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Cyril Davies had the Eel Pie Island Blues

by  John Joyce

          There is famous picture of the late Boris Yeltism dancing at a rock concert. He was wearing a tie and looked square. Most of the pictures I have seen of Cyril Davies he is wearing a tie and looking square. He was most decidedly unhip but then he was much older than the mega stars that he influenced. Cyril was about 31 and they - Paul Jones, Mike Jagger, Brian Jones and Rod Stewart - were about 19. The later except for Rod Stewart were from the bohemian, beatnik pseudo student world. We know Cyril Davies was a pioneer of the British Blues and left his mark.

          I saw him play one Wednesday evening on Eel Pie Island. It was the first Wednesday after the Rolling Stones had left, probably early September 1963. The dimly lit dance hall was half empty and there was a sense of mourning about the place. The Rolling Stones had left the island. The music that Cyril Davies played was difficult to listen to but I do remember the electrical harmonica playing. I recall him sitting in a chair snapping his fingers and drinking from his pint glass. We drank cider in those days. He may have been smoking a cigar.

          I have always been attracted to the blues harmonica and even studied here in Vancouver for several years. I do a fair opening to Little Walters' "Duke". I think Brian Jones and Mike Jagger influenced me most with the blues harp who in turn were Cyril Davies's pupils. The name Cyril Davies is certainly a name from my youth.


© John Joyce, 2 May 2007

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