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Spencer Davis, one in all rock’s elder statesmen, dies aged 81 – BBC News

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By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

Published

picture copyrightGetty Images

Spencer Davis, one of many key figures of the 1960s beat scene, has died on the age of 81.

The Welsh guitarist was the driving pressure behind The Spencer Davis Group, who scored transatlantic hits with Keep On Running and Somebody Help Me.

The band, which additionally featured a teenage Stevie Winwood, toured with The Who and The Rolling Stones within the 60s.

Davis died in hospital on Monday, whereas being handled for pneumonia, his agent informed the BBC.

“He was a very good friend,” stated Bob Birk, who had labored with the musician for greater than 30 years.

“He was a highly ethical, very talented, good-hearted, extremely intelligent, generous man. He will be missed.”

Telegram from the Beatles

The son of a paratrooper, Davis was born in Swansea in 1939 and first began studying harmonica and the accordion on the age of six.

He moved to London to work for the civil service on the age of 16, however later relocated to Birmingham, the place he taught German by day, and performed in native golf equipment at night time.

Inspired by blues and skiffle, he fashioned a band referred to as The Saints with Bill Wyman, later a member of the Rolling Stones; and carried out folks music with Christine Perfect – who, as Christine McVie, turned a core member of Fleetwood Mac’s basic line-up.

But it was along with his eponymous rock group that he struck gold. Formed in 1963, The Spencer Davis Group featured Davis on guitar, a teenage Stevie Winwood on organ and vocals, his brother Muff on bass and Peter York on drums.

Originally referred to as The Rhythm & Blues Quartette, they modified their identify in 1964 when Muff identified that Davis was the one one who loved doing interviews – the logic being that the remainder of the band may slope off to the pub whereas he dealt with the press.

picture copyrightGetty Images

picture captionKeep on Running knocked the Beatles off the highest of the charts

Their breakout hit, Keep On Running, was a canopy of a music by West Indian performer Jackie Edwards.

When it topped the UK charts in 1966, it knocked the double A-sided Beatles single We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper from the highest slot – and Davis acquired a telegram from the band congratulating him on the achievement.

“It’s in a pile of papers somewhere,” he informed the BBC in 2009. “It said, ‘Congratulations on reaching number one – The Beatles.'”

The follow-up was delayed when Davis bashed his head on a automotive windscreen after braking to keep away from a canine – however Somebody Help Me, one other Jackie Edwards cowl, gave the quartet a second primary in March 1966.

The band went on to show they’d songwriting chops of their very own, with hit singles like I’m A Man and Gimme Some Lovin’, which was later coated by The Blues Brothers.

The Spencer Davis Group additionally recorded the theme music for the long-running youngsters’s TV present Magpie, below the pseudonym The Murgatroyd Band – a reference to the present’s mascot, a fats magpie named Murgatroyd.

‘The Professor’

By 1966, the band had starred in their very own movie, a musical comedy referred to as The Ghost Goes Gear, which discovered the band stranded in a haunted manor. Davis additionally made a cameo in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, as a bus passenger.

Hits adopted within the US, though the band by no means toured there; whereas Davis’s capacity with languages (he was fluent in German, French and Spanish) helped the band additional their profession in Europe.

Those linguistic capabilities even led to Davis recording a German model of The Age Of Aquarius (Aquarius Der Wassermann) in 1968, and earned him a long-lasting nickname: “The Professor”.

picture copyrightGetty Images

picture captionThe Spencer Davis Group – and Nicholas Parsons – of their 1966 comedy musical The Ghost Goes Gear

However, the Spencer Davis Group got here to an premature finish in 1967 when, on the top of their fame, Winwood give up to type Traffic, leaving Davis with out his dynamic frontman.

The band recorded just a few extra minor hits, however broke up quickly after, with Davis shifting to California, the place he launched into a short-lived solo profession.

At the time, he later claimed, he was close to to chapter, due to a punitive contract with Island Records.

“I didn’t realise what had been going on. I’d sold millions of records and hadn’t seen a penny from them,” he informed Music Mart journal in 2005.

“In 1970, I used to be contemplating declaring chapter, however I’d written a monitor with Eddie Hardin, referred to as Don’t Want You No More, which the Allman Brothers placed on their Beginnings album. The damned factor bought six million copies. Suddenly a cheque for £5,000 arrived by way of the door and I’d by no means seen a lot cash in all my life.

“I noticed more cash from that one music than I noticed from all of the stuff that had been an Island manufacturing.”

After confronting Island Records’ proprietor Chris Blackwell over the problem, he was given a job in artist growth on the label within the mid-70s.

There, he helped to advertise newcomers like Bob Marley, Robert Palmer and Eddie And The Hot Rods, in addition to working alongside Winwood, who was now establishing himself as a solo artist.

picture copyrightGetty Images

picture captionThe Spencer Davis Group pictured within the mid-1960s (L-R): Spencer Davis, Peter York, Steve Winwood, Muff Winwood

Davis returned to songwriting with 1984’s Crossfire, which featured contributions from Dusty Springfield and Booker T.

He subsequently reformed the Spencer Davis Group – minus the Winwood brothers – with whom he toured the world for the remainder of his profession, usually enjoying greater than 200 exhibits a 12 months.

Birmingham International Jazz Festival founder Jim Simpson, who was informed about Davis’ passing by drummer Pete York, stated: “Spencer was a beautiful man – at all times very courteous and a purist about music.

“The Spencer Davis Group stuck more to the blues and never became a fully-fledged rock band. Spencer was scholarly and well educated, very gentle and kind and his tastes in music were spot on.”

The musician is survived by his long-time associate June, and three grownup youngsters.

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you will have a narrative suggestion e mail leisure.information@bbc.co.uk.

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