Renowned New Orleans session musician, composer, and label owner George Davis died September 10, 2008, from heart failure at Lilburn, Georgia. He was 70.
“He was my mentor and the greatest talent I ever knew in my life,” says Deacon John Moore. “I feel like I lost the best friend I ever had. He could play guitar, bass, saxophone, oboe—he was gifted. For several years, he was the number one session guy in the city. Allen Toussaint and Wardell Quezergue used him all the time. George played on so many hit records. ‘Mardi Gras Mambo,’ ‘Workin’ in a Coal Mine,’ ‘Barefootin’,’ ‘Teasin’ You.’ He co-wrote and played on Aaron Neville’s ‘Tell it Like it Is.’ He wasn’t just talented; George knew the music business backwards and forwards. He was really a sharp guy. He was one of the only musicians I knew that retired from the business.”
Davis first played alto saxophone before switching to guitar. As a student at Booker T. Washington High School, he joined the Hawkettes that were led by Art Neville. He attended Southern University but dropped out in 1957 to go on the road with Larry Williams. By the early 1960s, he was playing with the likes of Earl King and Ernie K-Doe and picking up a lot of session work at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio. Somewhat frustrated by the lack of financial security afforded local musicians, in 1966 Davis formed a label, Parlo, along with school teacher Warren Parker and fellow musician Alvin “Red” Tyler. Parlo’s first release was “Tell it Like it Is.”
By 1970, Davis had relocated to New York City where he stayed busy playing sessions with Sarah Vaughan, Duke Ellington and Buddy Rich among others. He also appeared in A Chorus Line and worked on soundtracks. After living in Florida for several years, Davis moved to the Atlanta area about five year ago. For more details on George Davis’s career, check out grdmusic.com.