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70 years of music for Gil Davis

2/3/2021

Gil Davis’ music career includes a No. 3 hit record on the Billboard music charts, a performance at the Apollo Theater in New York, and he is an inductee into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame.

A No. 3 hit record on the Billboard music charts. Inductee into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame. Performance at the Apollo Theater in New York.
These are just a few of the accomplishments of Gil Davis’ remarkable 70-year musical career.

Davis, 80, a bass guitarist and singer, began singing in church with his brother and sister in Des Moines. When he wanted to play the bass guitar at age 14, he borrowed his brother’s six-string guitar, removed two strings and called it a bass.

In 1963, Davis recorded a record with the Blendtones, a doo-wop group. Their song “Lovers” hit No. 3 on the Billboard R&B charts. The single was recorded in a Chicago studio, but the label was Success Records in Des Moines.

Davis later moved to New York, then settling in New Jersey. In 1968 he talked his brother, George, into joining him in the music scene.

Prep Iowa

“I told George the music was wide open in Jersey,” explains Davis. “So Billy Crawford and George got in on a Sunday, and we played the following Friday.”

They performed with a band called “The Chosen Few” where they played with saxophone player Clarence Clemons. Clemons eventually left to play with Bruce Springsteen. Davis also performed studio work with Springsteen.

Throughout the years, Davis toured and recorded albums. He played Asbury Park in New Jersey at famous clubs such as the Orchid Lounge, Stone Pony and the Cave.

A dream came true with his performance at the Apollo Theater in New York City. The Apollo was known for showcasing up and coming Black musicians.

The band, The Chosen Few, includes (from left) Billy Crawford, Gil Davis, Clarence Clemons, George Davis and Jesse McFarland.

“It was the highlight of my career,” he says. “I’ll never forget playing the Apollo.”

The group toured, meeting celebrities and other musicians. Davis met boxing champ Leon Spinks in Canada. But soon the touring stopped and he became a minister for 17 years, eventually moving back to Des Moines in 1999.

He played regular gigs at the former Blues on Grand with his brother. Currently, they play together with the Sumpin’ Doo band. Prior to COVID, they played weekly gigs at the Elks Lodge.

In 2003, Davis was inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame, four years after his brother attained the same honor.

Davis has always played R&B and blues music, so he knows music today has changed.

“I like music that says something” he says. “Sometimes music brings you to tears of joy. That’s what real music is.”

His priorities have evolved through the years.

“When I was younger, it was all about the notoriety, popularity and getting the girls,” he admits. “Today it’s the joy and satisfaction of playing. When it all works together, it feels like you just sat down and enjoyed a home-cooked meal. That’s music’s purpose, to make
people happy.” ♦

8 Comments

  1. The Chosen Few was the best “back up band” I ever worked with, back in the day.
    They didn’t need us for shows, they were impressive on their own, we The Broadways were lucky that we became a combination act. We even traveled to Des Moines to perform with them in their hometown.
    What more can I say than I wish they were back in Jersey, and we could be “kickin” again.
    God Bless them all so proud to call George and Gilbert good friends.

  2. Andrea Joseph says:

    I have never met a Man like Gil Davis! He playes with Love ❤️,Expression & the passion you Need to be a Performer!! Watching him play over the last 30 years sometimes made me want to learn to play☺️So proud so say I was one of his groupies!! So proud of you keep on keeping on Uncle Gil

  3. Jim Parker says:

    My Brother, dear friend, and funky funky bass player man.

  4. Inez says:

    I remember you playing in church for the choir of which your sister Audrey was directories. Good times and beautiful memories.

  5. Congratulations Gil you certainly are an Iowa treasure!!

  6. Gil has always been the epitome of class, humble artist, and if you have not heard his bass tone whether instrument or voice, go get you some of this slice of heavenly sounds.

  7. Colette Johnson says:

    Wow wow what a time ar the Mt olive Baptist church.

  8. Gil, and George, as well, are heart and soul of rhythm and blues in Des Moines. They lead by example, and are two of the kindest men I have ever known..

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