Monday, June 09, 2014

Passings: Don Davis, Guitarist, Stax Record Producer (1938 - 2014)

Don Davis, whose career ran from playing guitar on early Motown hits to Stax record producer to executive, died on Thursday after a brief illness at the age of 75.

Davis was born in Detroit and started his musical career out of high school heading the Don Davis Trio before moving into studio work. Working at area labels, Davis can heard on such songs as Barrett Strong's Money (That's What I Want) and Cool Jerk by the Capitals along with songs on the Ric-Tic, Northern, Golden World, Thelma and Revilot labels.

In the late 60's, Davis moved to Memphis to join Stax Records where he worked to combine Motown's smooth sound with Stax' soul. His first major hit at the label was Johnny Taylor's 1968 hit Who's Making Love, creating a bond that would last through the 70's. Davis went on to write and produce other Taylor hits including Jody's Got Her Girl and Gone and his number 1 hit Disco Lady. Later in the decade, he produced Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.'s hit You Don't Have to Be a Star (to Be in My Show).

In 1971, Davis bought Detroit's United Sound recording studio and set up the production and publishing company Groovesville. By the middle of the decade, he also started and was head of Tortoise International, an RCA distributed label.

Davis also used his business experience to found First Independence Bank in Detroit, the only African-American owned and operated commercial bank in Michigan.

Davis is survived by his wife and three children.

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