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Davey Graham

Davey Graham

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David Michael Gordon "Davey" Graham, originally spelled Davy Graham, (26 November 1940–15 December 2008), was a British guitarist
Guitarist
A guitarist is a musician who plays the guitar. Guitarists may play a variety of instruments such as classical guitars, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and bass guitars. Some guitarists accompany themselves on the guitar while singing.- Versatility :The guitarist controls an extremely...

 and one of the most influential figures in the 1960s British folk revival
British folk revival
The British folk revival incorporates a number of movements for the collection, preservation and performance of traditional music in the United Kingdom and related territories and countries, which had origins as early as the 18th century...

. He inspired many famous practitioners of the fingerstyle acoustic guitar
Acoustic guitar
An acoustic guitar is a guitar that uses only an acoustic sound board. The air in this cavity resonates with the vibrational modes of the string and at low frequencies, which depend on the size of the box, the chamber acts like a Helmholtz resonator, increasing or decreasing the volume of the sound...

 such as Bert Jansch
Bert Jansch
Herbert "Bert" Jansch was a Scottish folk musician and founding member of the band Pentangle. He was born in Glasgow and came to prominence in London in the 1960s, as an acoustic guitarist, as well as a singer-songwriter...

, John Renbourn
John Renbourn
John Renbourn is an English guitarist and songwriter. He is possibly best known for his collaboration with guitarist Bert Jansch as well as his work with the folk group Pentangle, although he maintained a solo career before, during and after that band's existence .While most commonly labelled a...

, Martin Carthy
Martin Carthy
Martin Carthy MBE is an English folk singer and guitarist who has remained one of the most influential figures in British traditional music, inspiring contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon and later artists such as Richard Thompson since he emerged as a young musician in the early days...

, John Martyn
John Martyn
John Martyn, OBE , born Iain David McGeachy, was a British singer-songwriter and guitarist. Over a forty-year career he released twenty studio albums, working with artists such as Eric Clapton and David Gilmour...

, Paul Simon
Paul Simon
Paul Frederic Simon is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.Simon is best known for his success, beginning in 1965, as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, with musical partner Art Garfunkel. Simon wrote most of the pair's songs, including three that reached number one on the US singles...

 and Jimmy Page
Jimmy Page
James Patrick "Jimmy" Page, OBE is an English multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and record producer. He began his career as a studio session guitarist in London and was subsequently a member of The Yardbirds from 1966 to 1968, after which he founded the English rock band Led Zeppelin.Jimmy Page...

, who based his solo "White Summer
White Summer
"White Summer" is a guitar instrumental by English rock guitarist Jimmy Page, recorded with both The Yardbirds and, later, with Led Zeppelin.-The Yardbirds version:...

" on Graham's "She moved thru' the Bizarre/Blue Raga" and "Mustapha". Graham is probably best-known for his acoustic instrumental, "Anji
Anji (Song)
"Anji" is an acoustic fingerstyle guitar piece composed and recorded in 1961 by noted folk guitarist Davey Graham. The piece is one of the most well-known acoustic blues-folk guitar pieces ever composed, with many notable artists covering it, including Bert Jansch, Simon and Garfunkel and Harry...

" and for his pioneering use of DADGAD
DADGAD
DADGAD, D modal tuning or Celtic tuning is an alternative guitar tuning most associated with Celtic music, though it has also found use in rock and other genres. Instead of the standard EADGBE tuning, the six guitar strings are tuned, from low to high, DADGAD...

 tuning, later widely adopted by acoustic guitarists.

It was not in Graham's nature to pursue fame and fortune and he retired to relative obscurity for many years, when he engaged in charity work and teaching as well as protracted periods of drug use, before beginning to tour again in the years before his death. His childlike, almost obsessive, enthusiasm for music never left him, however, and he would gladly give a free private concert to any chance acquaintance.

Early life


Graham was born in Hinckley
Hinckley
Hinckley is a town in southwest Leicestershire, England. It has a population of 43,246 . It is administered by Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council...

, Leicestershire
Leicestershire
Leicestershire is a landlocked county in the English Midlands. It takes its name from the heavily populated City of Leicester, traditionally its administrative centre, although the City of Leicester unitary authority is today administered separately from the rest of Leicestershire...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, to a Guyanese
Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

 mother and a Scottish
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 father. Although he never had any music theory lessons he learnt to play the piano and harmonica as a child and then took up the classical guitar at the age of 12. As a teenager he was strongly influenced by the folk guitar player Steve Benbow
Steve Benbow
Stephen George "Steve" Benbow , was a British folk guitar player, singer and music director, who was influential in the English folk music revival of the 1960s. His obituary in The Times described him as "a seminal influence on a whole generation of guitarists".He was born in Tooting, Surrey and...

, who had travelled widely with the army and played a guitar style influenced by Moroccan
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 music.

"Anji"/"Angi"


At the age of 19 Graham wrote what is probably his most famous composition, the acoustic guitar solo "Angi" (sometimes spelled "Anji": see below). His biographer Colin Harper credits Graham with single-handledly inventing the concept of the folk guitar instrumental (while acknowledging that John Fahey
John Fahey (musician)
John Fahey was an American fingerstyle guitarist and composer who pioneered the steel-string acoustic guitar as a solo instrument. His style has been greatly influential and has been described as the foundation of American Primitivism, a term borrowed from painting and referring mainly to the...

 was making a similar invention, simultaneously, in the U.S.). "Angi", named after his then girlfriend, appeared on his debut EP 3/4 AD in April 1962. The tune spread through a generation of aspiring guitarists, changing its spelling as it went. Before the record was released Bert Jansch
Bert Jansch
Herbert "Bert" Jansch was a Scottish folk musician and founding member of the band Pentangle. He was born in Glasgow and came to prominence in London in the 1960s, as an acoustic guitarist, as well as a singer-songwriter...

 had learned it from a tape borrowed from Graham's half-sister, Jill Doyle, who was giving guitar lessons to Jansch at the time. Jansch included it on his 1965 debut album as "Angie". The spelling Anji became the more widely used after it appeared in this way on Simon & Garfunkel's 1966 album Sounds of Silence
Sounds of Silence (album)
Sounds of Silence is the second album by Simon and Garfunkel, released on January 17, 1966. The album's title is a slight modification of the title of the duo's first major hit, "The Sound of Silence", which originally was released as "The Sounds of Silence"...

and it was as "Anji" that Chicken Shack
Chicken Shack
Chicken Shack are a British blues band, founded in the mid-1960s by Stan Webb , Andy Silvester , and Alan Morley , who were later joined by Christine Perfect in 1968.-Career:...

 recorded it for their 1969 100 Ton Chicken album.

Anji soon became a rite of passage for many acoustic fingerstyle guitarists, including another talented British musician, Ralph Mctell
Ralph McTell
Ralph McTell is an English singer-songwriter and acoustic guitar player who has been an influential figure on the UK folk music scene since the 1960s....

, who said of Anji "...here was a tune that combined a quirky rhythm figure with a tune of simple beauty with sexy blue notes with a hypnotic descending bass line. The hard part of this was that there were two beats to every bass note instead of the one that most of us were able to play. I was captivated and for the next few weeks played nothing else. Finally I could manage a passable version. My mates were impressed! It practically became my signature tune."

Some other musicians of note who have covered Anji include: John Renbourn
John Renbourn
John Renbourn is an English guitarist and songwriter. He is possibly best known for his collaboration with guitarist Bert Jansch as well as his work with the folk group Pentangle, although he maintained a solo career before, during and after that band's existence .While most commonly labelled a...

, Gordon Giltrap
Gordon Giltrap
Gordon Giltrap is an English acoustic and electric guitarist and composer, whose musical styles cross multiple genres, including folk, blues, folk rock, pop, classical and rock....

, Clive Carrol and even the anarchist group Chumbawamba
Chumbawamba
Chumbawamba is a British musical group who have, over a career spanning nearly three decades, played punk rock, pop-influenced music, world music, and folk music...

 who used the guitar piece as a basis for their anti-war song "Jacob's Ladder".

Folk fame


During the 1960s Graham released a string of albums of music from all around the world in all kinds of genres. 1964's Folk, Blues and Beyond
Folk, Blues and Beyond
Folk, Blues and Beyond is the second studio album by British musician Davey Graham, originally released in 1964.It has been considered Graham's most groundbreaking and consistent work and a defining record of the 20th century...

and the following year's collaboration with the folk singer Shirley Collins
Shirley Collins
Shirley Elizabeth Collins MBE is a British folksinger who was a significant contributor to the English Folk Revival of the 1960s and 1970s...

, Folk Roots, New Routes, are frequently cited among his most influential album releases. Graham also came to the attention of guitarists through his appearance in a 1959 broadcast of the BBC TV arts series Monitor, produced by Ken Russell
Ken Russell
Henry Kenneth Alfred "Ken" Russell was an English film director, known for his pioneering work in television and film and for his flamboyant and controversial style. He attracted criticism as being obsessed with sexuality and the church...

 and entitled Hound Dogs and Bach Addicts: The Guitar Craze, in which he played an acoustic instrumental version of Cry Me a River.

Graham's spontaneity made him unreliable and unpredictable, which did little to advance his fame or endear him to concert organisers and the more commercial elements of the music world. In the late 1960s he was booked for a tour of Australia but, when his plane stopped for an hour in Bombay, he changed his plans and spent the next six months wandering through India. His continuous touring of the world, picking up and then recording different styles of music for the guitar, has resulted in many musicians crediting him with founding world music
World music
World music is a term with widely varying definitions, often encompassing music which is primarily identified as another genre. This is evidenced by world music definitions such as "all of the music in the world" or "somebody else's local music"...

. However, though Graham recorded in a variety of genres and loved to play the oud
Oud
The oud is a pear-shaped stringed instrument commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern music. The modern oud and the European lute both descend from a common ancestor via diverging paths...

, he was no purist, absorbing all his influences into his own ever-expanding conception of the possibilities of guitar music. Quizzed, for instance, on his introduction of a chord progression
Chord progression
A chord progression is a series of musical chords, or chord changes that "aims for a definite goal" of establishing a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord. In other words, the succession of root relationships...

 into an Arabic maqam
Arabic maqam
Arabic maqām is the system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music, which is mainly melodic. The word maqam in Arabic means place, location or rank. The Arabic maqam is a melody type...

, his amiable retort was to the effect that, if he felt like it and it sounded alright, why shouldn't he?

Retirement


Graham married the American singer Holly Gwinn in the late 1960s and recorded the album Godington Boundary with her in 1970, shortly before their marriage broke up. By the end of the 1960s and the release of the album Hat (described by The Times as 'fascinating but undeniably eccentric') he was experimenting with cocaine, LSD and opium. He ceased to work and entered a period of obscurity and comparative poverty: in this respect he is often compared with other musicians such as Syd Barrett
Syd Barrett
Syd Barrett , born Roger Keith Barrett, was an English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and painter, best remembered as a founding member of the band Pink Floyd. He was the lead vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter during the band's psychedelic years, providing major musical and stylistic...

 and Peter Green
Peter Green (musician)
Peter Green is a British blues-rock guitarist and the founder of the band Fleetwood Mac...

. He later described himself as having been "a casualty of too much self-indulgence". During this period he taught acoustic guitar and also undertook charity work, particularly for various mental health charities. For several years he was on the executive council of Mind and he was involved for some time with the mystic Osho
Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh)
Osho , born Chandra Mohan Jain , and also known as Acharya Rajneesh from the 1960s onwards, as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh during the 1970s and 1980s and as Osho from 1989, was an Indian mystic, guru, and spiritual teacher who garnered an international following.A professor of philosophy, he travelled...

.

Rediscovery and death


He was the subject of a 2005 BBC Radio documentary Whatever Happened to Davy Graham ? and in 2006 featured in the BBC Four
BBC Four
BBC Four is a British television network operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation and available to digital television viewers on Freeview, IPTV, satellite and cable....

 documentary Folk Britannia.

Many people found Davy over the years and tried to encourage him to return to the stage to play live. Many claimed to have rediscovered him but this was not so difficult if one was familiar with Camden Town, as Davy was well known there. The last of this long line of seekers was Mark Pavey who arranged some outings with guitarists and old friends including Bert Jansch
Bert Jansch
Herbert "Bert" Jansch was a Scottish folk musician and founding member of the band Pentangle. He was born in Glasgow and came to prominence in London in the 1960s, as an acoustic guitarist, as well as a singer-songwriter...

, Duck Baker
Duck Baker
Duck Baker is an accomplished and influential American fingerstyle guitarist, who in his playing combines genres as varied as rags, blues, country, gospel, cajun, bluegrass, Celtic music, ballads and jazz, swing, New Orleans jazz and free jazz.-Biography and career:Baker grew up in Richmond,...

 and Martin Carthy
Martin Carthy
Martin Carthy MBE is an English folk singer and guitarist who has remained one of the most influential figures in British traditional music, inspiring contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon and later artists such as Richard Thompson since he emerged as a young musician in the early days...

. These concerts were typically eclectic, with Graham playing a mix of acoustic blues, Romanian dance tunes, Irish pipe tunes, songs from South Africa and pieces by Bach. His final album, Broken Biscuits consisted of originals and new arrangements of traditional songs from around the world.

Graham was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008 and died on 15 December 2008. He is survived by his two daughters, Mercy and Kim.

Influence



Although he never achieved great commercial success (and indeed perhaps did not seek it), Graham's music received positive critical feedback, and has proved to be influential. He has inspired folk revival artists and fellow players such as Bert Jansch
Bert Jansch
Herbert "Bert" Jansch was a Scottish folk musician and founding member of the band Pentangle. He was born in Glasgow and came to prominence in London in the 1960s, as an acoustic guitarist, as well as a singer-songwriter...

, John Renbourn
John Renbourn
John Renbourn is an English guitarist and songwriter. He is possibly best known for his collaboration with guitarist Bert Jansch as well as his work with the folk group Pentangle, although he maintained a solo career before, during and after that band's existence .While most commonly labelled a...

, Martin Carthy
Martin Carthy
Martin Carthy MBE is an English folk singer and guitarist who has remained one of the most influential figures in British traditional music, inspiring contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon and later artists such as Richard Thompson since he emerged as a young musician in the early days...

, Ralph Mctell
Ralph McTell
Ralph McTell is an English singer-songwriter and acoustic guitar player who has been an influential figure on the UK folk music scene since the 1960s....

, John Martyn
John Martyn
John Martyn, OBE , born Iain David McGeachy, was a British singer-songwriter and guitarist. Over a forty-year career he released twenty studio albums, working with artists such as Eric Clapton and David Gilmour...

, Nick Drake
Nick Drake
Nicholas Rodney "Nick" Drake was an English singer-songwriter and musician. Though he is best known for his sombre guitar based songs, Drake was also proficient at piano, clarinet and saxophone...

 and Paul Simon
Paul Simon
Paul Frederic Simon is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.Simon is best known for his success, beginning in 1965, as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, with musical partner Art Garfunkel. Simon wrote most of the pair's songs, including three that reached number one on the US singles...

: Folk Rock bands such as Fairport Convention
Fairport Convention
Fairport Convention are an English folk rock and later electric folk band, formed in 1967 who are still recording and touring today. They are widely regarded as the most important single group in the English folk rock movement...

 and Pentangle
Pentangle
Pentangle may refer to:*another word for a pentagram, a five-pointed star drawn with five straight strokes*Pentangle , a British folk-rock band*The Pentangle, the 1968 album by the band Pentangle...

 also show his influence. In the 80s there were British guitar bands like The Smiths
The Smiths
The Smiths were an English alternative rock band, formed in Manchester in 1982. Based on the song writing partnership of Morrissey and Johnny Marr , the band also included Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce...

, whose guitarist Johnny Marr has cited Davey Graham as a big influence. In 2009, the Graham Coxon album The Spinning Top was cited by NME as being influenced by the finger picking style of Graham.

Though Graham is commonly referred to as a folk musician, the diversity of his music ranges in many different directions. Strong influence from genres such as blues, jazz and Middle Eastern music is evident throughout his work.

One of Graham's lasting legacies is the DADGAD
DADGAD
DADGAD, D modal tuning or Celtic tuning is an alternative guitar tuning most associated with Celtic music, though it has also found use in rock and other genres. Instead of the standard EADGBE tuning, the six guitar strings are tuned, from low to high, DADGAD...

 (Open Dsus4) guitar tuning which he introduced to British guitarists in the early 1960s, though it is not clear if it originated with him. He devised this tuning whilst travelling in Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 in order to translate the traditional oud
Oud
The oud is a pear-shaped stringed instrument commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern music. The modern oud and the European lute both descend from a common ancestor via diverging paths...

 music he was hearing to the guitar. Graham then went on to experiment playing traditional folk pieces in DADGAD tuning often incorporating middle eastern scales and melodies, a good example is his arrangement of the traditional air (believed to be Irish) "She Moved Through The Fair". The tuning allows a guitarist freedom to improvise in the treble while maintaining a solid underlying harmony and rhythm in the bass, though it restricts the number of keys in which the instrument can readily be played. While 'non-standard', or 'non-classical' tunings were widely practiced by guitarists before this (Open E and Open G tunings were in common use by blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

 and slide guitar
Slide guitar
Slide guitar or bottleneck guitar is a particular method or technique for playing the guitar. The term slide refers to the motion of the slide against the strings, while bottleneck refers to the original material of choice for such slides: the necks of glass bottles...

 players) DADGAD introduced a new "standard" tuning. The tuning is widely used by many guitarists, though is especially favoured in the genres of folk and world music. The French guitarist Pierre Bensusan
Pierre Bensusan
Pierre Bensusan is a French-Algerian guitarist. As a sephardic Jew, his family came from Spain, Spanish Morocco and French Algeria. The genre of his acoustic guitar music is often characterized as Celtic, Folk, World music, New Age, or Chamber jazz. He has also published three books of music and...

 has been playing exclusively in the DADGAD tuning since 1978.

Martin Carthy
Martin Carthy
Martin Carthy MBE is an English folk singer and guitarist who has remained one of the most influential figures in British traditional music, inspiring contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon and later artists such as Richard Thompson since he emerged as a young musician in the early days...

 described Graham as "an extraordinary, dedicated player, the one everyone followed and watched - I couldn't believe anyone could play like that" while Bert Jansch
Bert Jansch
Herbert "Bert" Jansch was a Scottish folk musician and founding member of the band Pentangle. He was born in Glasgow and came to prominence in London in the 1960s, as an acoustic guitarist, as well as a singer-songwriter...

 claimed that he was "courageous and controversial - he never followed the rules. He was a hard man to hold a conversation with, but he knew how to play the guitar." Ray Davies
Ray Davies
Ray Davies, CBE is an English rock musician. He is best known as lead singer and songwriter for the Kinks, which he led with his younger brother, Dave...

 maintained that the guitarist was "the greatest blues players I ever saw, apart from Big Bill Broonzy".

According to George Chkiantz
George Chkiantz
George Chkiantz is a recording engineer based in London who has been responsible for the engineering on a number of well-known albums, many of which are considered classics, owing in part to the high quality of the recordings....

, "What impressed me with Davy Graham... was he played the guitar fretboard somehow as if it was a keyboard. There was a kind of freedom. You weren't conscious of him using chord shapes at all: his fingers just seemed to run around with complete freedom on the fretboard."

Discography

  • 3/4 AD (EP) (*) (1962)
  • From a London Hootenanny (EP)(1963)
  • The Guitar Player
    The Guitar Player
    The Guitar Player is an album by British guitarist Davey Graham , released in 1963. It was his first LP after releasing the EP 3/4 A.D. two years earlier....

    (1963)
  • Folk, Blues and Beyond
    Folk, Blues and Beyond
    Folk, Blues and Beyond is the second studio album by British musician Davey Graham, originally released in 1964.It has been considered Graham's most groundbreaking and consistent work and a defining record of the 20th century...

    (1964)
  • Midnight Man
    Midnight Man (Davey Graham album)
    Midnight Man is an album by British musician Davey Graham, released in 1966.- Track listing :# "No Preacher Blues" – 2:18# "The Fakir" – 4:15# "I'm Looking Thru' You" – 2:06...

    (1966)
  • Large as Life and Twice as Natural
    Large as Life and Twice as Natural
    Large as Life and Twice as Natural is an album by British musician Davey Graham, released in 1968.-Track listing:#"Both Sides, Now" – 6:02#"Bad Boy Blues" – 2:17#"Tristano" – 4:00#"Babe, It Ain't No Lie" – 2:27#"Bruton Town" – 3:59...

    (1968)
  • Hat
    Hat (Davey Graham album)
    Hat is an album by British musician Davy Graham, released in 1969.-Track listing:#"Getting Better" – 2:03#"Lotus Blossom" – 2:29#"I'm Ready" – 2:32...

    (1969)
  • Holly Kaleidoscope
    Holly Kaleidoscope
    Holly Kaleidoscope is an album by British musician Davy Graham, released in 1970. His wife at the time, Holly Gwyn, contributes on vocals.-Track listing:#"Flower Never Bend With the Rainfall" – 2:48#"Wilt Thou Unkind" – 0:55...

    (1970)
  • Godington Boundary
    Godington Boundary
    Godington Boundry is an album by British musician Davy Graham, released in 1970. It is credited to "Davy Graham & Holly".-Track listing:#"I'm a Freeborn Man " – 2:11#"The Preacher" – 2:59...

    (1970) (with Holly Gwinn)
  • All That Moody
    All That Moody
    All That Moody is an album by British musician Davey Graham, released in 1976. It was his first album in six years after the release of Godington Boundary and is the first with his name spelled Davey instead of Davy...

    (1976)
  • The Complete Guitarist
    The Complete Guitarist
    The Complete Guitarist is a compilation album by British musician Davey Graham, released in 1978.- Track listing :All songs by Davey Graham unless otherwise noted.# "Lord Mayo/Lord Inchiquin" – 4:30...

    (1978)
  • Dance for Two People (1979)
  • Folk Blues and All Points in Between (1985)
  • Playing in Traffic (1991)
  • The Guitar Player ... Plus (1996)
  • After Hours (1997)
  • Broken Biscuits (2007)
  • The Best Of Davy Graham (A Scholar & A Gentleman) (2009)

Collaborations

  • Folk Roots, New Routes (1965) with Shirley Collins


An extraordinary and classic album originally released by Decca in 1964. A landmark recording bringing together Shirley Collins' haunting vocals and Davy Graham's innovative guitar style. Folk Roots, New Routes was more than just a record when it first came out: it opened many minds and the door for Fairport Convention and Pentangle. A gem."

External links