Alun Davies (guitarist)

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For other people named Alun Davies, see Alun Davies (disambiguation).
Alun Davies
Also known as Daydo
Born Wales, United Kingdom
Genres Folk rock, folk, pop, jazz, skiffle
Occupations Musician, songwriter, vocalist, producer
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1963–present
Labels Decca, Fontana, Island, A&M, CBS, Polydor, Atlantic
Associated acts Cat Stevens, Ronnie Lane, Mark-Almond Band, Jeremy Taylor, Sweet Thursday
Notable instruments
Fender Stratocaster
Epiphone Casino

Alun Davies is a Welsh guitarist, studio musician, recording artist, and composer who rose to fame primarily with his supporting guitar work and backing vocals as accompanist for English musician Cat Stevens, from early 1970 to 1977.

Prior to his association with Stevens, Davies co-wrote, sang, and performed on two albums: in 1963, with Jon Mark, (known then as John Michael Burchell)[1] and in 1968, as a part of a band with Mark and three others called Sweet Thursday, when folk-rock music was still in its infancy. When their label declared bankruptcy, Davies was invited to join Cat Stevens as a session musician, who was attempting to change his sound and advance in the music world.

Davies' experience, similar tastes in the emerging folk-rock genre, and capabilities with guitar and voice placed him in a pivotal role in Stevens' career, resulting in hit songs and a string of RIAA platinum certified breakthrough albums. Two such albums, Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat, propelled Stevens to stardom and a stellar musical career, and solidified a friendship between the two men. Davies, who recorded a solo album after a few years of backing Stevens found comparatively little commercial success on his own, particularly after several years of sitting in Stevens' charismatic shadow. He continued to tour with him and recorded on all but one of his albums, until Stevens' conversion to Islam and retirement from the pop scene in 1977. Since that time, many "box sets", compilations, and "best hits" albums have been assembled for sale with Davies' guitar work and vocals on each album.

In late 2005, when Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam) returned again to write and perform, he did so with the amicable support of his friend and long-time right hand man Davies, although nearly three decades had passed, and the two men had followed extremely different paths during the interim. Davies continues to perform with Yusuf to the present day, in addition to pursuing other musical projects.

Early musical career[edit]

Alun Davies began his musical career playing skiffle music on a ukulele and then a "very cheap" acoustic guitar. Eventually he advanced, and met up with former schoolfriend Michael Burchell, who later assumed the stage name of Jon Mark. The two young men composed and performed songs together, and by 1963, just two years out of school, had been signed by Decca Records. They recorded their first album, Relax Your Mind, in one day with American producer Shel Talmy, who had worked with bands that include the Who, Chad and Jeremy, the Kinks, Manfred Mann, and Ralph McTell. The two set about busking in Europe and located an agent who found them a position performing on a Cunard Line ship, sailing sixteen times across the Atlantic.[1] After a time, the two had enough of sailing. Davies was content playing as a session musician for Fontana Records, touring with some musicians of note including Spencer Davis. Davies was additionally recruited as a record producer for a folk album from Jeremy Taylor, with whom Davies guested on two songs.[2]

Sweet Thursday[edit]

Davies and Mark reunited in 1968, forming a band with Nicky Hopkins as keyboardist, bass guitarist Brian Odgers, and drummer Harvey Burns, under the name Sweet Thursday. The eponymous album that resulted was released, but never had a chance with the public. Their American record label, Tetragrammaton Records, abruptly declared bankruptcy[3][4] (by legend, the same day the album was released),[5] and the musicians never had the opportunity to perform their new material on stage or promote the album.

Davies returned to session work in the music industry.[6] For a time, Davies played in folk clubs, one being the "hub" of folk music in London, the Cecil Sharp House. He also gave guitar lessons to support himself. "I began concentrating more on my guitar playing. I then found there was a lot of session work available for a fingerstyle acoustic player", he said to Beat Instrumental Magazine.[7] He continued to write new material of his own, with hopes of a solo album in the future.

With Cat Stevens[edit]

Davies was first recruited to work with Cat Stevens in early 1970, by Stevens' producer, Paul Samwell-Smith.[8] He was considered a perfect complement to Stevens' new, folk-rock based approach to music, and the combination clicked.[9] Initially hired as a session musician on the album Mona Bone Jakon, Davies' more experienced guitar "finger-work" and backing vocals assisted Stevens to achieve his new sound. He had a hit single from the album with the song "Lady D'Arbanville", a madrigal-sounding song written about Stevens' girlfriend at the time, which ultimately reached #8 on the pop charts in the United Kingdom,[10] and is credited as the first Cat Stevens song to gain attention in the United States. The song and the album laid the groundwork for Stevens' most productive albums to come. Davies had developed a love for the emerging folk-rock sound, as had Stevens. After they completed Mona Bone Jakon, within six weeks' time had already begun to work on Tea for the Tillerman.

Wooing the American audience[edit]

As his accompanist on Stevens' first tour of the United States, Davies said that the two experienced some stage fright, upon hearing that they'd be opening for Steve Winwood's band, Traffic, at the Fillmore East. However, the concert was a hit, and had three standing ovations, bolstering both the confidence of the band and the sales of Stevens' albums. Working alongside Stevens, Davies was a thoroughly essential partner in catapulting Stevens into world-fame. Within a short time, Davies was regarded by astute fans as a perfectionist, arriving before Stevens at each concert to personally check out both the sound and instruments after the sound checks, and practicing the material until he was satisfied that the audience would receive the best concert available. Such finishing touches kept him the most essential member of Stevens' artistic team.[11] Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat both were platinum albums in the United States, and each produced top charting singles. Lauded as Stevens' right-hand man, Davies put off his dreams of solo albums because he insisted that Stevens' work was more essential, and he remained loyal to him, saying he would eventually find time for his own project.[8]

In 1972, Davies' at last found the time and opportunity to launch his own solo album. Daydo was released in 1972, containing songs written or co-written by Davies, and supported by Stevens on piano with other members of Cat Stevens' band, including drummer Gerry Conway. "Daydo" was Davies' nickname until age 18.[12] The album was produced by Stevens and Paul Samwell-Smith.[13] The solo effort received mixed reviews.[12]

Reaction to Stevens' conversion[edit]

After Cat Stevens left the pop music business, Davies confessed feeling quite sad. He stated that after being so fortunate to have attached himself to a "major talent" for so long that there was a period of time that he mourned, as did quite a few others. The musicians in Stevens' band were an unusually positive assemblage of dedicated professionals who became fast friends. Davies commented that he hadn't seen this major change in Stevens' life coming, since Stevens' search for spiritual fulfillment had led him to experiment with all kinds of religions, including Numerology, Buddhism, I-Ching, and more. Stevens' mother was a Swedish Baptist, and father, a Greek Cypriot who was Greek Orthodox, and Stevens himself had been schooled in a Catholic school. Thus, Davies said in an interview that covered Cat Stevens' career on the Vh1's series, Behind the Music, that he thought he was merely going through another phase right up until the last month or so.[14]

1977 to 2005[edit]

Davies then moved on to session work again and soon was composing songs and performing with vocalist Ronnie Lane who was an old friend and former member of the English bands, The Faces and the Small Faces.[15] Together, the two co-wrote and recorded the opening track for Lane's upcoming album, See Me, as well as "One Step", and another tune, "She's Leaving", in 1979.

Current work[edit]

With the re-emergence of Yusuf Islam back on stage, Davies has spent the majority of his time performing and recording with him, and does so to the present day.

Davies also currently performs with the group Good Men in the Jungle with his former bandmate from their Cat Stevens days, drummer Gerry Conway. Conway, also formerly of Jethro Tull, plays most often with Fairport Convention). Others in this band include Davies' daughter, Becky Moncurr.[16]

Discography[edit]

Alun Davies discography[edit]

Year Album Musicians Label Supporting Musicians
1963 Relax Your Mind Alun Davies
Jon Mark
Decca Records
LK 4547
Arthur Watts (bass)
Big Jim Sullivan (guitar)
Judd Proctor (banjo, guitar)
1968 Sweet Thursday Alun Davies
Jon Mark
Nicky Hopkins
Fontana Records/Tetragrammaton Records Harvey Burns
Brian Odgers
1972 Daydo Alun Davies CBS Records Cat Stevens (Piano, Guitar, backing vocals)
Gerry Conway (drums, percussion)
Nicky Hopkins(bass)
Jean Roussel (keyboards, organ, backing vocals)

Daydo[edit]

Alun Davies' only solo album as of 2008 was Daydo, released in 1972. Much of the material was written as early as 1970, but this was just prior to Davies' introduction, backup work, and devoted friendship with Cat Stevens. With the intention of releasing the material as soon as possible, Davies bemoaned the fact that he had so little time to debut his own work, but stated that he had no regrets. The LP at last was released in the summer of 1972.[8] Liner notes for the LP were written by Jon Mark, of Sweet Thursday and the Mark-Almond Band.

With Cat Stevens[edit]

with Paul Williams & Friends[edit]

With Mark-Almond[edit]

  • 1973 73

With Stevens as Yusuf Islam[edit]

Other collaborations[edit]

1977 Say It Ain't So - Murray Head - Acoustic Guitar on Say It Ain't So, Boats Away, and Never Even Thought

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Anderson, Murphy (1963). "Magicat: Relax Your Mind With Jon and Alun". Magicat Cat Stevens Fansite. Archived from the original on 24 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  2. ^ Plummer, Mark (September 16, 1972). "Davis the Guitar (Surname spelled incorrectly)". Melody Maker. Archived from the original on 13 January 2009. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  3. ^ Callahan, Mike; Eyries, Patrice; and Edwards, Dave (25 March 2008). "Tetragrammaton Album Discography". Both Sides Now Publications. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  4. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Deep Purple [1969]: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  5. ^ George-Warren, Holly; Romanowski, Patricia; Pareles, Jon, eds. (2001). The Rolling stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (3rd ed.). Fireside Books. p. 608. ISBN 0-7432-0120-5. 
  6. ^ Harris, Craig Biography, Answers
  7. ^ "Alun Davies - Player of the Month". Beat Instrumental Magazine. August 1972. Archived from the original on 24 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  8. ^ a b c Brown, George Cat's Man February 5, 1972 Publisher Disc and Music Echo Accessed 2008-08-11
  9. ^ Harris, Craig Allmusic Guide, 1970 Alun Davies: Biography
  10. ^ Islam, Yusuf Official 2008 website April, 1970 Accessed 2008-08-11
  11. ^ Magicat, Cat Stevens' Scrapbook Alun Davies' Page
  12. ^ a b Disc Magazine Double Feature: Alun Davies or never let a Daydo By Interview with Davies and Cat Stevens
  13. ^ Harris, Craig Allmusic Davies Biography Artist Direct
  14. ^ Forbes, Jim (host) (2000). Cat Stevens: Behind the Music (TV-Series). United States: VH1. 
  15. ^ Unterberger, Ritchie AMG Reviews: Biography All-Music Review
  16. ^ List of members of Good Men in the Jungle

External links[edit]