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Dav(e)y Graham: belated tribute to a guitar great

Living thousands of miles from the West is no longer much of an excuse for missing important news from home. But it happens.

Today, I responded to a message at Mudcat to the effect that the hugely influential guitarist Davey, also known as Davy, Graham had died at 68 of lung cancer.

No sooner had I posted a very short tribute of my own than someone else at Mudcat added a comment pointing out that Davey's death had already been covered in an earlier thread. In fact, he died in mid-December.

Read the comments, look Davy up on the internet and on record.


This, of course, is the musician who gave to the world Anji, the marvellous piece for acoustic guitar that Paul Simon and Bert Jansch also recorded. But he was responsible for a great deal more excellent music than one composition, and those who saw him live say that at his best, he was exceptional. Simon regarded him as one of the best folk/blues guitarists, if not the best, he had encountered in or from the UK.

As I mentioned at Mudcat, Davey was a hero to lots of young would-be guitarists. I managed to learn the opening bars of Anji to my own satisfaction, though hardly of sufficient quality to repeat in public, but struggled to get much further without bolting on unrelated snatches from elsewhere (even a bit of House of the Rising Sun for heaven's sake).

Salut! Live wishes to offer condolences to all those close to Davey.

From that earlier Mudcat thread, I have chosen the following message, which seems to sum up the feelings of those who will most miss Davey. It comes from Will Fry:



I've just read this and I'm in tears. He was a huge influence on many of us and, like many and another, "Folk Roots New Routes" and "Folk Blues and Beyond" were albums that changed the way I looked at the guitar. I had the good fortune to jam on several occasions with DG at the Cousins allniters and he was invariably kind and courteous and not at all condescending to a younger and more inexperienced player. All I can do is raise a glass and say "thank you".

Robin Denselow, in The Guardian, wrote the obituary from which these extracts are taken (see the full article here - well worth a read; the writer clearly knew Davey quite well):

Davey Graham, who also recorded as Davy Graham, and has died aged 68 of lung cancer, was the undisputed guitar hero of the British folk-blues clubs in the early and mid-1960s: a remarkable and wildly inventive musician, he transformed the acoustic scene with performances that were startling and unique for their blend of traditional themes with blues, jazz and even Indian or Arabic influences. Years ahead of his time in the way he mixed styles, in doing so he opened the way for many of the great British guitarists who started out in the 60s. Martin Carthy described him as "an extraordinary, dedicated player, the one everyone followed and watched - I couldn't believe anyone could play like that"; while for Bert Jansch (who would develop Graham's ideas in the band Pentangle), he was "courageous and controversial - he never followed the rules. ..... ....... Graham's recording career began in 1961 with the EP 3/4 AD, on which he was joined by Korner. It included Anji (named after a girlfriend), but initially went largely unnoticed because it was so far ahead of its time. In 1963 he released his first LP, The Guitar Player, and the following year he recorded two albums that are now recognised as folk-blues classics and were rather like delayed time bombs; their initial impact may not have been enormous but the long-term effect was remarkable...... ....But admiration for the jazz world lifestyle had a devastating effect on Graham, who began to inject heroin and registered himself as a drug addict. According to Carthy, "he was a lovely man, but he was in thrall to jazz players like Charlie Parker, and the whole drug culture. And though there was very little heroin on the British folk scene, he deliberately became a junkie. I remember Alexis Korner's fury when he found out."..... ....Davey's personal life was often as complex as his music. He was married once, from the late 60s to early 70s, to the American singer Holly Gwinn, with whom he recorded Godington Boundary (1970). But he was always accompanied by a series of devoted girlfriends, some of whom remained close friends long after the relationship had ended. He was the father of two daughters, Mercy and Kim, who both survive him, as does his former wife. • Davey (Davy) Graham, guitarist, born 26 November 1940; died 15 December 2008

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