Saturday, June 14, 2008

Put Your Gun Away, Waylon

Category: Obituary

George Joseph Nowlan died Thursday, June 12th.


You may know him better by his stage name: Danny Davis.

Danny Davis wore many hats during his long career. He was a champion, professionally-trained trumpet player who performed with jazz great Gene Krupa while still a teenager. As he grew older, he also performed with the likes of Art Mooney and Bob Crosby. He also sang (Davis & the Brass released an album of vocal performances, How I Love Them Old Songs) with Merv Griffin's band.

Davis turned his attention to production in the 50s. One of his biggest successes was producing Connie Francis during her most successful periods for MGM. Davis was also credited with bringing Herman's Hermits to the attention of American record executives.

In the 60s, Davis was a producer in Nashville, leaning more and more toward country. Among his production credits were the album Jim Reeves...And Some Friends, the Don Gibson/Dottie West collaboration "Rings of Gold," and the song that nabbed Waylon Jennings a Grammy: "MacArthur Park."

Yes, that "MacArthur Park." The legend is that Jennings was so infuriated with the notion of recording the Jimmy Webb pop composition that, during the recording session, Jennings pulled a gun on Davis. (Waylon later denied the story.)

During the late 1960s Davis assembled a group of musicians to record instrumental versions of country songs. While that was not that unusual (Chet Atkins and Merle Travis released album after album of instrumental renditions of songs), what was unusual was the choice of instruments. Davis used trumpets and trombones, augmented with banjo, to create Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass.

The sound was well-received in the late 60s. Their second album, The Nashville Brass Featuring Danny Davis Play More Nashville Sounds, won a Grammy award. Davis also took home the "best instrumental group" CMA Award six years in a row from 1969 through 74.

Although the recorded popularity faded during the 70s, Davis and the Brass continued to tour. He only retired from performing a few years ago to his home in Nashville with his wife, Barbara, where he began work on a book.

A sad, "brassy down home" farewell to Danny Davis, who died June 12 of cardiac arrest at age 83.

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