Blues legend Morgan Davis made a stop at the Wilno Tavern during his latest North American tour, playing for a full house this past Thursday.
The Tavern has long been known for keeping the blues scene alive in this area, providing a venue that attracts many high-profile musicians. Juno Award winner Morgan Davis is the latest of the great blues artists to play there, in a show organized by Jim Jones of Zapp Productions.
Davis is a one-man band and has been playing the guitar since he was 16 years old. He gravitated towards the blues because he says it was “the music I grew up with…in Detroit it was just in the air.”
He moved to Canada in the 1960s and describes the catalyst that fueled this move as one word, “Vietnam.”
While living in Toronto he immersed himself in the study of country and Delta blues, looking to Robert Johnson – among others – for inspiration. Over his long career he has opened for many prestigious blues musicians, including John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon and Albert King.
Davis has been supporting himself as a musician for 42 years, hitting the road every year from April to November. At age 64 he says, “The older I get the tougher it gets…there’s a real physical challenge to it, you know?”
But Davis has no plans of throwing in the towel. “Nobody retires, every blues guy I know plays ‘til he drops. I’m amazed I’ve made 60…I never thought I’d be here.”
As the world changes, so does the music scene. While the number of live music venues is declining, Davis notes places offering “electronic music, raves, and dance music” continue to thrive. As far as venues booking blues artists he says, “It’s not getting any easier.”
Nonetheless, there is still a worldwide love of the blues. Davis recently returned from a short European tour and says, “There are serious blues fans everywhere, they all listen to the same records, and so there is a common language.”
Davis has also noticed a resurgence of blues fans in his current hometown of Halifax. When he is off the road during the winter months he has been playing a house-gig at the same bar for eight years. At first he found that his music only attracted the older crowd, but now he says, “I’m starting to get college kids in there. They are rediscovering the blues!”
The crowd Davis played for at the Wilno Tavern demonstrated this same split demographic, drawing both the older generation that grew up with the blues, and the younger generation discovering it. Together they found a common language on the dance floor as they grooved to the music.
The audience got particularly enthusiastic when Davis played classic covers such as “Such a Night” made popular by Dr. John and “Walkin’ Blues” by Robert Johnson.
There is no doubt that the blues scene is alive and well in this area. Organizer Jim Jones, who is a big blues fan himself says, “People really seem to appreciate good music…we’ve had a fantastic turnout.”
Jones plans to bring a variety of blues musicians to the area as part of his Summertime Blues Series. For information about upcoming concerts visit: http://www.zapp-productions.com