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Billy Davenport
Billy Davenport
December 24, 1999
Age 68
 
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     Please send copy of obituary for Billy Davenport if you see one.  Thanks, Ed.
    
  
 
       
 

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BIOGRAPHY
 
 
All-Music Guide
 
Born: April 23, 1931, in Chicago
Died: December 24, 1999
  
    Drummer Billy Davenport was born April 23, 1931, in  Chicago. His parents were sharecroppers from rural Alabama  that migrated to Chicago in 1928. He began learning drums at the age of six, after finding an old pair of drumsticks in an alley behind the Twin Door Lounge on the South side of Chicago. A natural musician, his parents soon recognized his gift and encouraged him. He started out playing on tin cans after seeing a movie about Gene Krupa. He also admired Sid Catlett. He  took drum lessons while in the Boy Scouts and went on to play jazz in high school, in the R.O.T.C., in swing bands, and various venues in the Chicago area. In 1949, he studied music for one year at Midwestern School of Music in Chicago. He played with Bob Hadley, Leo Parker, Slam Stewart, Neal Anderson, Tampa Red, Sonny Stitt, and others. He got to hear everyone live -- Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Billy Eckstine, Gene Ammons -- all the greats. His drum influences included Art Blakey, Louis Bellson, and Max Roach. 

     From 1951 to 1955, Davenport was in the U.S. Navy, in the Mechanic Drum and Bugle Corps. In 
     the middle 1950s, the jazz scene was on the decline and Davenport turned to blues gigs to pay the 
     rent. In the late '50s, he played with Billy Boy Armond, Dusty Brown, and Freddy King. In 1960 he 
     played with the Ernie Fields Orchestra and joined Otis Rush in 1961, working with him for about a 
     year. He also worked with harp player Little Mack Simmons, Syl Johnson, Junior Wells, Mighty Joe 
     Young, James Cotton, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf.  

     He met Paul Butterfield at Pepper's Lounge in 1964 and sat in with them at their gig at Big Johns on 
     Chicago's North side. When Butterfield's drummer Sam Lay became ill late in 1965, Butterfield 
     called on Davenport to join the group and tour with them. Davenport's jazz background brought a 
     different quality to the Butterfield group. It was at this time that Bloomfield was absorbing Eastern 
     scales and with the more sophisticated drumming of Davenport, they began to work on a tune they 
     called "The Raga." This resulted in the tune "East/West," the extended tune that was to have such an 
     impact on rock music history. Much of this success was due to Davenport's ability to add color and 
     tone to the composition, something not generally found in straightahead blues drummers.  

     Davenport retired from music in 1968 due to illness, but was playing again from 1972-1974 with 
     Jimmy Dawkins, Willie Dixon, and Buster Benton. He again retired from 1974 to 1981, after which 
     he joined the Pete Baron Jazztet, with whom he still works. Davenport describes his own drumming 
     as a combination of his two idols: the two base drums of Louis Bellson and the unique drum roll of 
     Art Blakey. -- Michael Erlewine, All Music Guide

 
 
  
 
 

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