Reverend Gary Davis was a legendary figure in the world of acoustic blues, ragtime and gospel and influenced many guitarists such as Stefan Grossman and Ry Cooder. Although well versed in all styles of blues picking, he found religion in his thirties and was ordained as a minister, after which time he refused to play the ‘Devil’s music’.
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In this video, I take a look at his basic technique when playing in the key of C, using ‘Cocaine Blues’ as an example. Gary Davis played a jumbo bodied Gibson and favored finger picks, which helped to amplify his sound when performing on the streets of Harlem, as was his habit when living in New York. It’s fair to say that Davis had no betters in this field, while other men that he mentored, such as Blind Boy Fuller, enjoyed much greater commercial success. Perhaps Blind Blake and Willie Walker were the only two guitarists to equal Davis, and of these, Blake’s playing was limited mostly to fast ragtime picking and didn’t have the range of the Reverend’s repertoire.
Davis’ guitar work was creative and complex, which was all the more impressive when we realize that he only used his thumb and forefinger to pick. His finger was nimble, and his picking thumb could move across all six strings producing a syncopated sound. A characteristic feature of the Reverend’s playing was the creation of fast single string runs picked with the thumb and forefinger.
This is just sample from great acoustic blues course – click here for more: Blues Guitar Lessons by Jim Bruce