Learn Blues Guitar Online – The One Finger Picking Technique Of Reverend Gary Davis
Like most (or at least ‘many’) old style country blues and ragtime blues fingerpickers used just one finger – think of Gary Davis, Doc Watson, Big Bill Broonzy, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscombe, the list just goes on and on. Of course, there’s never a hard and fast rule about these things. Tommy Emmanuel uses all of his fingers at different times, but mostly the forefinger and second finger. However, a good general rule of thumb if we want to try and copy the old guys is to first of all check out their finger movements, if we are lucky enough to have old film of them playing guitar. Luckily for us, Gary Davis survived into the 60s and so we have plenty of footage to check out how he did it.
With some guitarists, it’s pretty obvious if they use one or more fingers to play fingerstyle guitar. Blind Blake, for example, plays fast ragtime blues guitar with triplets on the treble strings which just can’t be done with one finger. A master like Davis could, of course, but not at the speed at which Blake played such pieces as southern Rag and West Coast Blues. Checkout out those learn to play blues guitar online videos that you can free all over the internet and you’ll find many simplified versions of the old blues songs. I’m not knocking this – we all simplify to some extent, particularly when faced with the enormous task of trying to play fingerpicking blues guitar in the style of one of the great masters, but it’s a fact that if we simplify too much we can lose that all-important feeling that we feel in love with in the first place when we heard the original.
There is a subtle difference in timing between using one finger vs two finger, and this can destroy the feel of the piece. That’s the first thing to understand about Davis’s fingerpicking style. Naturally it’s beautiful and it’s raw – we don’t want to prettify it by playing it delicately with two fingers. The Reverend played with a large thumb pick and a plastic or steel pick on his forefinger. The rest of the fingers of his picking hand rested lightly on the guitar soundboard, but were not locked tightly in place – they would slide over the surface. His palm rested very close to the strings near the guitar saddle so that he could drop it onto the strings if he wanted to damp or mute the sound a little (or a lot!)
I tried to show a way of playing some of those signature licks that appear in the Gary Davis version of this ragtime guitar classic, which achieves considerable syncopation by that unusual but simple bass pattern and the finger work, which has to nimble and very controllable, as it moves contrary to the accepted style in places.
Article taken from Wikipedia:
Davis was born in Laurens, South Carolina, in the Piedmont region. Of the eight children his mother bore, he was the only one who survived to adulthood. He became blind as an infant. He recalled being poorly treated by his mother and that his father placed him in the care of his paternal grandmother. Davis reported that when he was 10 years old his father was killed in Birmingham, Alabama; he later said that he had been told that his father was shot by the Birmingham sheriff.
He took to the guitar and assumed a unique multivoice style produced solely with his thumb and index finger, playing gospel,ragtime, and blues tunes along with traditional and original tunes in four-part harmony.
In the mid-1920s, Davis migrated to Durham, North Carolina, a major center of black cultureat the time. There he taught Blind Boy Fuller and collaborated with a number of other artists in the Piedmont blues scene, including Bull City Red. In 1935, J. B. Long, a store manager with a reputation for supporting local artists, introduced Davis, Fuller, and Red to the American Record Company. The subsequent recording sessions (available in his Complete Early Recordings) marked the real beginning of Davis’s career. During his time in Durham, Davis became a Christian; in 1937, he was ordained as a Baptist minister. Following his conversion and especially his ordination, Davis began to prefer inspirational gospel music.
In the 1940s, the blues scene in Durham began to decline, and Davis moved to New York. In 1951, he recorded an oral history for the folklorist Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold (the wife ofAlan Lomax). who transcribed their conversations in a typescript more than 300 pages long.
The folk revival of the 1960s invigorated Davis’s career. He performed at the Newport Folk Festival. Peter, Paul and Mary recorded his version of “Samson and Delilah”, also known as “If I Had My Way”, a song by Blind Willie Johnson, which Davis had popularized. “Samson and Delilah” was also covered and credited to Davis by the Grateful Dead on the album Terrapin Station. Eric Von Schmidt credited Davis with three-quarters of Schmidt’s “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”, covered by Bob Dylan on his debut album for Columbia. Blues Hall of Fame singer and harmonica player Darrell Mansfield has recorded several of Davis’s songs.
Davis died of a heart attack in May 1972, in Hammonton, New Jersey. He is buried in plot 68 of Rockville Cemetery, in Lynbrook, Long Island, New York.
Article Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverend_Gary_Davis
There are very few old style acoustic blues guitar players that had such a broad range of material at his disposal – many of his songs are perfect for understand this style when you start to learn blues guitar online. He could play ragtime blues, gospel, delta blues, in act anything at all if he had a mind. I often thought of Davis and all the other street performers, when I needed to play on the city streets myself to make a living. It isn’t easy by any means, but it really helped my blues to put myself in their position for a few short years.