Jump to content

Jesse Ed Davis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jesse Ed Davis
Davis at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971
Background information
Birth nameJesse Edwin Davis III
Born(1944-09-21)September 21, 1944
Norman, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedJune 22, 1988(1988-06-22) (aged 43)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Rock
  • blues
Years active1950s–1988
Formerly ofPlastic Ono Band
  • Tantalayo Saenz
  • Kelly Brady

Jesse Edwin Davis III (September 21, 1944 – June 22, 1988) was an American guitarist.[1] He was well regarded as a session artist and solo performer, was a member of Taj Mahal's backing band and played with musicians such as Eric Clapton, John Lennon, and George Harrison.[2] In 2018, he was posthumously inducted into the Native American Music Hall of Fame at the 18th Annual Native American Music Awards.[3] Davis was an enrolled citizen of the Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma[4] with Comanche, Muscogee, and Seminole ancestry.[3][1]

Early life and education


Davis was born in Norman, Oklahoma. His father, Jesse Edwin "Bus" Davis II, was a citizen of the Comanche Nation[5] with Muscogee and Seminole ancestry.[1][6] His father was also a prominent Native American artist whose nome d'arte was Asawoya[5] or Running Wolf.[7][6][8] His mother, Vivian Mae (Bea) Saunkeah, was Kiowa.[7][1][9][10]

Davis began his musical career in the late 1950s in Oklahoma City and surrounding cities with John Ware (later a drummer for Emmylou Harris and Michael Nesmith during the First National Band era); John Selk (later a bass player for Donovan) late 1950s; Jerry Fisher (later a vocalist with Blood, Sweat & Tears);[11] and drummer Bill Maxwell (later with Andrae Crouch).[citation needed]

Davis graduated from Northeast High School in 1962[1] and graduated with a degree in English literature from the University of Oklahoma. Even into his later years, it was remembered that he enjoyed quoting Socrates and Plato.[12] By the mid-1960s, he had quit school and went touring with Conway Twitty.[13]



Davis eventually moved to California. For eight years, he lived in Marina del Rey with his companion, Patti Daley, and her son, Billy. Through his friendship with Levon Helm, he became friends with Leon Russell, who introduced him to recording session work.[14]

Davis joined Taj Mahal and played guitar and piano on Mahal's first four albums. He played slide, lead and rhythm, country and even jazz during his three-year stint with Mahal. Mahal and his band were invited to England by the Rolling Stones,[15] and they appeared as a musical guest in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus.[16]

He played in the "electric" disc of Mahal's double album Giant Step/De Ole Folks at Home (1969) and appeared in two songs of his fourth album Happy Just to Be Like I Am (1971).[17]

In 1970, Davis played on and produced Roger Tillison's only album for Atco Records, a division of Atlantic. Davis and Tillison − both Oklahoman − were joined at the Record Plant by Bobby Bruce (fiddle), Larry Knechtel (organ and harmonica), Stan Szelest (piano); Billy Rich (bass); Jim Keltner (from Oklahoma, drums) and Sandy Konikoff (percussion); Don Preston and Joey Cooper were vocal accompanists.[18] Roger Tillison's Album was recorded live. It was finally released on CD by Wounded Bird Records in 2008, with Davis playing electric guitar, bottleneck (slide) guitar and banjo.[19]

In 1971, Davis recorded his first solo album after Atco Records signed a contract with him to record two albums with the label. The first was the album ¡Jesse Davis! (1971), which featured backing vocals by Gram Parsons and performances by Leon Russell and Eric Clapton, among others.[20]

Davis was close friends with Gene Clark. In 1971, he played on and produced Clark's second solo album, White Light, and provided lead guitar on Clark's album No Other in 1974. On Jackson Browne's 1972 debut album, Davis played the electric guitar solo on Browne's hit song "Doctor, My Eyes".[17]

After guesting with Russell on Bob Dylan's 1971 single "Watching the River Flow", and collaborating in Albert King’s Lovejoy, Davis went on to work with George Harrison, performing at the ex-Beatle's 1971 Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden, along with Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Russell, Keltner, Clapton and others.[21]

Two more solo albums followed: in 1972 Ululu, which included the original release of Harrison's "Sue Me, Sue You Blues",[22][23] and in 1973 Keep Me Comin, occasionally listed as Keep On Coming. Around this time, Davis began playing with John Lennon, for whom he played lead guitar on the albums Walls and Bridges (1974) and Rock 'n' Roll (1975).[13] In addition, Davis was a guest performer on other albums by former Beatles: Harrison's Extra Texture (1975)[24] and Starr's Goodnight Vienna (1974) and Ringo's Rotogravure (1976).[17]

In the late summer and fall of 1975, he performed with the Faces as second guitarist throughout their final US tour. It was on this tour that Davis became addicted to drugs.[15]

After the Faces tour, Davis continued to work as a session player. In addition to the artists listed above, Davis contributed to albums by Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Keith Moon, Steve Miller, Guthrie Thomas, Harry Nilsson, Ry Cooder, David Cassidy, Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond, Rick Danko, Van Dyke Parks and others. He played on Leonard Cohen's Death of a Ladies' Man (1977), produced by Phil Spector.

In 1977, Davis moved to Hawaii. In 1981, he returned to Los Angeles broke and ravaged by drug and alcohol addiction.[12] In and out of clinics, Davis disappeared from the music industry for a time, spending much of the 1980s dealing with alcohol and drug addiction. In 1985 he formed and played in the Graffiti Band, which coupled his music with the poetry of the Native American activist John Trudell (American Indian Movement). The result of this collaboration was the album, released initially only on cassette, called AKA Grafitti Man, which Bob Dylan called the best album of the year.[15][25]

In the spring of 1987, the Graffiti Band performed with Taj Mahal at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood, California. At this show, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and John Fogerty got up from the audience to join Davis and Mahal in an unrehearsed set which included Fogerty's "Proud Mary" and Dylan's "Watching the River Flow", as well as classics such as "Blue Suede Shoes", "Peggy Sue", "Honey Don't", "Matchbox" and "Gone, Gone, Gone".[26]

Personal life


Davis had a relationship with Patti Daley for about ten years. Then he married twice, first to Tantalayo Saenz and then Kelly Brady.[1]

In his last years, he served as drug and alcohol counselor at the American Indian Free Clinic in Long Beach.[12]

Davis collapsed in the laundry room of an apartment building and was pronounced dead in Venice, Los Angeles, California, on June 22, 1988. Police stated his death appeared to be the result of a drug overdose. Davis had a fresh needle mark on one arm and burned matches and tin foil were scattered on the ground nearby.[27] He was 43 years old.



In 2002, he was posthumously inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.[28]

In 2018, Jesse Ed Davis was inducted into the Native American Music Hall of Fame at the 18th Annual Native American Music Awards. A performance tribute was held by his former Graffiti band members, Mark Shark and Quiltman.[29] His cousins Richenda Davis Bates and Constance Davis Carter accepted the induction.[10][30]



With Junior Markham & The Tulsa Review

  • "Let 'em Roll Johnny" / "Operator Operator" (Uptown Records, 1967)
  • "Black Cherry" / "Gonna Send You Back to Georgia" (Uptown Records, 1967)

With Taj Mahal


As leader

  • ¡Jesse Davis! (Atco Records, 1971)
  • Ululu (Atco Records, 1972)
  • Keep Me Comin or Keep On Coming (Epic Records, 1973)
    • Bonus Record (Epic Records, 1973), an exclusive interview in Los Angeles with KMET-FM's B. Mitchel Reed - Jesse "Ed" Davis talks about his background, his music and his new album (promotional release for Keep Me Comin album)
  • Red Dirt Boogie: The Atco Recordings 1970-1972 (Real Gone Music, 2017), compilation of his first two albums

As sideman



  1. ^ a b c d e f Bates, Richenda Davis. "Davis, Jesse Edwin III (1944–1988)". The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved March 18, 2023.
  2. ^ Simmonds, Jeremy. The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches. p. 235.
  3. ^ a b "2018 Jesse Ed Davis Inducted into the NAMA Hall of Fame". Native American Music Awards. Retrieved March 18, 2023.
  4. ^ Arax, Mark; Feldman, Paul (June 24, 1988). "Backed Up Major Artists : Jesse Ed Davis, 43; Noted Rock Guitarist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 19, 2023.
  5. ^ a b "Jesse Edwin Davis". Native American Artists Resource Collection Online. Heard Museum Billie Jane Baguley Library and Archives. Retrieved March 18, 2023.
  6. ^ a b Lister, Patrick D. (1995). The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters. Tulsa, OK: SIR Publications. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-8061-9936-8.
  7. ^ a b Jacobson, Oscar B.; D'Ucel, Jeanne (1950). American Indian Painters (PDF). Nice, France: C. Szwedzicki. p. 15.
  8. ^ Peters, Stephanie (2012). Creating to Compete: Juried Exhibitions of Native American Painting, 1946-1960 (PDF). Thesis (M.A.)--Arizona State University, 2012. pp. 54, 70, 72, 75, 77.
  9. ^ "Oklahoma Music Trail: Jesse Ed Davis". TravelOK.com. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  10. ^ a b 18th Annual Native American Music Awards Oct 25, 2019 on YouTube (acceptance speech starts at min 54:00).
  11. ^ Jesse Ed Davis Retrieved 24 November 2022
  12. ^ a b c MARK ARAX and PAUL FELDMAN OBITUARIES : Backed Up Major Artists : Jesse Ed Davis, 43; Noted Rock Guitarist, June 24, 1988. Los Angeles Times
  13. ^ a b Kurutz, Steve. "Jesse Ed Davis | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  14. ^ Nash, J. D. (October 16, 2018). "Jesse Ed Davis Inducted into Native American Music Hall of Fame - American Blues Scene". Retrieved April 26, 2020.
  15. ^ a b c Documentary film, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, 2017
  16. ^ "Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, The (1995) - Full Credits - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  17. ^ a b c Obrecht, Jas (2010). "Jesse Ed Davis: "I Just Play the Notes That Sound Good"". Jas Obrecht Music Archive. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  18. ^ Stone Brown, Peter (December 12, 2013). "R.I.P. Singer-Songwriter Roger Tillison « American Songwriter". American Songwriter. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  19. ^ Roger Tillison's Album - Roger Tillison | Credits | AllMusic, retrieved April 22, 2020
  20. ^ "Jesse Ed Davis "Jesse Davis"". Rising Storm. January 26, 2012. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  21. ^ "The George Harrison Bangla Desh Benefit". Rolling Stone. September 2, 1971. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  22. ^ Ululu - Jesse Ed Davis | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic, retrieved April 20, 2020
  23. ^ Rodriguez, Robert (2010). Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles' Solo Years, 1970–1980. Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books. p. 82. ISBN 978-1-4165-9093-4.
  24. ^ "Extra Texture". George Harrison (official website). Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  25. ^ John Trudell, John Trudell Archives Re-releases The Critically Acclaimed Aka Grafitti Man, March 21, 2017
  26. ^ May 2018, Damian Fanelli 24 (May 24, 2018). "Watch George Harrison, John Fogerty and Bob Dylan Jam in 1987". Guitar World. Retrieved April 22, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ "Drug Overdose Blamed In Death of Guitarist". The Oklahoman. July 25, 1988. Archived from the original on March 6, 2017. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  28. ^ "Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame (inductees)". www.okjazz.org. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  29. ^ "HALL OF FAME". nativeamericanmusicawards.com. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  30. ^ Department, World Music Central News (October 18, 2018). "Winners of the 2018 Native American Music Awards Announced | World Music Central.org". Retrieved April 23, 2020.