DIARY - 9 NOVEMBER 2003 - RON DAVIES
JANUARY 15, 1946 - SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA
DIED OCTOBER 30, 2003 - NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE.
DAVIES RIP AT 57 IN NASHVILLE
KEVIN WELCH PERFORMS EULOGY IN GEELONG
troubadour Kevin Welch received the news that old mate Ron Davies died
in Nashville on Thursday October 30 he performed his dedication at his
Geelong concert on Saturday November 1.
The singer, making his fifth Australian tour, learned of Davies death
after his concert at the Corner Hotel, Richmond, the night before. CLICK
HERE TO READ KEVIN'S TRIBUTE
Welch, 48, performed Davies songs 'It Ain't Easy' that David Bowie
and Three Dog Night covered and 'Waitin' On A Dark Eyed Girl' that
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band cut on their 1990 disc, 'The Rest Of The Dream.'
57, was the older brother of acclaimed country singer Gail Davies
who produced the Webb Pierce tribute album Caught In The Webb.
It was deja vu for Welch and his promoter Rob Hall - Welch was set
to produce Waylon Jennings' new album when he died at 64 on February
It was less than a month before the death at 74 of Welch's mentor
- five times wed Harlan Howard - on March 3.
Ironically, Welch performed a duet with one of Harlan's former singing
spouses Jan on 'Even Though' on 'Caught In The Webb' and another
with Pierce's daughter Deborah on 'Why Baby Why.
of Waylon's death near Benalla on Highway 31 while driving Texan mentor
Billy Joe Shaver, firing on just one heart artery, to a concert in Albury.
Hall pulled his Tarago into a truck stop at Baddaginnie and broke the
news to Billy Joe's touring partners - singing Texan crime novelist Kinky
Friedman and Little Jewford who had until then been enjoying my chauffeurial
role in the matching Tarrago.
Shaver and touring mates performed Waylon eulogies at their concerts and
held a wake in Canberra.
LOUISIANA TO THE PROMISED LAND
Davies, the older brother of acclaimed singer-songwriter Gail Davies,
died at his home in Nashville of a heart attack.
While less celebrated in music circles than his sister, Davies was
the family's artistic trailblazer.
At 17, he launched his career by writing an entire album for the Wailers,
the Seattle-based rock band best known for its 1959 hit, 'Tall Cool
were recorded by David Bowie, Three Dog Night, Joe Cocker, Dave Edmunds,
Anne Murray, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Nitty Gritty Dirt
Band and Jerry Jeff Walker and many others.
His most famous compositions are 'It Ain't Easy' recorded by Three
Dog Night and
David Bowie, 'Long, Hard Climb' for Helen Reddy and Maria Muldaur,
'The Man I Used to Be' for Jerry Jeff Walker and 'Waitin' On
A Dark-Eyed Girl' for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
local country singer Tex Dickerson, often took his eldest son to see and
hear such legends as Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Red Foley and Johnny
Ron took the name Davies after being adopted by his stepfather, Darby
Davies was given his first guitar when he was 11 and immediately began
After his success with the Wailers, he signed to A&M Records.
His first album for the label was 'Silent Song Through the Land.'
He followed it with 'U. F. O,' produced by Grammy-winner Tommy
In the 1980s, Davies moved to Nashville, where he became a writer for
Cedarwood Publishing and later for Warner/Chappell.
In 1999, he played the lead role in George Jones' music video, for the
Jamie O'Hara song 'Cold Hard Truth.'
He has since released two prophetically titled indie solo albums 'Lucky
To Be Alive' and 'Where Does The Time Go?'
ARTISTS TO CUT DAVIES SONGS
Ron also had his songs recorded by such diverse acts as Anne Murray, Three
Dog Night, Dobie Gray, Kevin Welch, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Joe Cocker,
Long John Baldry, Dave Edmunds, Merry Clayton, Maria Muldaur and sister
"Ron seems surprised that anyone would want to talk to him about
his musical career that spans the past 35 years," wrote English journalist
Alan Cackett, "he was a genius of rhyme and melody, Ron has been
called 'the quintessential poet' and 'the songwriter's writer.' Though
I first met Ron in Nashville a couple of years ago, there was no time
then to sit down and talk about his somewhat colourful and chequered career.
We tried several times to hook up, but it was not until this summer that
I finally persuaded the man to open up about his life."
Ironically, Davies was born in Shreveport - also the birthplace of fellow
hell raiser Hank Williams Jr.
Patriarch Tex Dickerson - a singer from Texarkana performed on the Louisiana
Hayride. As a child, Ron often accompanied his dad to the show tapings,
listening in the wings to the music of legendary artists like Hank Williams,
Webb Pierce, Red Foley and Johnny & Jack. He spent the early years
of his life in the Texas/Oklahoma area. It was a tough life.
His father lived the fast life of a musician.
When he was eight years old Ron moved with his mother, sister and younger
brother, to Washington state where he grew up. His name was eventually
changed from Dickerson to Davies when his mother remarried and his stepfather
adopted her three children.
At the age of eleven, Ron was given his first guitar and immediately began
writing his own songs. Influenced by the music of Lavern Baker, Huey 'Piano'
Smith, the Everly Brothers and the melodies of such great songwriters
as Boudleaux & Felix Bryant, Ron's songs took on a sophistication
in composition that was uncommon for his age.
WAILERS WRITING DEBUT
By the time he was seventeen, he had written an album's worth of stellar
material for Seattle-based, rock band, 'The Wailers,' who had scored a
top 40 American pop hit with their instrumental 'Tall Cool One,'
in 1959, and again five years later, when reissued. Ron's unique singing
and writing ability (referred to by Joan Baez as a cross between Bob Dylan
and John Lennon) came to the attention of A&M records. He was encouraged
to move to Los Angeles, where he recorded his first solo album, Silent
Song Through The Land.
Produced by Chad Stewart and featuring such top West Coast session musicians
as Jim Keltner and Leon Russell, the record included his gritty, blues
standard, 'It Ain't Easy.'
His career received a major boost when 'Three Dog Night,' one of the hottest
rock bands of the time, decided not only to record his song, but to make
'It Ain't Easy' the title of their million-selling 1970 album.
Ron's song also gained international fame when David Bowie included it
on his landmark Ziggy Stardust album.
HELEN REDDY FOR RON
Ron's songs were being recorded by Joe Cocker, Helen Reddy, Dave Edmunds,
Maria Muldaur and Steppenwolf's John Kay. With this new-found success,
A&M decided to team Ron up with Grammy award-winning producer, Tommy
Vicarri, for his second album, U.F.O. He had such impressive musicians
as Billy Preston, David Spinoza, Wilton Felder, Andy Newmark, Clarence
McDonald and the Rolling Stones.
It was a masterpiece album that inspired John Bream of Rock Magazine,
to declare Ron Davies, The Best New Songwriter of the Year.
RONNIE IN NASHVILLE
In the late 1980s, Ron moved to Nashville, Tennessee to write for Cedarwood
Publishing and later for Warner/Chappell His writing was quickly recognised
as two compositions appeared on the Grammy nominated Joan Baez album Play
"'Nashville has a small town vibe, and after years in Los Angeles,
I just wanted to get out of that big city traffic, the smog and all that,"
he revealed. "I didn't have a publishing deal for quite some time
in LA. I'd just stopped writing. I had a lot of friends in the music and
I found that everybody was just so friendly, I think I met more people
in the first six months living in Nashville than I had in years living
in LA. I like it because it's just a small-town city, and yet it's a major
hub and really hums. So I get to meet new friends here and just hang out
with all these writers."
Nashville proved to be new beginning for him, though he discounts his
writing successes as being worthy of any public recognition.
TOWNES VAN ZANDT
"There were a couple of things I worked on with Townes Van Zandt,"
he recalled, "that we never got to finish. We always talked about
getting back together, but never found the time. Everybody kind of expected
him to go for some other causes because of how he lived, but not like
that.' recalling Townes' death from a heart attack in 1997.
Ron hung out with those writers and artists on the fringe of the mainstream.
One of his cuts that he was most proud of is 'Lay Down Your Burdens'
by Joe Cocker. It got rave media reviews when advances of the album were
sent out, but was pulled from the final album due to some conflict of
interest with the producer, so now lays gathering dust in the record company
JERRY JEFF WALKER
Another one is 'The Man I Used To Be,' recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker.
"Guy Clark and me had been playing some guitar in a motel room in
Nashville," Ron revealed, "and I played the song, and he said,
"I really like it, can you let me have a tape of it." About
a month later, Jerry Jeff calls me. I thought it was one of my friends
playing a joke, but it really was him. He said that he would like to cut
The Man He Used To Be. You can pitch a song forever in this town, but
if you give a tape to a friend, you never know where it's going to wind
Apart from a brief period in the 1980s, Ron has been signed to publishing
companies, large and small, for most of his adult life, but they have
rarely successfully pitched his songs to artists.
WELCH AND NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND
"I can't think of one publisher getting me a cut," he said,
"The cuts that I've had were the things like the Guy Clark connection.
My friend Kevin Welch liked a song of mine, 'Waitin' On A Dark Eyed
Girl.' He recorded it, but it didn't work out. Then Jeff Hanna, one
of the guys in the Dirt Band, heard it and they recorded it. Later Jeff
and I wrote some songs together, which the Dirt Band didn't record."
'Waitin' On A Dark Eyed Girl' was included on Nitty Gritty Dirt
Band 1990 album 'The Rest Of the Dream.' More recently, Ron had some country
chart success with 'Drive Me Crazy,' a song recorded by the Thompson Brothers
"It was something I wrote with a friend of mine, Ron Kimbro and Michael
Whitty from the band," he says, "Kimbro introduced me to those
Ron Kimbro is also the weekend bartender at Brown's Diner where Davies
often lived. Davies and Kimbro were best friends and wrote many songs
LEAD ROLE IN GEORGE JONES VIDEO
A couple of years ago Ron won his first acting role as the lead character
in the classic George Jones video, 'Cold Hard Truth.' He was a familiar
figure at the Nashville music haunts, often performing at Songwriter shows
at Douglas Corner and the Bluebird Café.
He has also been busy performing across America in support of his self-released
album, Lucky to Be Alive, through his own Cogent Music. (Available
from PO Box 120063, Nashville, Tennessee 37212 - e-mail
MUSICALS DOORS ON MUSIC ROW
Davies had the last word on his writing career which he punctuated with
long sessions at Browns bar in Nashville where he hung out with Welch.
"Unless you're down on Music Row everyday you can soon lose contact,"
he explained, "I think now that I've got more than enough material
to go down and beat on some doors and get some cuts again. But, of course,
it's always gonna be a little tough because I write such a variety of
songs, everything from real roots country to pop and country-rock."
HERE for GAIL DAVIES interview and feature
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