Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hank Davis

Rockabilly and country artist Hank Davis was born in 1941 and grew up in Yonkers. As a teenager he caught the rock and roll bug and formed his first band, The Electras. During the late '50's he cut three singles and a bunch of demos; as a solo artist, with the Electras and as a duo with his then-girlfriend Carolee Student. He also attended pretty much every rock and country show that rolled through NYC, played on Alan Freed's "Big Beat Party" radio show, tried to get his foot in the door at the legendary Brill Building and once drove to Memphis in the hopes of breaking in with Sun Records.

Later, Hank attended Columbia University, where he studied psychology and hosted a country music radio show, then went on to graduate school in Boston, where he formed a folk music trio named The Blues Brothers (long before Aykroyd and Belushi adopted the name) with two black ministers named Anthony Campbell and and Calvin Morris.

After a few years spent kicking around California, Hank moved to Aberfoyle, Ontario, where he built a home studio and recorded a ton of music throughout the '70's, '80's and '90's, including instrumental pedal steel albums with childhood friend Julian "Winnie" Winston (under the psuedonym "Raunch Radley"), and country and rockabilly albums like Stompin' At The Dead Moose under his own name. These days, Hank is a professor of psychology at the University of Guelph, still writes, records and reissues his own music, and has made contributions to liner notes for box sets and compilations of reissued material by musicians like Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis and various Sun artists. I really haven't done Hank's complete story justice; if your curiosity has been piqued you can read a very thorough biography here.

Stompin' At The Dead Moose was released in 1979, and recorded at Hank's One-Take Studios in Aberfoyle, with Davis on every instrument except pedal steel, which is played by Winnie Winston. The liner notes, which are completely (and entertainingly) fictional, are reprinted in their entirety here. All four of the songs I'm posting here are Hank Davis originals; "There Is No Right Way" is a plaintive country ballad, while the other three are rockabilly rave-ups featuring a lot of stinging guitar solos and a nice approximation of that classic Sun sound.

It's A Long Day
Nothin' Means Nothin'
There Is No Right Way
Trains and Cars and All-Night Bars

Note: These songs have been archived at It Came From Canada.


At 11:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had Hank as a first year psychology professor and decided to look him up years later- his anecdotes still rest in my mind- one of the most inspiring, hilarious and downright amazing people I have ever met!

He never disclosed this flowered past to us students... makes his character all the more interesting...


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