Spencer Davis, talented musician and head of the “Spencer Davis Group” band that roared into popularity in the ’60s, passed away on Monday at age 81 after contracting pneumonia.
He noticed talent when he saw it at a bar, where then-13-year-old Steve Winwood and his older brother Muff were playing country-blues music. He invited them to join him, and once Pete York joined as well, the “Spencer Davis Group” was born.
The band, only together for a few years, did an impressive job and is best remembered for hits like “Gimme Some Lovin,'” “I’m a Man” and “Keep on Running.” They made it on the Top 10 lists more than once in both the U.S. and the U.K.
The group stuck it out a few years, and by 1971 Davis was in California, going it alone musically.
“I think I experienced the greatest of pleasures and the greatest of sorrows,” Davis later told the Phonograph Record of his time with the group, according to NPR. “I look back on it as a necessary thing.”
“But if anybody said, you know just for a laugh, or if the original members turned up in the same place and there were instruments present, I’m game. I’d really love to blow some of the old things.”
In more recent years, Davis did some touring as the “Spencer Davis Group,” but without Steve Winwood. While the two only spent a few years together before going their separate ways, Winwood still credits Davis with fostering some of his musical formation.
“Spencer was an early pioneer of the British folk scene, which, in his case embraced folk blues, and eventually what was then called ‘Rhythm and Blues,'” Steve Winwood shared on his personal website.
“He influenced my tastes in music, he owned the first 12-string guitar I ever saw, and he was taken with the music of Huddie ‘Lead belly’ Ledbetter, and Big Bill Broonzy. I’d already got a big brother who influenced me greatly, and Spencer became like a big brother to me at the time.”
“He was definitely a man with a vision, and one of the pioneers of the British invasion of America in the ’60s. I never went to the U.S. with Spencer, but he later embraced America, and America embraced him.”
“I feel that he was influential in setting me on the road to becoming a professional musician, and I thank him for that.”
Bob Birk, Davis’ tour manager, called Davis a “highly ethical, very talented, good-hearted, extremely intelligent, generous man.”
“Many years ago, a guitar of mine was stolen on a flight to Mexico,” Bob Birk told NPR. “I told him about it when I returned. For the next many months, every time we spoke, he asked me if it was recovered.”
“The next time I was at his home, he invited me into his music room. He walked into a closet [and] came out with a black Fender Telecaster similar to the sunburst one that was stolen. He handed it to me [and] asked me to play it.”
“I played it. He asked me how I liked it. I said it played beautifully. He said ‘Enjoy it.’ After a few moments of silence, I looked into his eyes. He said, ‘It’s yours. I have a few of them. I never play this one.’ Of course, I still have it.”
RIP Spencer Davis. He lead a magnificent band, one of the greats of the 60s, along with Muff and Steve Winwood. Keep in Running and Gimme Some Lovin’ we’re r&b classics. He drove soul into the white rock sound of the time. #SpencerDavis pic.twitter.com/LmAM9xXYKv
— Gary Kemp (@garyjkemp) October 20, 2020
“RIP Spencer Davis,” Gary Kemp of English pop band “Spandau Ballet” tweeted. “He lead a magnificent band, one of the greats of the ’60s, along with Muff and Steve Winwood.”
“Keep [on] Running and Gimme Some Lovin’ [were] r&b classics. He drove soul into the white rock sound of the time.”
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