Danny Davis (country musician)

Danny Davis (country musician)
Danny Davis
Birth name George Joseph Nowlan
Born May 29, 1925(1925-05-29)
Randolph, Massachusetts
Died June 12, 2008(2008-06-12) (aged 83)
Nashville, Tennessee
Genres Country, Big Band
Occupations Bandleader, Producer
Instruments Trumpet, Flugelhorn

Danny Davis (May 29, 1925 – June 12, 2008) was a band leader, trumpet player, vocalist and producer and founder/leader of the Nashville Brass.


Early life and career

Danny Davis was born as George Nowlan into a large Irish-Catholic family in Dorchester, Massachusetts (one of his brothers became a priest who at one time was assigned to the Vatican). When he became a professional musician, he changed his name to Danny Davis because MGM executive Harry Meseron told him that "he looked like a Danny." He took the last name Davis because it was a common name in the South.

Davis's father died when he was five years old. His mother supported the family by giving music lessons (piano and voice) in the family home.

Davis began playing trumpet at a very early age under the guidance of a man named Joseph Donovan. By age 14 he was trumpet soloist with the Massachusetts All-State Symphony Orchestra and was granted admittance to the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music. He decided to leave the conservatory after only six weeks when he was offered a job as a trumpeter with the band of legendary drummer, Gene Krupa (ca. 1940).

During the remainder of the 1940s and into the 1950s Davis continued working as a trumpeter/vocalist in several big bands including the band's of Bobby Byrne, Sammy Kaye, Art Mooney (he played First Trumpet on Mooney's huge seller "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover"), Vincent Lopez and Freddy Martin. In Martin's band, in addition to his duties on trumpet, Davis sang as one of the "Martin Men" and roomed on the road with the band's male vocalist, Merv Griffin.

The MGM days

During the early 50's Davis found some moderate success as a vocalist releasing several singles including "Object of My Affection" and "Crazy Heart." The late 1950s was a transitional period in Davis' career. He found himself in New York City working as a producer for the MGM label. He also made an important contact in Nashville with Fred Rose. Davis cut pop demos of country songs for Rose. His demo of "Cold, Cold Heart" lead to the pop recording by Tony Bennett.

In the early Sixties, Davis assembled a session group called "Danny Davis & the Titans" around guitarist Billy Mure. In 1961 the group released an instrumental album entitled, Today's Teen Beat (MGM SE 3992). A few months later, the group followed it up with an album designed to capitalize on the "Twist" craze, with another instrumental album entitled, Let's Do the Twist for Adults (MGM SE 3997). Six of the Titan songs on the second album received a great deal of exposure in 1964 when MGM used them to pad-out a collection of nascent Beatles tracks on an album called, The Beatles with Tony Sheridan & Guests (MGM SE 4215).

While at MGM Davis was assigned to produce one of the label's most successful artists, Connie Francis. This collaboration lead to several number 1 hits for Francis. In the early 1960s Davis began taking Francis to Nashville where he recorded pop versions of country songs with her. It was during this time that his idea to record country songs with brass instruments was born. Also during his time at MGM Davis was responsible for bringing Herman's Hermits (featuring Peter Noone) to the label.

During his stint at MGM Davis recorded several albums with an orchestra composed of some of the best studio musicians working in New York at the time. Most notable among these is an album entitled "Brass on the Rebound." This album was recorded in 1963 and featured only one woodwind player in the orchestra. This demonstrates Davis' penchant for working with a brass ensemble several years before he began the Nashville Brass.

In his career as a record producer Davis worked with a wide variety of artists, from Nina Simone to Polka king Frank Yankovic. During his days in New York he was also involved in early testing for broadcasting television programs in color.

The move to RCA

In the mid-sixties Davis moved to the RCA label. While still in New York he pitched his idea of recording country songs with a brass ensemble. To say the least, the idea was not well received. Not long after he joined RCA Davis was approved for transfer to the Nashville office by Chet Atkins.

In Nashville, Davis was assigned to produce sessions on Waylon Jennings. Even though it was a recording produced by Davis that earned Jennings his first Grammy award (MacArthur Park with The Kimberly's, http://grammy.com/GRAMMY_Awards/Winners/Results), the two men did not have a good working relationship. It is reported that on one occasion Jennings pulled a gun on Davis during a recording session(http://www.countrymusichalloffame.com/site/inductees.aspx?cid=131#), but Davis denies the incident ever took place. Davis also worked with other RCA artists including Dottie West, Floyd Cramer and Hank Locklin.

Launching the Nashville Brass

One evening Davis was in the office of his boss, Chet Atkins. He decided to pitch Chet his idea of recording country songs with brass instruments. Davis was surprised when Atkins told him he thought it was a good idea. In fact, Davis told Atkins that the RCA label executives in New York had thought it was a "terrible idea." Atkins told Davis, "young fella, I run Nashville, go do it." The only suggestion Atkins made was instead of calling the group "Country Brass" he thought Davis should call it "Nashville Brass."

Davis immediately went to work on a demo. He chose Nashville arranger and fellow trumpeter, Bill McElhiney, to help create the sound of the Nashville Brass. The basic idea was to replace the vocalist with a brass ensemble (two to three trumpets, two trombones) playing over a standard country rhythm section (guitar, bass, drums, banjo).

For his recordings, Davis assembled a rhythm section of Nashville's "A" list musicians: Grady Martin (guitar), Floyd Cramer (piano), Bob Moore (bass), Buddy Harmon (drums), Bobby Thompson (banjo), John Hartford (banjo). When completed, Atkins hand carried the demo (Hank Williams' "I Saw The Light") to a meeting of RCA executives in California. In October 1968 the first album "The Nashville Brass Play The Nashville Sound" was released. The first album was followed by "The Nashville Brass featuring Danny Davis Play More Nashville Sounds" in 1969.

Acceptance and success

With the release of the first two albums, the group quickly found an audience with music fans. Most important was the acceptance of the Country Music fans whom Davis had been told, "don't like horns." In 1970 the second album received the Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance. Beginning in 1969 and continuing for the next five years Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass dominated the Country Music Association Awards Best Instrumental Group category. Over the years The group garnered eleven more Grammy nominations and received many other awards from recording industry publications and associations.

Also in 1970 Davis changed his relationship with RCA in that he ceased to produce other artists so he could concentrate all his energies on the Nashville Brass.

Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass literally took Country Music around the world, being one of the first acts in the genre to have their own airplane (originally a DC-3 later a Martin 404, named "Lady Barbara" for Davis' wife). They were also one of the first Country acts to take the music to the Vegas strip working first as an opening act for Connie Francis and later Kay Starr, they soon returned to headline. The group also guest starred on many of the biggest television shows of the day including Red Skelton, Ed Sullivan and the show of his old friend, Merv Griffin.

In the 1980s Davis joined the cast of Hee Haw as a member of the "Million Dollar Band" with fellow instrumentalists Floyd Cramer, Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph, Roy Clark (guitar), Charlie McCoy (harmonica), Johnny Gimble (fiddle) and Kenneth C. "Jethro" Burns (mandolin).

Davis and his group maintained a heavy touring schedule well into the 1990s. In the mid-90's Davis partnered with his old friend, Boots Randolph, opening the Stardust Theater in Nashville (near the Opryland Hotel). The two performed shows nightly for a couple of years.

For the majority of his touring years, Davis retained on salary a fairly consistent personnel line-up. Among those musicians were: Bill Pippin (trumpet/flugelhorn/flute); Ray Carroll (trumpet/flugelhorn); Rex Peer (trombone); Phil Jones (bass trombone), Jones replaced the band's original bass trombonist, Frank Smith, after Smith's death in a car accident; Larry Morton (guitar); Chuck Sanders (bass); Terry Waddell (drums); Curtis McPeake (banjo).

Featured prominently on the 1971 album Somethin' Else was an electric sitar, played by an unidentified individual. This was a first for the Nashville scene.

Davis and his group performed the theme song for the animated series Speed Racer.

Farewell to public performing

Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass gave their final public performance on July 23, 2005 at the Colonnade in Ringgold, Georgia. Davis was eighty years old at the time. The group performed two shows and received standing ovations for each.

Later years

After Davis retired from performing, he and his wife of fifty-seven years, Barbara continued to make Nashville their home. The couple has four children: Kerry, Kim, Gavin and Tara. Danny and former Nashville Brass trumpeter, Ray Carroll, began a mail-order business selling Nashville Brass recordings on the internet. Carroll continues to operate this enterprise. Also, at the time of his death Davis and writer Thom King had nearly completed an autobiography tentatively titled "Guess Who I Met Today."


Davis died on Thursday, June 12, 2008 at the age of 83 after suffering a heart attack at his home in Nashville, Tennessee on June 7, 2008.



Year Album Chart Positions Label
US Country US
1968 The Nashville Brass Play The Nashville Sound 33 78 RCA
1969 The Nashville Brass featuring Danny Davis Play More Nashville Sounds 6 143
Movin On 16 141
1970 You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet 9 102
Christmas with Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass 11
Down Homers 11 140
Hank Locklin & Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass
1971 Somethin' Else 12 161
Super Country 25 184
1972 Nashville Brass Turns to Gold 25 202
Live in Person 35
Turn on Some Happy 34 193
1973 Travelin'
Caribbean Cruise 44
1974 The Best of Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass 22
Danny Davis' Nashville Brass Bluegrass Country 23
Latest and Greatest 34
1975 Dream Country 41
Country Gold 35
1976 Texas 43
Supersongs 46
America 200 Years Young
1977 Chet Floyd & Danny 46
Live! In Vegas
1978 How I Love Them Ol' Songs
Cookin' Country
1979 Great Songs of the Big Band Era
1980 Danny Davis & Willie Nelson with the Nashville Brass 14 150
1981 Cotton Eyed Joe


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country CAN Country
1970 "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" (with Hank Locklin) 68 Hank Locklin & Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass
"Wabash Cannon Ball"A 63 3 Movin' On
"Flying South" (with Hank Locklin) 56 Hank Locklin & Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass
"Columbus Stockade Blues" 70 You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet
1977 "How I Love Them Old Songs" 91 How I Love Them Old Songs
1980 "Night Life" (with Willie Nelson) 20 9 Danny Davis & Willie Nelson with the Nashville Brass
"Funny How Time Slips Away" (with Willie Nelson) 41
1981 "Colinda" 59 Cotton Eyed Joe
1985 "I Dropped Your Name" 82 singles only
1987 "Green Eyes (Cryin' Those Blue Tears)" (with Dona Mason) 62
  • AAlso peaked at #31 on Bubbling Under Hot 100.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Country and West — Studio album by Dottie West Released May 1970 Recorded 1970 at R …   Wikipedia

  • Country Music Association Awards — Awarded for Achievements in Country Music Presented by See list below Country United States First awarded 1967 Official website …   Wikipedia

  • Country Music Association Awards — Die Country Music Association Awards (CMA Awards) werden jährlich von der Country Music Association (CMA) verliehen. Es werden die erfolgreichsten Country Interpreten und Songwriter des abgelaufenen Jahres ausgezeichnet, der begehrteste Preis ist …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Danny Kirwan — with Fleetwood Mac, 18 March 1970 Background information Birth name Daniel David Kirwan …   Wikipedia

  • Country-Musik 1967 — Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Events 2 Top Hits des Jahres 2.1 Nummer 1 Hits 2.2 Weitere große Hits 3 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Daniel Davis (disambiguation) — Daniel or Danny Davis is the name of: Daniel Daniel Davis (pioneer) (1742–1807), militia captain during the American Revolutionary War, and pioneer to the Ohio Country Daniel C. Davis (died 1850), captain in the Mormon Battalion Daniel Davis, Jr …   Wikipedia

  • Connie Francis and Hank Williams, Jr. Sing Great Country Favorites — Studio album by Connie Francis and Hank Williams, Jr. Released November 1964 Recorded May 11 – 13, 1964 …   Wikipedia

  • List of people with surname Davis — Davis is a common English language surname shared by many notable people, among them being: A * Adam Davis, Australian rules football field umpire * Adam Hart Davis, British writer and television presenter * Adelle Davis, American nutritionist *… …   Wikipedia

  • Chris Carmichael (musician) — Chris Carmichael is a musician and arranger born in San Antonio, Texas on July 6, 1962. The son of an Air Force fighter pilot, Chris moved extensively before taking up the violin while living in Hampton, Virginia. After moving to Bowling Green,… …   Wikipedia

  • Sting (musician) — Sting Sting at the 2009 premiere of Moon Background information Birth name Gordon Matthew Sumner Also kno …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.