Saturday Single No. 103

Originally posted November 22, 2008

The first time I ever heard of Jesse Ed Davis was a couple of days after George Harrison’s massive Concert for Bangla Desh was released in late 1971, during my freshman year of college. One evening that week, WJON played the album in its entirety, and I hung by the radio, listening intently. When Harrison interrupted the proceedings to introduce the musicians on stage, Davis was one of the guitarists he introduced.*

It was an underwhelming introduction to Davis’ work. As I’ve learned in the years since then, Davis – a full-blooded member of the Kiowa band of native Americans – was one of the most-respected and sought-after session guitarists of the late 1960s and early 1970s. His list of credits at All-Music Guide reads like an index of great albums and/or albums by great performers (the two, sadly, are not always the same) of the era: John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, Mike Bloomfield, Booker T. Jones, George Harrison, Ben Sidran, Leon Russell and Albert King are among the first names on the list.

So when Davis found his way into the studio for the first of his three solo albums – Jesse Davis, released in 1971 – he had plenty of friends and associates available who were eager to back him in the studio. The credits for Jesse Davis list, among others, Chuck Blackwell on drums; Eric Clapton on guitar; Merry Clayton, Venetta Fields, Clydie King and Gram Parsons on background vocals; Jim Gordon and Jerry Jumonville on horns; Larry Knechtel, Leon Russell, Ben Sidran and John Simon on keyboards; Delaney Bramlett on remixing and a host of other folks whose names don’t jump off the page at me quite as high.

All-Music Guide describes the results like this:

“This first solo release from session-guitarist extraordinaire Jesse Ed Davis celebrates the ethos of early-’70s album making; namely, renting a studio for a weekend, supplying lots of drugs and alcohol, and then inviting a few dozen of your closest friends over to record. The album itself is filled with cameos by Davis’ musician pals: Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, and Gram Parsons among them. However, it does neither the all-star backing musicians, nor Davis, much credit. With the exception of Van Morrison’s ‘Crazy Love,’ most of the album was penned by Davis, and in spite of some strong rockers (‘Every Night Is Saturday Night for Me,’) the downplaying of Davis’ exemplary soloing ability does the guitarist a disservice.”

It’s true that the album – like the other two solo albums recorded by Davis, who died young in 1988 – is in fact a bit of an undisciplined jumble. But that actually makes it fun at times, at least when one is in the right mood. I seem to be in that mood this morning, so I thought I’d offer a track from Jesse Davis this morning, and since it is the end of the week, here’s the above-referenced track – titled simply “Every Night Is Saturday Night” on the album – as today’s Saturday Single.

Jesse Ed Davis – “Every Night Is Saturday Night” [1971]

*My memory failed me here. Another memory has surfaced in the years since this post was written: I had to attend a meeting of our church youth group, the Luther League, on the evening when WJON played The Concert For Bangla Desh in its entirety, and I asked Rick to keep an ear on the radio and tell me how it was. His report was more than adequate, but I doubt he told me about the presence of Jesse Ed Davis on stage. So I more than likely first heard of Mr. Davis when I played my own copy of the album shortly after receiving it as a Christmas present later in December 1971. Note added October 7, 2011.


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