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Debbie Davies

Davies rise to the upper echelon of blues music started at an early age as she absorbed the music heard constantly in her home. Her (professional) musician parents were either sitting at the piano or spinning discs on their turntable, filling the air with the sounds of big band jazz, harmony vocal groups, or the pop icons of the day. But the young Davies was particularly attracted to the bluesier sounds of her father’s Ray Charles records, and by the age of 12 realized that her affinity for an instrument was not for the piano, but for the guitar.

Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960’s, she found that being a female guitar player meant only one thing: acoustic guitar. Electric guitars were still toys meant only for boys. But when Debbie heard the sounds of the British blues-rock bands, particularly the electric guitar of Eric Clapton with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, she became completely captivated. Going against the grains of society’s accepted roles of the time, Debbie pursued her dream with the passion of an artist and the soul of a rebel.

Davies cut her teeth playing in blues and rock ‘n roll bands in the San Francisco Bay area before returning to Los Angeles in 1984, where she landed the lead guitar spot in Maggie Mayall and the Cadillacs, an all-female band led by wife of British blues pioneer, John Mayall. In 1988 she was recruited by Albert Collins to join the Icebreakers, and for the next three years she was a featured guitarist performing behind one of the most innovative bluesmen of all time. “I stepped through a door into the real blues world when I joined Albert’s band,” Davies says. “It’s one thing to listen to the records and pull off the licks, or sit in the audience watching these artists play. But actually going out and touring with one, turned the blues into something completely three-dimensional for me. I knew then what a special opportunity this was, but I know it even more now.” During her tenure with Albert, Debbie was invited to perform on John Mayall’s 1990 album, A Sense of Place, and in 1991 she recorded with Albert Collins and the Icebreakers on the Grammy nominated self-titled release for Point Blank/Virgin Records.

In the summer of 1991 Debbie became lead guitarist for Fingers Taylor and the Ladyfingers Revue, which served as the opening act for Jimmy Buffett’s “Outpost” tour. In September 1993 she came out with her debut solo release, Picture This, on Blind Pig Records, which featured a cameo by Collins on “I Wonder Why.” People like to ask Debbie if she learned her technique from Collins, to which she gently points out that she had to play well from the start to hold her own with Albert at every performance. However, the experience taught her lessons in being a better musician, both onstage and off. Says Davies, “It was the most powerful band I had ever played with, so I learned to dig even deeper into myself to pull out the music. Albert was a man of so much grace and kindness, so I can only hope that I was able to absorb some of his humanity too.”

Since 1993, Debbie has produced nine solo recordings and two collaborative CD’s, one with guitarists Tab Benoit and Kenny Neal, and another with guitarists Anson Funderburgh and Otis Grand. The roster of other artists who have joined Debbie in the studio on her recordings reads like a who’s who of the blues: Albert Collins, Ike Turner, James Cotton, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, Coco Montoya, Duke Robillard, Tommy Shannon, Chris “Whipper” Layton, Sugar Ray Norcia, Mudcat Ward, Charlie Musselwhite, Bruce Katz, Per Hanson, Noel Neal, and Rod Carey. She has received eight nominations for Blues Music Awards, and in 1997 won the award for Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist. She is nominated yet again in this category for 2008.

Her 2007 Telarc Records release Blues Blast is highly-acclaimed and is a pressure cooker recording that showcases her seasoned guitar and vocal capabilities. It includes guest appearances by three high-profile bluesmen: guitarists Tab Benoit and Coco Montoya, and harpist Charlie Musselwhite. A twenty-year veteran of the road, Debbie Davies is truly one of the leading lights on the contemporary blues music scene today.