He was born in the Carmarthenshire village of Glanamman, and was educated in Bangor and at the Central School of Speech and Drama. His first professional appearance was in the National Eisteddfod of Wales in Aberavon in 1966. His talents were quickly recognised by BBC Wales. He made his name on Welsh language television shows such as the sitcom Fo a Fe. The head of Light Entertainment, Meredydd Edwards, brought together Ryan and Ronnie Williams as a double act, and the pair had immediate success, first in their Welsh-language television show Ryan a Ronnie. This also launched them onto the concert and cabaret circuit across Wales.
Ryan and Ronnie's show became so popular that it was moved to BBC1 and broadcast in English, winning them a much wider audience, and three series were shown between 1971 and 1973. Davies's speciality was dressing up as a "typical" Welsh housewife for a weekly sketch on the show known as "Our House", in which Ryan played "Mam" and Ronnie played Will, the father. Ryan and Ronnie were hugely popular in Wales. They were the first comedians ever to make TV series in Welsh and English, and were thought of fondly as the Welsh answer to Morecambe and Wise.
Davies had a simultaneous solo career as a singer, pianist and songwriter. His best-known compositions are: "Hen Geiliog y Gwynt", "Nadolig Pwy a Wyr" and "Blodwen a Meri". His album, Ryan at the Rank, is now regarded as a classic. Davies starred as "2nd Voice" in the 1972 film Under Milk Wood with Richard Burton. One of Ryan's own songs, "Pan Fo'r Nos yn Hir", was performed at his funeral. It has been recorded by other performers, including Rhydian Roberts on his 2011 album Welsh Songs: Caneuon Cymraeg, and the Whitland Male Voice Choir on their centenary album "A Hundred Years of Song". Other songs written by Ryan and sung with his partner Ronnie Williams in their television series have been covered by other artists, including "Ti a dy ddoniau" (Jodie Marie), "Yn y bore" and "Blodwen a Meri".
In 1975, the duo split, the official reason being Ronnie's ill-health, with Ryan continuing to appear extensively on television and making a traditional Christmas appearance in pantomime at the Swansea Grand Theatre. However, it was Ryan who, in 1977, died suddenly of an asthma attack while visiting friends in Buffalo, New York, USA.
- Under Milk Wood (1972) - Second Man
- Ryan Davies: Transdiffusion TV Heroes. Accessed 11 March 2013
- Wales Online, "New book highlights life of Ryan and Ronnie - 'The Welsh Morecambe and Wise'", 2 November 2014. Accessed 28 February 2016
- Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir - Recordings. Accessed 28 February 2016
- "WHITLAND MALE VOICE CHOIR - CAN MLYNEDD O GAN / A HUNDRED YEARS OF SONG". Sain. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
- "Jodie Marie". S4C. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
- Swansea's Grand Theatre: official website. Accessed 11 March 2013