His surname is somehow synonymous with yacht rock however don’t allow this misnomer fool you. The late, an excellent Paul Davis must really be considered a disciple of the legend Harry Nilsson.

You are watching: Paul davis singer of songs, teller of tales

Like Nilsson, Davis was an earnest singer-songwriter in ~ his core who, in spite of disinterest in performing live, spun his original songs into musical gold both together a solo performer and as a hitman for other contemporaries. At different microcosmic moment in popular music music history, Davis would somehow appear, disappear and then reappear again, replete with a wonderfully silky tenor voice that seemed wholly incongruous to his Meridian, Mississippi roots and style.

“He talked real slow and real southern,” says longtime friend and also producer Ed Seay. “You would certainly hear that however then you will do hear his music and his an excellent voice, and you’d day, ‘Wait a second — is the the very same guy?”

Let’s backtrack to spring 1977 as soon as the affable blonde and bearded longhair take it a straight-from-the-heart ballad called “I walk Crazy” all the method to Number 7 on the Billboard hot 100. What renders this monitor stand out is not necessarily that is composition — i beg your pardon is catchy and sincere — however the fact it took its sweet time climbing the charts and slowly tumbling back down; a then document 40 consecutive main total. Until this point, Davis had only skimmed the charts periodically due to the fact that 1970, securing two top 40 songs follow me the means — “Ride ‘Em Cowboy” and also “Superstar.”

Without outside encouragement and listeners, according to Seay, “I walk Crazy” would have been destined because that Lou Rawls’ discography. The spirit dynamo had practically topped the singles graph a year earlier with his seductive behemoth “You’ll never ever Find an additional Love like Mine.” It would certainly be Davis’ manager Ilene Burns (wife that Bang records founder and impresario Bert Berns) that would set him straight.

“At that point Paul was sort of irritable at being a record artist,” Seay told me. “He came over to my apartment and he play it on keyboard and it was great. Ilene, once she discovered out he want to provide it come Lou Rawls, usually said, ‘You ain’t giving that to Lou Rawls! Get earlier there and make me a record!’”

With “I go Crazy” as its penultimate track, Davis would release his fifth album Singer of Songs, teller Of Tales. The album would also boast another Top 20 hit solitary for Davis, “Sweet Life,” a track that would certainly stylistically influence both his many successful album and also its eponymous hit single. It would be another pair of year before one more Meridian aboriginal took the music civilization by storm — individual icon Steve Forbert that “Romeo’s Tune” fame.

Davis’ following album — a 1980 self-titled effort — would hurl the full-throttle into the new decade as keyboards and sentimentality gave way to synthesizers and sleeker production. A solid proponent of musical technology, Davis loved to tinker with brand-new instruments and also sounds, Seay freshly recalled, even going therefore far as to own a Synclavier II. When the album wouldn’t perform too lot chart-wise, that does contain several classic Davis songs in my book, including “Do Right,” “Cry just a Little,” and “All the Way.”

Davis would certainly be more than 10 years into his career when he would certainly hit his an important and commercial apex with the seminal 1981 album Cool Night. Videotaped over 4 months, the bulk of the album to be devised mostly by Davis and also Seay themselves. Complying with a “layer cake” format, the duo would bring in musicians as essential to augment Davis’ compositions and enhance songs from the ground up.

“Cool Night,” an apparent staple the the yacht absent genre, would height at Number 11 top top the Billboard warm 100 in January 1982. Top top the adult modern-day chart, it messed the top spot by one notch.

“It was type of a beat in his mind off the location of Kool & the corridor “Too Hot,” Seay said. “He said, ‘OK, ns going to make a song referred to as “Cool Night.”’”

Side keep in mind — this song is no to be perplexed with yacht rock masters Pablo Cruise, that released a track referred to as “Cool Love” in 1981. That tune would with a peak of 13, becoming the group’s fifth and also final peak 40 hit. No one is the “Cool Change” through the tiny River Band, an additional yacht rock notable from 1980.

Cool Night the album point out a far-reaching turning allude for Davis, together he would release the album top top Arista — helmed by music mastermind Clive Davis. It would be the latter’s industrial wizardry that would take the album in unanticipated directions, Seay told me.

“One point Clive to be real big on to be modulations. If girlfriend think about (“Cool Night”); if friend think about Dionne Warwick songs; if you think around Barry Manilow songs, they always had modulations,” the said. “You can not say he to be wrong through as numerous successes as Clive had actually over his career. However it did cause us one small problem since we had flown the harmonies in top top the second chorus and also then we acquired to the modulation … all our parts are in the wrong key. So, we had to re-sing them for the modulation part.”

Seay add to that when it came to compiling and devising this album — special an assured, beaming Davis top top its sheathe — whatever took its appropriate time…until crunch time take it place.

“Paul was not a rapid writer. He would write incredibly an excellent but not actual fast. That wouldn’t just dash it the end to it is in done through it,” he said. “We took the time to gain it right. At the really end of every album, Paul would press it appropriate up to the leaf of fall dead time.”

“Paul taught me how to create records since he to be a really wise man,” Seay adds. “He to be the one that taught me exactly how to make records.”

Cool Night also boasts the biggest hit that Davis’ job — 1982’s “’65 Love Affair.” include overdubbed doo-wop harmonies, cheerleader choruses, and Davis’ own “aw shucks”-styled vocals, the monitor hit a high the Number 6 top top the warm 100. Initially titled “’55 Love Affair,” its location was readjusted per Clive Davis’ request after reasoning it date Davis much more than necessary.

“It was type of an accomplishment because we weren’t from brand-new York, we weren’t native LA, we weren’t from any of the popular music areas. In a way, it functioned for us because a the majority of times if she in an area and also something gets hot, girlfriend copy that and also then they copy you, so there’s a sameness to the sound. We didn’t really have actually that to draw from,” Seay said. “It to be Paul’s creativity and also our production and also our feeling of harmonies. Us weren’t the best players in the world — much from it — but we knew just how to make records.”

Simply put, Cool Night is an underrated album, provided that it sounds like it can easily be a bookend come the Album the the Year Grammy-award to win Toto IV. “You pertained to Me” and also “One much more Time for the Lonely” are fantastic pop songs; “Nathan Jones” is a dynamite cover of the Supremes (post-Diana Ross) classic.

Though Cool Night would prove to it is in Davis’ many successful effort, the album would certainly mark significant personal alters for Davis. Eventually forgoing his very own albums (thank God iTunes has a bunch of lock available), Davis would relocate to Nashville to sell his services to the country elite together a studio musician and songwriter. This is whereby his affect deepens further. Think about the truth this is a man who both played synthesizers on the debut album native supergroup The Highwaymen (Willie, Waylon, Kris, and also Johnny), and penned classics like “Meet Me in Montana” — a major country hit for “England” Dan Seals and Marie Osmond.

And, like the aforementioned Nilsson, Davis wanted to achieve it every from the studio matches a stage.

“He was really happy with the success. He loved that, but he was absolutely not a road dog. That wasn’t among those guys who wouldn’t go out and also do a three-year tour. He’d execute six gigs and that was a large road tour,” Seay called me. “Under duress he would go out and play. The didn’t reap it. Ns think that was type of shy, to it is in honest. You would never know it yet as far as to be the center of attention…that wasn’t yes, really what he longed to do. Therefore many people are remarkable performers and also they live to carry out that. Paul was no that. Paul would rather write songs and also fish.”

Known for his dry sense of humor and also amiability, Davis would certainly unfortunately pass away in 2008 from a heart strike at the period of 60. Personally from gift a longtime smoker, Davis did no lead “a sickly life” according to Seay, who included prior come Davis’ death, he was working through his girlfriend on new songs for a potential album.

See more: How Many Days Is 5 Years, Days In A Year, How Many Days In A Year

Time will certainly tell if this will ever see the light. I hope that does. I mean if i was walking to introduce an artist who epitomized gift “a little bit country” and also “a small bit absent ‘n’ roll,” you really won’t gain much much better than this underrated giant. Davis additionally embodies the best of both human beings in one more way, Seay adds, gift a an excellent person to be roughly who likewise happened to be a good talent.

“I really miss out on him,” that says, “And most civilization that knew him miss out on him since he was absolutely one that a kind.”

\"*\"

***

Share her feedback and also suggestions because that future columns v Ira at vinylconfessions84