar. As Billy tells the story. "Now, I'm in the dressing room — and the room's full of beautiful chicks — and Pat Paterson our trumpet player comes and tells me: 'Man, there's a guy out here that wants to meet you.' See, Jimi just kept bugging him. Pat came back about two or three times, and he's like, 'Please come and just say something to him, he is just bugging me.' So, I walked out into the hallway and Jimi's standing there with a big smile on his face. We started talking and, next thing I knew, before I left, he'd invited me to his house to meet his father. And I went over there. Why I did it, to this very day, I don't know, because I had never seen the kid before in my life. But, it was just something about him. He had a real beautiful smile and just looked like a good-hearted person and I just took to him."
Watch a 2015 interview where Billy talks about meeting Jimi Hendricks

In 1962 Davis was drafted to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training before heading to South Korea for 13 months. He arranged for Jimi Hendrix to audition with The Midnighters and Hendrix did join them for a short time. Billy rejoined Hank Ballard's group upon his return from service, and continued until the group disbanded in 1965.

After The Midnighters, Davis made his way to New York and became a sought-after studio musician. He played with Jackie Wilson, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, among others, on stage and in studio. He played lead guitar on Jackie Wilson's recording of 'Higher and Higher'. But by the early '70s, everything had changed, and Davis was back in Detroit. The musical hardships and attendant hard living slowly sucked out the guitarist's desire to play. Davis married in 1972 and he slowly moved away from music, and eventually had two kids.

In the mid-1980's the group SAM AND DAVE called and asked Davis to back them on a gig where James Brown was headlining. Brown, an old friend for over twenty years, gave Davis Hank Ballard's phone number and suggested he call to reunite the band. Due to a call from Billy Davis, the Midnighters were on tour again, steadily throughout the 1980's. The Legendary Hank Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and Davis, his main collaborator, has a statue of his own. In 2001, most of the Midnighters along with Hank Ballard and of course Billy Davis, were among the first to be inducted into the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame, out of Boston.

No Cover Productions a tiny Detroit blues label out of Clawson headed by Michael Boulan had been actively seeking the all-but-forgotten Davis for nearly a decade to unearth and sign to his label. It turns out the guitarist lived right around the corner from him.

Under Boulan's No Cover banner, Davis has recorded a number of albums — including a Christmas blues album — doing the same thing he's been doing for the last 50 years, a sort of rattled, country-fried blues infused into his songs.

Over the last decade, Davis has steadily performed in the Detroit area and back at his old Black Bottom neighborhood with his band Billy Davis Rhythm Machine, at places such as the Raven Lounge, Detroit's oldest Blues club; at 'Sundays in the D' on Gratiot Avenue in the Eastern Market district; at Nancy Whiskey's in Corktown; and even at outdoor jams.




External Links

Billy Davis Rhythm Machine Facbook Page
Facebook Personal Page