Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Spencer Davis - His Life. His Guitars


Spencer Davis

Spencer Davis passed away of a heart attack on October 19 of this year. He gained fame in 1966 as the leader of The Spencer Davis Group.

The Spencer Davis Group
This band was formed in 1963 when he went to a pub called The Golden Eagle to hear The Muff Winwood Jazz Band. This band featured Muff on bass guitar, his younger brother Steve on guitar and organ, and Pete York on drums. 

Spencer became acquainted with the band members and was asked to join the group. The band's name was changed to the Spencer Davis Group because Davis was the only member that did press interviews. 

Davis began playing guitar at age 16. He was deeply influenced by American Blues musicians such as Leadbelly, and Big Bill Broonzy. He also listened to Buddy Holly's music The British players that Spencer Davis favoured included such musicians as Davey Graham, John Martyn, Alex Korner, and Long John Baldry

The Spencer Davis Group
During the mid 1960's, The Spencer Davis Group had a string of number one. hits in the UK and later the world with consecutive single releases starting in 1966  The group's break through hit was “Gimme Some Lovin’”. 

Later releases included "Keep On Running", "Somebody Help Me" and “I’m A Man”. 

Steve Winwood sang lead vocals on all the Spencer Davis Group's hit records up to "I'm a Man" in 1967.  

The Spencer Davis Group continued after Steve Winwood left to form Traffic in April 1967. The group recorded two more albums before splitting in 1969. 

A new version of the group with Spencer Davis and Pete York appeared in 1973 only to disband a year later in late 1974. 

Different versions of the band toured in later years under Davis' direction. The group permanently disbanded and Davis moved to California.

It's Been So Long LP

In 1971 Davis recorded an acoustic album with Peter Jameson called It's Been So Long. Spencer later recorded a solo album called Mousetrap. for United Artists. Due to poor sales he decided to move back to the UK, where he formed a new Spencer Davis Group.

Spencer Davis

During the mid 1970's  Davis also worked as an executive at Island Records where he was a promoter working with Bob Marley, Robert Palmer and Eddie and the Hot Rods as well as promoting the solo career of former Spencer Davis Group member Steve Winwood. 

Classic Rock All Stars - 
 Spencer Davis, Felix Cavaliere,
Mitch Ryder, Rick Derringer

In 1993, Davis formed the supergroup the Class Rock All-Stars. He left the group in 1995 to form World Classic Rockers with former Eagles bassist Randy Meisner, singer Bobby Kimball and guitarist Denny Laine. 

Spencer Davis at
Catalina Island Exhibit
During the summer of 2012, the Catalina Island Museum hosted an exhibition called "Gimme Some Lovin':The Spencer Davis Group", to celebrate Davis' musical career. To complement the museum show, the museum also hosted a symposium.

 It was called  "The British Invasion", where Davis was joined on a panel by, among others, Micky Dolenz of the Monkees and a July Fourth concert featuring Davis singing his hits with a backing band named 'The Catalina All Stars'. 

Davis married his wife Pauline in the 1960s. They had two daughters: Sarah, Lisa, and a son, Gareth. The couple was divorced in the late 1970s. Davis died from pneumonia on 19 October 2020 at the age of 81. 

The original version of The Spencer Davis Group included Spencer playing several unusual guitars for that era. 

The first was a 1959 H49 Harmony Stratotone Jupiter. The guitar had a similar shape to a Gibson Les Paul, but it was actually a hollowbody instrument. The guitar included two DeArmond gold foil pickups on it's spruce top that were mounted on faux tortoise shell material. 

The guitars top has naturally finished wood, but the back, sides and back of the neck were finished with a sunburst finish. He had another one with a sunburst finish.

1959 Harmony
Stratotone Jupiter

The snake-like control panel contained the electronics. On top was a large white pointed pickup selector switch. The control knobs featured a volume and tone control for each pickup, plus a unique blender switch that could be engaged when both pickups were on. The neck was topped with an ebony fret board that was bound and topped with block pearloid markers. 

1959 Harmony
Stratotone Jupiter
This guitar had a Brazilian rosewood floating bridge with a bone nut. The strings were attached to a trapeze tailpiece. We do not know the reason for his choice of such an inexpensive guitar. Perhaps it was lack of funds. Most popular British Invasion groups were playing Gibson, Epiphone or Fender instruments. 

Muff Winwood with
Harmony H22 bass

Perhaps it was because his band-mate, Muff Winwood was playing an equally inexpensive 1960 Harmony H22 Hi-Value hollow body bass that he purchased for 40 quid:  around $99 USD at the time. 

Harmony H22 Bass

This instrument had a single rounded cutaway on it's sunburst body. It came with a single DeArmond gold foil pickup with individual volume and tone controls and a unique bass/baritone switch that in the baritone position gave a brighter tone. The guitar had a huge triangular shaped pickguard. The sunburst body was bound. The neck was bolt-on, and the headstock had small button tuners.  The strings attached to a bridge at the distal end of the body that was covered with a silver metal palm rest. 

For much of The Spencer Davis Group's early career these guitars were used. 

Spencer Davis with
Yamaha SA-50

Later on Davis used a 1960's Yamaha SA-50 guitar. The body resembled a Gibson ES-335, but that was the only similarity. This was an early Yamaha hollow body instrument, with twin Yamaha humbuckers, and a built-in piezo pickup. The F-holes included shielding to minimize feedback. A Jazzmaster type vibrato tailpiece anchored the strings. 

Late 1960's Yamaha

This guitar had a roller bridge. The "wings" of the cutaway had a sharp edge, that was smooth on Gibson type instruments.  The set neck was topped with an ebony bound fretboard that had split trapezoid fret markers. The  headstock had a unique shape. 

Though it was not a Gibson or Epiphone, it was a unique instrument and a step up from the Harmony guitar. 

Spencer Davis With His Different Guitars

In the early days of the group Spencer Davis played 1967 Fender Villager Acoustic 12 string guitar, and a couple of Hofner guitars, including a Club 40 and Club 60.

In later years Davis played some more conventional instruments worthy of a professional musician including a Black Gibson Les Paul, a Sunburst Telecaster, and several Fender Stratocasters.

Click on the links below the pictures for sources.  Click on the links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publication 2020 (text only)


1 comment:

Vishal Khatri said...

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Ghan Ghan - Vishal Khatri