BIOGRAPHY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 

A talented singer/songwriter of the early 1950’s who by all rights should’ve been able to help remedy the gender imbalance in rock as she came up with a string of releases for various notable labels that featured suggestive lyrics, rhythmic drive and confident exuberant vocals, yet in spite of their quality and lasting reputation in some circles they failed to make much of a commercial impact and she faded from the scene within a few years.

Born in 1920, Davis was rather old for a newcomer in rock when she made her debut for Derby Records in late 1950, but she’d shown admirable determination to get to that stage, writing songs and submitting them to publishers – even paying to have them transcribed since she couldn’t write sheet music; as well as getting a job as an usherette at The Apollo Theater to be around artists and try and make connections.

She impressed those she did meet including jazz sax player Luis Russell and rock sax star Freddie Mitchell, the latter of whom encouraged her to write a batch of songs that they could take to his label to record together. Upon arriving however Derby’s shortsighted owner Larry Newton didn’t want to record her and mess with Mitchell’s formula of recording rocking instrumental versions of old standards even though that practice was becoming stale and uninspiring after flooding the market with those releases for more than a year.

Finally they used the fact that they were one song short on another singer to get him to record Davis singing, and then only after a three hour argument that found Derby’s business manager taking Mitchell’s side against Newton. The resulting song impressed everybody, including the owner, who then put it out as the flip side of Sarah Dean’s single, thereby costing Davis her own solitary release.

Because she was astute in the business side of the industry she refused to sell him the publishing and as a result she never signed a long term deal and was on the move to better labels but with different problems. After a short stint on Coral, a Decca subsidiary who tried taking her further away from rock, she landed with Atlantic where her records were just as powerful but she was lost in the shuffle with Ruth Brown being their biggest act and a growing stable of vocal group acts.

A later stop at DeLuxe Records started with their interest in her as a songwriter as she was paired with Lowman Pauling, leader of The “5” Royales, to come up with material for other (lesser skilled) artists, though they did manage to get some cuts with The Checkers as well as – not surprisingly The “5” Royales, the latter of whom backed her on her own best release on the DeLuxe label.

But by then that King subsidiary had been placed on the back burner in favor of Federal Records and so, as with her earlier releases for others, none of her best sides wound up getting the promotional resources necessary to turn them into the hits they rightly deserved.

After a brief stint in 1955 at Grand Records she quit the business in frustration, having outside income from running a luncheonette in New York. She sang occasionally in clubs, wrote poetry and songs but it wasn’t until the late 1970’s when she started seeing blues artist Louisiana Red and recorded a 1980 album with him. After their breakup she married for a third tme and started a graphic arts business, singing at festivals on the side.

Davis, an under-recognized talent to the end, died in 1999 without ever receiving proper accolades for an all-too brief but impressive recording career.
 
 
EUNICE DAVIS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

ROCK LITTLE DADDY
(Derby 752; December, 1950)
An impressive debut for Davis who sings the suggestive lyrics with relish as Freddie Mitchell’s band wisely lets her vocals guide their arrangement with her rhythmic style, the combination of which leave no doubt as to the sexual themes that highlight this record. (8)