Cyril Davies

(1932 – 1964)

During his short life, singer and harmonica player Cyril Davies played a key role in popularizing American Blues music in the U.K. in the 1960s, both as a performer and bandleader and as the driving force, with partner Alexis Korner, behind a pair of influential venues. Blues Incorporated, the band Davies started with guitarist Korner, is credited as the first British band to play electric Blues and R&B, and an inspiration for many musicians who would go on to fame, including members of the Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin and the Yardbirds.

Davies began playing music publicly in the early 1950s, as a banjo player in a Trad Jazz band. By 1954 he’d formed an acoustic Blues/Skiffle duo with Alexis Korner, playing 12-string guitar, but without a venue dedicated to such music, the pair struggled to book shows. Soon Davies and Korner opened the London Blues and Barrelhouse Club, which drew crowds for shows by visiting American bluesmen such as Muddy Waters and Memphis Slim. Around this time, after hearing the Chess recordings of Little Walter, Davies concentrated his musical efforts on playing Chicago-style harmonica.

In 1962, Davies and Korner opened the Ealing Club and formed Blues Incorporated to be the house band.  The band’s informal lineup at times included drummer Charlie Watts (later of the Rolling Stones) and bassist Jack Bruce (later of Cream). The club became one of the centers of the Blues boom that gripped London in the early 60’s; regular patrons included Mick Jagger and Keith Richard the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton , John Mayall and Rod Stewart.

In 1963 Davies struck out on his own and formed the Cyril Davies R&B All-Stars, which at one point featured future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. The band quickly became a top live act, and may have gone on to larger success in the British Invasion, but fate intervened: Davies became ill with pleurisy late in 1963 and died in January 1964 at the age of 31.