Cool Diggin' - Maxwell Davis©2004JCMarion


Maxwell Davis was born in Independence, Kansas, in 1916. By the time he was twenty years old he knew that his future was in music. In 1937 he went to Los Angeles and soon found a chair in the sax section with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. After a number of years on the periphery of the swing and jazz scene on the West Coast, Davis entered the Rhythm & Blues world centered on Central Avenue in the Watts area of L.A. He was soon a familiar face around the recording studios for the fast growing independent labels in that area. He recorded with Jo Jo Adams for Aladdin Records in 1946 on "Disgusted" and "Thursday Evening Blues" on # 142, "Jo Jo's troubles" and "Upstairs" on # 143, and "Hard Headed Woman" and "When I'm In My Tea" on #144. The next year and a half he backed up Ernie Andrews on a number of tunes for Aladdin including "Be Nice" on # 175, "You Chased The Goody Goody" on # 176, "Trust In Me" on # 192, "Summertime" on # 193, and "Hurry Home" on # 195. Davis also recorded "Guitar In My Hands" and "Without Me baby" with Gatemouth Brown on # 199. In late 1948 he recorded with Miss Cornshucks on Miltone Records and was in the combo behind Lester Young for Aladdin sessions with alto saxist Willie Smith, vocalist Helen Humes, and others. Maxwell was also in the sax section with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Jim Wynn behind T-Bone Walker, and on Percy Mayfield's breakout hit "Two Years Of Torture" for Supreme in 1949.

Maxwell Davis begins the year 1950 on the SwingTime Records label. His combo includes Lee Young on drums, Parr Jones on trumpet, Gerald Wiggins on piano, and Leonard Bibb on bass. Really widening his musical horizons, Davis also appears with Dimitri Tiompkin's motion picture studios orchestra. In May, Davis plays with another group far removed from his R & B scene when he appears with the Victor Young Orchestra. He also records as part of Joe Liggins Honeydrippers combo, and fills in for Slim Gaillard at club dates in Los Angeles. He breaks up his combo but plays with a new small group headed by his former band mate Lee Young. For an extended engagement at the Club Oasis in L.A., he forms a trio with Eddie Beale on piano and Oscar Bradley on drums and they alternate sets with George Shearing. In July Davis records London # 17014 with Rudy Render on vocal on the songs "Rock Me To Sleep" and "Just Thinking". In August another regrouping for a further gig at the Club Oasis finds Davis with Lee Young, Parr Jones, Dudley Brooks on piano, Billy Hadnott (a veteran of the JATP concerts for Norman Granz) on bass , this time alternating with pianist Errol Garner. During the summer Maxwell Davis finds success as a writer of "Bad Bad Whiskey" a big R & B hit for Amos Milburn, and also does a turn with the touring band of Little Willie Littlefield. In November Davis signs with Aladdin Records in L.A. In three weeks his first for Aladdin is released which features vocalist LaMelle Prince on the songs "Phone Me Blues" and Get High" on # 3067.

In January of 1951 Modern Records releases a Maxwell Davis record from the masters of SwingTime with the tunes "Belmont Special" and "Boogie Cocktails" on Modern # 791. In August of the year Peppermint Harris records with Maxwell Davis & His All Stars the song "I Got Loaded" and "It's You Yes It's You" on Aladdin # 3097. "Loaded" is a huge hit in the R & B market and Davis is now in high demand as a music arranger and session musician. Modern records comes out with another two tunes from on the shelf with "Bristol Drive" and "Resistor" on # 805. In October Davis backs up singer Frankie Haywood on the songs "Baby Baby Baby" and "If You Don't Love Me Anymore" on # 3098. Later that month another SwingTime master shows up on Recorded In Hollywood with the Davis version of "September In The Rain" on RIH # 166. In November Peppermint Harris returns again with "Have Another Drink And Talk To Me" and "The Middle Of Winter" on # 3107. Another side from off the shelf comes from RPM Records with "New Flying Home" on # 332. At the end of the year Aladdin Records releases two records back to back by Davis - "Hey Good Looking" and "Charmaine" on # 3114, and "I Will Always Be In Love With You" and "I'm Waiting Just For You" on # 3115.

In February of 1952 Davis and his combo back up Peppermint Harris again with "PH Blues" and "Don't Let The Back Door Hit You" released by Aladdin on # 3108. In July vocalist Mickey Champion records with Maxwell Davis on the tunes "Don't Say You Love Me" and "Two Faced Daddy" on # 3137. In August vocalist Patty Anne records a cover of Little Caesar's R & B hit "The River" and "I Didn't Know Any Better" with Davis on # 3145. In September Aladdin continues its strange practice of simultaneous releases of records by Davis. "Glory Of Love" and "Blue Tango" (a huge pop music hit for Leroy Anderson) on # 3142, and "Blue Shuffle" and "Popsicle" on # 3143. In October a SwingTime release shows up - "Little White Lies" and "Don't Worry About Me" on # 313. In November it is Peppermint Harris turn again - "Hey Little Schoolgirl" and "I Sure Do Miss My Baby" on Aladdin # 3154. In December Maxwell and his combo back up blues singer Calvin Boze on the tunes "Shamrock" and "Having A Time" on # 3160, and Patti Anne & The Flames with "My Heart Is Free Again" and "Midnight" on # 3162After some local appearances in Los Angeles, Davis hits the recording studios and Aladdin Records releases # 3174 in March - "Gomen Nasai"(a pop hit for Richard Bowers, a U.S. GI stationed in Japan) and "Hot Point". During the summer Maxwell Davis and his band appear at Gene Norman's Fourth Annual Rhythm & Blues Jamboree at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. In September, another cover version of a pop hit for Davis- "No Other Love", a vocal version of a melody from the television documentary series "Victory At Sea" sung by Perry Como, and "Strange Sensation" on # 3201. In late November there is a flurry of record releases featuring Maxwell Davis. Two recordings featuring The Ebonaires - "Baby You're The One" and "Three O'Clock In The Morning" on # 3211, and "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You" and "Lawd Lawd Lawd" on # 3212. A record as by Norman Dunlop with the Maxwell Davis Trio on the songs "A Dream And A Prayer" and "It's Easy To Remember" on # 3213, and "Hey Boy" the Joe Louis Story theme song on # 3216.

During the summer of 1954 Maxwell Davis & his combo record a Rhythm & Blues version of the well known jingle theme of the Gilette razor company. The song is known as "Look Sharp Be Sharp (Gilette March)" on # 3252. The flip side is an instrumental called "Ooh". In 1955 Davis leaves Aladdin Records after almost five years and moves to Modern Records also in Los Angeles. Playing backup for Etta James on "Hey Henry" and "Be Mine" on # 957, he becomes musical director for that label and is soon on record with Modern's subsidiary label RPM. In November he backs up Donna Hightower on her cover of Priscilla Bowman's "Hands Off" and "Right Now" on RPM #445. His combo is behind Young Jesse and The Cadets on "Mary Lou" and "Don't Think I Will" on Modern # 961, and Young Jesse alone on "Nothing Seems Right" and "Do You Love Me" on # 973. In December Davis records two instrumentals - "Thunderbird" and "Bluesville" on RPM # 449. In January of 1956 Davis and his band are renewed as part of the Hunter Hancock television show "Rhythm And Blues" for CBS in L.A. He and his band record "Tempo Rock" and "Cool Diggin" for RPM.

By the late nineteen fifties Maxwell Davis was involved in other musical styles as he became a sort of elder statesman for the Southern California R & B scene. He kept his connection with the Bihari Brothers labels as he arranged and produced both Z.Z. Hill and Larry Davis for the Kent label into 1969. This would be the last of Davis work in the recording studio as he passed away in September of 1970. There is very little of Davis work in the R & B field that survives at present. There is one CD from the British label Ace that is appropriately titled "The Father of West Coast R & B" and contains 14 tracks from his early days with Aladdin Records. Maxwell Davis was certainly one of the most important figures in the development of the R & B scene, and it is also important that we not forget his contributions.

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