Blues Bytes


November 2019

Larry Davis
 I Ain't Beggin' Nobody
Pulsar Records

Larry DavisWhen you talk about hard-luck stories in the blues, one certainly has to take a look at the career of Larry Davis. Best known for writing the song “Texas Flood” and recording it in 1958 for Duke Records, Davis’ recording options were limited afterward. He recorded several fine sides for Kent and Virgo Records in the late ’60s and early ’70s with limited success. In 1972, his career (and his life) were almost ended due to a motorcycle accident which left his left side temporarily paralyzed, and subsequent recordings for various labels sank without a trace if they were even released in the first place.

Davis’ luck changed a bit in 1981 when he recorded and released Funny Stuff for Rooster Blues Records with Oliver Sain, Johnnie Johnson, and Phil Westmoreland at Sain’s studio in St. Louis. That album won Contemporary Blues Album of the Year and the single “Since I’ve Been Loving You” won Blues Single of the Year at the Handy Awards and earned Davis a wider audience and a European tour. In the mid ’80s, Sain lured Davis back into the studio to record I Ain’t Beggin’ Nobody for the Pulsar Records label, an album which ranks with the singer/guitarist’s best but also one of his hardest to find.

Davis’ rich vocals are front and center on the opening title track, written by Sain. The superb slow blues “Sneaking Around” was written by drummer Keith Robinson, with Davis really pouring his heart into the vocal, as he also does on his own “Giving Up On Your Love,” and Little Milton’s “I’m Coming Home,” another pair of fine slow burners. The funky instrumental “Little Rock” gives listeners a chance to check out his tough Albert King-influenced guitar work (Davis played bass in King’s band in the ’60s) and his interplay with the band (Sain – keys/alto and tenor sax, Westmoreland – guitar, Ronnie Guyton – bass, Robinson drums).

Chuck Willis’ “Please Don’t Go” is a winner as well. Davis is a master of the slow burning blues track and Sain really gives him a great platform on which to work. Little Walter’s classic “Last Night” is given a nice urban blues, reset with some stinging guitar from Davis. The disc closes with a pair of Sain compositions, the feisty “I’m A Rolling Stone” and the silky smooth “I’ve Got My Eyes On You.”

The album received rave reviews upon its release in 1987 but was difficult to track down (I remember seeing a mail order advertisement in a late 1987 issue of Living Blues). By then, Davis’ first album was hard to find as well, but in 1992 Davis released the excellent Sooner or Later on Rounder’s Bullseye Blues label (operated by Ron Levy) that finally gave him a widely-distributed release to showcase his talents. Sadly, Davis passed away from cancer in April of 1994.

Thankfully, Evidence Records reissued I Ain’t Beggin’ Nobody in the mid ’90s and, though it’s out of print again, it’s a bit easier to find now. Blues fans are strongly encouraged to track down as many of Larry Davis’ recordings as possible.

--- Graham Clarke



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