2019 blaqk box legend: BILLY DAVIS


Billy Davis, a Southern transplant from Memphis, Tennessee, is a trailblazing guitarist who grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Raised in the 1950's Black Bottom neighborhood, he started his first band Billy Davis & The Upsetters, at age seventeen, which became Berry Gordy's first in-house live band pre-Motown. 

At age eighteen, Billy Davis joined HANK BALLARD & THE MIDNIGHTERS, as a Midnighter on guitar. He toured with Hank Ballard & The Midnighters from 1959 through 1965 and acted as a right-hand-man for Hank. He also spent his free time hanging out with Sam Cooke during this period and became very close to Sam. Davis met the teenaged Jimi Hendrix in 1959 in Seattle, while on tour with The Midnighters and becoming mentor to the ture legend and teaching him what he knew about guitar. Also in 1959, Davis met B.B. King, one of his personal heroes, and they became friends for life. Davis was to meet and become friends with many music legends. He is currently working on a project to showcase an enormous personal photography collection and the many fascinating stories that go with it.

After The Midnighters, Davis made this way to New York and became a sought-after studio musician. He played with Jackie Wilson and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas among others on stage and in the studio. He played lead guitar on Jackie Wilson's recording of “Higher and Higher”.

When SAM and DAVE came around in the mid-1980s, they called and asked Davis to gather up a band and back them on a gig where James Brown was headlining. Brown, an old friend for twenty plus years, gave Davis Hank Ballard's phone number and suggested he call Hank to reunite the band. Due to that call from Billy Davis, The Midnighters were on tour again steadily throughout the 1980s. 

​The Legendary Hank Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and Davis, his main collaborator, has a statue of his own. In 2001, most of The Midnighters along with Hank Ballard and of course Billy Davis were among the first to be inducted into the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame in Boston, MA. Billy Davis is also an R&B Hall of Fame Inductee.

Over the last decade, Davis has steadily performed in the Detroit area and back at his old Black Bottom neighborhood at places such as the Raven Lounge, Detroit's oldest Blues club, Sundays in the D on Gratiot Avenue, Nancy Whiskey's, and even at outdoor jams. He has an avant-garde guitar style that is difficult to categorize into just one style and package as a single panache; he is skilled in many different genres. He has written and performed many original songs with groups and as a solo artist. He has an extensive songbook of well known and loved classics perfected over many decades. Working with young musicians as a mentor or tutor is a special joy for him.

At 81 years of age, playing every day for himself, in a group, or just sitting in on others’ dates, Billy Davis can be found around the Motor City jamming on his electric guitar. His current original band is called Billy Davis Rhythm Machine. Davis is a hard-working guitarist and through the years has associated with such well-known musical contemporaries as David Ruffin, Chubby Checker, and Berry Gordy. He has fans as famous as Bruce Willis, B.B. King, Hendrix, and many others. His playing is never rusty, he is always ahead of the curve, and has only gotten better, if that's possible! Davis is poised for another career breakthrough with a new solo recording in the blues genre coming from the next generation of record labels, Jarrett Koral's Jett Plastic Records.

Mr. Davis is and inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame , Doo Wop Hall of Fame , R&B Hall of Fame