The Cooperstown Concert Series will begin its 50th season Saturday, Nov. 2, with a performance by the Guy Davis Trio.
“I am excited to be there,” Davis told the Daily Star in a phone interview Tuesday, Oct. 22. “It seems like I have been near there or passed by there, but I have never been there before.”
The son of actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Davis grew up in and around New York City, but he said his music is shaped by his father’s mother, who was from rural Georgia. He said his influences were old-school blues-men, such as Lead Belly and Blind Willie McTell, and his parents stories of dealing with racism and the Ku Klux Klan.
“I have taken those early influences because they played such excellent music, and because it has inspired me to create other music,” he said. “I also have family history that goes back to those early influences. My grandmother, I remember when she would sing in church, and from her, singing goes deep into my psyche.”
Davis has done some acting, too, and he said he learned from watching his parents build careers without succumbing to the stereotypes of their era.
“Some of the lessons were overt, such as when they would talk to me about racism in the entertainment industry,” he said. “Some of the ways they taught me were more subtle. Rather than sitting by the telephone, waiting for Hollywood to call with good roles, they had a notebook they kept with places they could perform. They would go all over the country to tell their stories.
“This I know from my parents,” he said. “They never lectured me about it, but this is how they made a regular living.”
Although he has been focusing on writing songs and recording music, Davis said he still performs, “The Adventures of Fishy Waters,” a musical about his influences, which he created in 1994.
“Of late, I have definitely been focused on recording and writing songs,” he said.
“It seems like the itch I have to scratch as an actor, does get scratched by being on stage playing music,” he continued.
Although he has been writing songs since the 1970s, the reviews for his recent albums call Davis a performer who is playing old music with a fresh spin. His most recent release, the 2015 album and song, “Kokomo Kid,” was called his best album by nodepression.com, which bills itself as the journal of roots music. And a review in the Windsor Star in Windsor, Ontario, called Davis, “America’s greatest link to the blues right now.” A new album will likely be released next year, he said.
Davis said he is playing the same music that inspired him decades ago, but he thinks he songwriting and storytelling instruments have improved.
“I have more stories to tell than I used to have,” he said. “Or, to put it another way, I am better able to express those stories.
“I like to honor the music, play the music and create more music based on the music which inspires me,” he said.
Davis will play his Cooperstown show with his trio, which includes Mark Murphy on bass and Christopher James on guitar and mandolin. “These are guys that I trust with my music,” he said. “They know the intuitions of my music, and where I am going with things.”
The show will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, in the village ballroom at 22 Main St. in Cooperstown. Tickets are available online at cooperstownconcertseries.org and locally at Ellsworth and Sill, Riverwood, Church & Scott Pharmacy and The Fly Creek General Store. Visit guydavis.com for more information.