Thursday, March 4, 2010
James "Thunderbird" DAVIS - Check Out Time 1989
James Davis went out the way entertainers often dream of. While performing at the Blues Saloon in St. Paul, MN, he suffered a fatal heart attack in mid-set and died on-stage. The tragic event ended a comeback bid that warmed the heart of blues aficionados; Davis' whereabouts were so unknown prior to his triumphant re-emergence that he was rumored to be dead.
His melismatic vocal delivery betraying strong gospel roots, Davis secured his first pro gig in 1957 as opening act for Guitar Slim. The flamboyant guitarist was responsible for tagging Davis with his "Thunderbird" moniker. Davis lost a drinking contest to his boss that sent him to the hospital; the singer's libation of choice that fateful day was Thunderbird wine (which Davis swore off for life).
Davis signed on with Don Robey's Houston-based Duke Records in 1961. Robey utilized his new discovery as a demo singer for Bobby Bland when Davis wasn't cutting his own singles. Two of Davis' Duke offerings, the tortured blues numbers "Blue Monday" and "Your Turn to Cry," rank with finest blues 45s of the early '60s, but did little for Davis at the time. He left Duke in 1966, opening for Joe Tex and O.V. Wright on the road before settling down.
After just about giving up entirely on show biz, Davis was tracked down in Houma, LA, by Black Top Records boss Hammond Scott and two cohorts. A 1989 album called "CHECK OUT TIME" was the happy result; sidemen on the date included two former cohorts, bassist Lloyd Lambert (Guitar Slim's bandleader) and guitarist Clarence Hollimon. The resultant acclaim catapulted Davis back into the limelight for the last years of his life.
By Bill Dahl. AMG.
A vocalist who worked with Guitar Slim, Joe Tex and Nappy Brown, Davis charted with a pair of hit singles for the Duke label and then disappeared and was believed to be dead, only to resurface again in the mid-1980s. James Davis was born in Pritchard, Alabama (near Mobile), 1938. As was common with a number of Blues and R&B vocalists, Davis was raised in a religious family and was first exposed to music by singing Gospel in church choirs. But the sounds of R&B had become strong for Davis by the late 1950s and a chance encounter with the flamboyant Guitar Slim forever changed his life. For the next three years, until Slim's untimely death in 1959, Davis would serve as both valet and opening act for the guitarist and his band. Guitar Slim is also credited with giving Davis his nickname, 'Thunderbird'. After Guitar Slim's death, Davis was brought to Houston in 1961 by Don Robey to work for the Duke label. After several years with Duke, without seeing much return monetarily, Davis left the label in 1966. He took on working with performers like Joe Tex, 0.V. Wright and Albert Collins, once again returning to the role of warm-up performer. But by the mid-1970s, Davis became disenchanted with the music industry, giving it up almost entirely and started working as a laborer. Over the next decade, Davis would work in a number of jobs, but the only singing he performed was in church. Sadly, during this time, the public appeared to have forgotten about James 'Thunderbird' Davis. In 1982, Rounder Records released a compilation of recordings from the Duke label's heyday, 'Angels In Houston'. It included both the hits 'Blue Monday' and 'Your Turn To Cry'. Unfortunately, the liner notes declared that Davis wasdeceased. But, to everyone's surprise, Davis attempted a comeback in 1984, fronting the late Z.Z. Hill's band. In mid '80s he signed with Black Top label and immediately went into the studio. An all-star collection of performers were put together for the session including, Anson Funderburgh, Earl King, Ron Levy, Grady Gaines, and old pals Lambert and Clarence Holiman. A stellar recording, 'Check Out Time' was released in 1989 and included a wonderful reworking of 'Your Turn To Cry', as well as brilliant new material like the title song and 'What Else Is There To Do?'.
Thought by many to be deceased, singer James Davis returned from musical invisibility to make this sparkling comeback set on this album. His hearty pipes sounding anything but over-the-hill, Davis roared a combination of his own fine tunes and remakes of songs first done by Bobby Bland, James Carr, and Wynonie Harris in front of a terrific combo. A revival of his own slow blues 'Your Turn to Cry' recalled Davis's early-'60s glory days.
James "Thunderbird" DAVIS- Vocals
Clarence Hollimon (right channel), Anson Funderburgh (left channel)- Guitars
Earl King- Guitar tr.10
Ron Levy- Keyboards
Lloyd Lambert- Bass
David Lee- Drums
Grady Gaines- Tenor Sax (all solos)
Kaz Kazanoff- Tenor and Baritone S
Mr. Excello, Saxy Boy- Tenor Sax
Tony Klatka- Trumpet
George Porter- Bass tr.9
01. I'm Ready Now 3:42
02. You Did Me Wrong 3:04
03. Hello Sundown 3:59
04. Check-Out Time 4:10
05. What Else Is There To Do? 3:23
06. If I Had My Life To Live Over 1:56
07. It's Your Turn To Cry 2:54
08. Come By Here 2:59
09. I Should've Known Better 3:54
10. A Case Of Love 3:42
11. Bloodshot Eyes 3:09
12. The Dark End Of The Street 3:55