Q&A with bluesman Boo Boo Davis, a survivor and belongs to the last generations of musicians that write and play the blues

"The Blues and I are the same. My life is the blues and blues is my life. The blues deals with all the basic raw elements of life; good and bad, plain and simple."

Boo Boo Davis: Nothin' But The Blues

He was born and raised in Drew, Mississippi in the heart of Delta. It was the richest cotton land in the South and the large amounts of field workers attracted the best musicians from the surrounding areas. The entire Delta region was rich with blues, but the town of Drew was a particularly fertile one. Charley Patton stayed near Drew for many years and several legendary performers spent time there. Sharecroppers sang loudly to help pass the grueling hours of work and without a doubt Boo Boo developed his loud, bellowing voice based on the singing he heard in the fields as a young boy. In fact, that voice, through the years has demolished many amps and speaker cabinets. Boo Boo’s father, Sylvester Davis farmed cotton and played several instruments. Musicians who he played with include John Lee Hooker, Elmore James and Robert Pete Williams. Boo Boo remembers these and other musicians dropping by and rehearsing at their house. At the age of five Boo Boo was playing the harmonica and singing in church with his mother. By thirteen he was playing guitar, and by eighteen he was playing out with his father and older brothers under the name of The Lard Can Band. This band travelled all throughout the Delta. In the early sixties he went north to St Louis and was around during the heyday of the St Louis music scene (Albert King, Ike Turner, Chuck Berry and many others). Together with his brothers they were the weekend house band in Tubby’s Red Room in East St Louis for eighteen years.          (Photo: Boo Boo Davis)

Even though Boo Boo moved north to St. Louis, he will always be a southerner at heart. When he is at home (and not performing) his favorite pastimes are hunting with his dogs and fishing. During Boo Boo’s childhood there was no time or money for him to go to school so he never learned to read and write. However that did not prevent him to travel all over the world. Following his guiding spirit (that he calls Dave) Boo Boo has found a way to deal with modern society. The blues helps him to keep his spirit high and survive day-to-day life. It deals with all the basic raw elements of life; good and bad, plain and simple. His first European tour took place in April 2000 and since then Boo Boo is touring Europe at least twice a year. So far Boo Boo has released 5 CD’s on Black and Tan Records and all of them were very well received. Number 4 (DREW, MISSISSIPPI) was listed with the 10 best blues records of 2006 by MOJO Magazine. In 2007 Boo Boo was invited to perform on the POCONO BLUES FESTIVAL, one of the biggest blues festivals in the USA and in March 2007 Boo Boo performed live on CBC Radio One, national radio in Canada. What started as a crazy idea after the European tour of Boo Boo in October 2007 has turned out to be not too crazy at all. On the Spring Tour of 2008 they decided to leave out the bass and tour as a trio: Boo Boo Davis on vocals & harmonica, John Gerritse on drums and Jan Mittendorp on guitar. This trio has been touring Europe extensively; the last few years they did over four hundred shows in twenty three different countries including a lot of the big blues & jazz festivals. "Bye Baby Bye Bye" by ElectroBluesSociety feat Boo Boo Davis is a new single release on Black and Tan Records (Summer 2021), from the ‘transatlantic quarantaine sessions”.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues music influenced your views of the world and the life's journeys you’ve taken?

The Blues and I are the same. My life is the blues and blues is my life. The blues deals with all the basic raw elements of life; good and bad, plain and simple. We started of with making our own instrument by just putting on string on a wall with two nails and create our own diddley bow. Later we started fooling around with the instruments of my father and other musicians that came by our house. Being black in Mississippi in the 40 and 50 the only thing we had for ourselves was our music. The blues helped us to keep our spirit high and survive day-to-day life. So, it was not a choice it was just a way to survive and express ourselves.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I always try to sing and play with my own "voice" and I write my own songs.  It all about the voice and the groove. No fancy solos on the guitar or the harmonica... just groove. We never rehearse we just play. A Boo Boo Davis concert is rough and simple but also very true. It is all about the feeling and groove. We will make you dance.

Boo Boo Davis is a survivor and belongs to the last generations of musicians that write and play the blues based on first hand experience of a hard life in the Mississippi Delta. (Photo: Boo Boo Davis)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My father was a musician, and he played a whole lot of instruments, and he was also a great dancer. In the 40' and 50's my father played with lots of great musicians like John Lee Hooker, Elmore James or Robert Pete Williams and many others. I do remember very well that they came by poor house and rehearsed with my dad. As little kids we used sneak in the room and listen to the music.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, tours and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Too much. Every show is a unique experience for us and for the audience. The best way to get to know my music is to go to one of my live shows. And that is hard at this moment. I really hope to be able to be back on the road again next year.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the real blues voices. There is too much young (and good looking) guitar and harmonica players that cannot sing. For them playing the blues is just an excuse for endless guitar and harmonica solos. For me it is all about the voice and the singing.

What would you say characterizes "St Louis blues scene" in comparison to other US scenes and circuits?

My brothers already went up north a few years before and I followed a few years later. Life was a bit better up north and there were more jobs etc. In St Louis was a very lively music scene with artists like Albert King, Ike & Tina Turner, Oliver Sain, Miles Davis etc. So, there was more work for musicians in St Louis then in the South.

"The Blues and I are the same. My life is the blues and blues is my life. The blues deals with all the basic raw elements of life; good and bad, plain and simple. We started of with making our own instrument by just putting on string on a wall with two nails and create our own diddley bow. Later we started fooling around with the instruments of my father and other musicians that came by our house. Being black in Mississippi in the 40 and 50 the only thing we had for ourselves was our music. The blues helped us to keep our spirit high and survive day-to-day life. So, it was not a choice it was just a way to survive and express ourselves." (Photo: Boo Boo Davis  with John Gerritse and Jan Mittendorp)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Living in the south was hard, real hard. There was no time or money for me to go to school. I started working the cotton fields when I was 5 years old.

Drew is in the middle of the Mississippi Delta. It was the richest cotton land in the South and because there were large amounts of field workers, and I still remember sharecroppers singing loudly to help pass the grueling hours of work. The entire Delta region was rich with blues, but my hometown of Drew was a particularly fertile one.

I played and met almost all the legends from the blues in the Mississippi blues scene and that is how I learned what I know today. Coming from that living tradition is what formed me and my music.

What is the impact of the Blues on the racial and socio-cultural implications? How do you want to affect people?

I don't know about that but what I do know is: The Blues and I are the same. My life is the blues and blues is my life. The blues deals with all the basic raw elements of life; good and bad, plain and simple.

Boo Boo Davis (Black and Tan) - Home

(Photo: Boo Boo Davis)

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