Hendrix mentor Billy Davis plays downtown Detroit Friday

Sep 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Last summer we published Kent Alexander's profile of Detroit guitarist Billy Davis, a longtime musician for Detroit legends Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and an influence on a very young Jimi Hendrix.

... Ballard would give Davis 30 minutes to open the shows. He'd go out and do flips and bite guitar strings. It's no wonder guys like Jimi Hendrix became huge fans. If Davis had a diverse bag of onstage tricks, he considered himself a guitarist first and a performer second. "Guitar was my thing," Davis says. "I grew up wanting to learn it. Doing tricks was just an expression of my love for guitar."

Davis had met the teenaged Jimi Hendrix back in 1959, in Seattle, becoming a sort of mentor to the future legend, teaching him what he knew about guitar, becoming to Hendrix what old Boise Gatlin was to him.

Expanding on the tale, Davis says, "I used to take my Strat and we'd mess around. He didn't have an [electric] guitar at the time. He had a little acoustic. I used to go to his house and show him stuff, and he just fell in love with it."

"Enthralled" is the word that authors Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber use in their book Becoming Jimi Hendrix to describe the younger musician's reaction.

Davis doesn't play publicly all that often — or maybe he's just keeping it a secret from us —  so when saw that he was playing this Friday at UDetroit, we knew we had to pass the word along.

He'll perform with bassist and UDetroit regular Friday bandleader Ralphe Armstrong. Other guests for this week's session are vocalist Roger Tucker and drummer and Funk Brother Spider Webb. Also as part of the program is an interview with promoter and jazz-scene lynch pin Bert Dearing.

Program begins at 6:30 p.m. at 1427 Randolph in Paradise Valley in downtown Detroit. For more info and a webcast, see udetroit.com.