Bluesman Guy Davis to perform in Harrisburg, PA Sunday, February 22nd.

To Guy Davis, the stories behind Southern blues are as important as the familiar music that defines the genre. His songs are full of legendary tales, old and new. Davis is the son of the great actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. He says his blues music is inspired by the Southern speech of his grandmother. “What draws me into the blues, I think, is the music not only of the instruments but the music of the language,” Davis says.

Guy Davis has made a long and varied career of performing– re-creating the music of blues masters, singing and writing his own songs, performing and creating theater, and doing residencies with children. His work has earned him nine Handy Award nominations over the years, including Best Traditional Blues Album, Best Blues Song, and two for Best Acoustic Blues Artist.

Guy Davis will perform in a Susquehanna Folk Music Society sponsored concert at 7:30, Sunday, February 22, 2015 at the Appalachian Brewing Company located at 50 N. Cameron St, Harrisburg, PA 17101. For tickets and information visit

Below is a FOLKMAMA interview done on 2-12-15

FOLKMAMA: I love your music, but you are a terrific storyteller too. How integral is storytelling to your performances?

GUY: The way that I do things, there are always some stories connected to what I do. I don’t always tell the same stories. The stories that I tell may come from my one man show ‘The Adventure of Fishy Waters: In Bed with the Blues’ Other stories might come with whatever happened to me that morning.

Stories, I find ,are what connects all human beings. Even if they are just very personal stories, even if they are political stories. Stories of Jews, stories of Palestinians, stories of me being at Buchenwald Concentration Camp. I’ve got all kinds of stories, I don’t necessarily plan which I’m going to tell.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve heard you called “The Ambassador for the Blues” and I’m wondering if you could talk about your experiences overseas, especially among people who maybe have not heard the blues before.

GUY: I travel around playing the blues to places where you might not think that I would get. I went to Greenland a couple of years ago and I remember standing in front of an iceberg singing Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues. Not a lot of people had heard that there, but maybe a few.

Traveling around the world with the blues has really given me the opportunity to see first hand what is going on politically in many places. I got a chance a few years ago to play in Russia, and then a year later I played in the Ukraine. I was in Kiev in the Ukraine and there were buses full of protesters –people saying that they wanted the Ukraine to adopt the Euro instead of the Russian Ruble. The day after I left the Ukraine was that day that the statue of Lenin got knocked down.

But just to let you know that this world is a big place and people tend to receive me in a way that has to do with music and heart, story and enjoyment and not so much politically. I’m just noticing as I’m going along that it’s very political out here.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve always been curious about something. You hear a lot about the old blues masters like Robert Johnson–did the blues originate with them are did it come from some earlier source?

GUY: Blues music really started as work songs. But in time when black people in particular had leisure time and went dancing, those lyrics would come up in those songs sung while those folks were dancing. Blind Lemon Jefferson, one of the early blues men, said that people dancing way back in his early days looked like people stomping. So people were responding to rhythms and social dancing was evolving.

FOLKMAMA: You obviously know a lot about the blues. It’s such a rich tradition, how did you go about learning about it?

GUY: I learned a lot about the blues by talking to a lot of people, and of course some of it is conjecture that I use to pull all the things together. I wasn’t there at the end of slavery when men and woman had to live during very tough and brutal times. Black men and women in particular. And the people who were there before the blues began–before the 20th century in my opinion–I don’t know if I could live that rough a life. When I listen to the lyrics of the songs, when I listen to the rhythms, the meanings, the melodies–I’m hearing the story of America itself. When I perform I don’t try to teach people, I just try to entertain. But I find when I perform, a lot can’t be learned.

FOLKMAMA: I know that you work a lot with kids in schools. Is your aim to move the Blues tradition forward and to introduce a new generation to the Blues?

GUY: When I teach there are a few things going on. First off I want to inform, to let the students know about the early blues and where it came from and how to tell the difference between the East Coast Blues and the Delta Blues. But on a selfish level I’m hoping that these kids will be my audience in another 20 years because I intend to still be playing and singing.

FOLKMAMA: So what should people expect during the concert? Maybe someone who has never seen you, someone who might not even know the blues?

GUY: Well, it will certainly be a lot of fun because I’m an entertainer. When the guitar is broken and the strings pop, I’ll be able to tell stories. When my mouth didn’t work I would draw pictures.

I would expect that people would get a sense of how it felt to be sitting on a front porch, maybe a 100 years ago, hearing some early music. Or maybe like back in the 20s or 30s hearing musicians like Blind Blake or Son House or Bukka White or Robert Johnson. I want folks to get a sense of the social adventure. Folks will just be sitting in an audience in rows of seats –but that’s all good. What I do is not meant to isolate anyone. It’s meant to expose what the Blues is. Just like I was a kid many years ago and I would and hear folksingers standing on stage, and it was magic. That’s what I want to create. Magic.Guy Davis


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