My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Country Heritage: Gail Davies

Gail DaviesDuring the late winter & early spring of 1979, listeners of country radio were treated to the unusual strains of “Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You”. Amidst the clutter of the last vestiges of the Outlaw Movement, the dying gasps of the Nashville Sound and the nascent Urban Cowboy movement, this lilting and beautiful melody was unlike anything else being played. Released on the independent Lifesong label, the song suffered from spotty distribution (which turned into no distribution at all when Lifesong’s distribution deal fell apart) yet made it to #11 on Billboard’s Country Chart. For Gail Davies, this song turned out to be her career breakthrough, leading to a record deal with Warner Brothers.

Gail Davies (originally Patricia Gail Dickerson) was born into a musical family in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, on June 5, 1948. Her father, Tex Dickerson, was a country singer who occasionally appeared on the Louisiana Hayride. When Davies was five, her parents divorced and her mother took her and her two brothers to the Seattle area. At some point, her mother remarried and she and her brothers were adopted by their stepfather, Darby Davies, and took his surname. One of her brothers was Ron Davies, a renown songwriter and performer, who wrote songs that were recorded by such luminaries as David Bowie, Three Dog Night, Joe Cocker, Dave Edmunds, Jerry Jeff Walker and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

After graduating from high school in 1966, Davies moved to Los Angeles where she was briefly married to a jazz musician. After her divorce, she found work as a session singer at A&M studios. While at A&M she was befriended by songwriter Joni Mitchell and A&M recording engineer Henry Lewy who introduced her to the production end of the business, where she was able to sit in on a number of noteworthy recording sessions, including a John Lennon session that was being produced by Phil Spector.

Things moved rapidly for Davies, and by 1974 she was touring with the legendary Roger Miller and made her national television debut as his duet partner in 1974 singing on the Merv Griffin Show. During this period, she began writing songs and signed with EMI Publishing in 1975. Her first major success as a songwriter came when Ava Barber, a regular cast member of television’s Lawrence Welk Show, had a hit single with “Bucket to the South,” which reached #14 in 1978 on the Billboard Country Chart. This led to a contract with CBS/Lifesong Records in 1978 and the release of her first album simply entitled Gail Davies.

The first two singles off the album – the Mel Tillis-penned remake of a Webb Pierce hit “No Love Have I” and a remake of a Johnnie & Jack hit “Poison Love” – both broke into the top thirty. Then came “Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You.”

Davies moved to Warner Brothers in late 1979 and began producing her own records, beginning with The Game. She was possibly the first woman to solo produce records in Nashville. During her five years with Warner Brothers, Davies reached the peak of her commercial success, charting 13 times with nine top 20 records, five of which reached the top 10. These included “Blue Heartache” (#7), “I’ll Be There” (#4), “It’s a Lovely, Lovely World” (#5), “Round the Clock Lovin’” (#9), and “Grandma’s Song” (#9). She also repaid the kindness of friend Joni Mitchell, turning Mitchell’s “You Turn Me On (I’m A Radio)” into a #17 hit in 1982. After 1982 there were no more top 10 hits.

In 1984 Davies moved to RCA where she created some very innovative and imaginative music. For RCA, “Jagged Edge of A Broken Heart” (#20) and “Breakaway” (#15) were the biggest hits. Probably the most interesting RCA single, however, was “Unwed Fathers” (#56) which was a bit controversial for its time. In 1985, she performed at the Wembley International Festival in London. Upon her return from London she formed a country/rock band called Wild Choir, possibly a forerunner of today’s Americana movement. Wild Choir released one self-titled album (produced by Davies and her guitarist Pete Pendras) and two singles, “Safe in the Arms of Love” (later recorded by Martina McBride) and “Heart To Heart.” When Wild Choir broke up, Davies moved to MCA, but only two lower-level chart hits and an album, Pretty Words, came from this association. Her choice of “Tell Me Why” (written by Davies and Harry Stinson) for release as a single was ignored by MCA (it became a hit for newcomer, Jann Browne).

Subsequently, she left MCA soon after and moved to Capitol/EMI, where she produced two CDs, The Other Side of Love and The Best of Gail Davies before accepting a position at Liberty Records in 1990 as country music’s first female staff producer. After 1989 Gail Davies never again charted a single.

Gail Davies remains active to this day, performing, recording and producing recordings. After several years, she formed her own label, Little Chickadee Productions. The label’s first release Eclectic (10 songs written, sung and produced by herself), was critically acclaimed. Other Little Chickadee releases include: Love Ain’t Easy, Gail Davies Greatest Hits, Live at the Station Inn and The Songwriter Sessions.

In 2002, Davies received an IBMA award and a Grammy nomination for her duet with bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley. She was also nominated for an Americana award for her production on the Webb Pierce tribute album Caught In The Webb, which featured a cast of many great country stars from several generations including George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Pam Tillis, Dwight Yoakam, Charley Pride, The Del McCoury Band, Dale Watson and many more. The proceeds from this album benefit the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation.

Discography

Obviously, anything on vinyl is long out of print but may be available on the internet or in used record shops. Davies issued the following albums (anything post 1990 was issued on CD, anything prior on vinyl and/or cassette). The only album which has the original version of “Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You” is the album on Lifesong. Fortunately, it finally has been reissued on CD. Personally, I’m partial to the earlier material but the Live and Unplugged At the Station Inn album also is terrific, and all of her albums are worthwhile. I would recommend her The Songwriter Sessions  album as great introduction to the depth and breadth of Gail’s performing and songwriting talent  – Gail wrote or co-wrote all 45 of the songs contained on the set!

Lifesong

•Gail Davies (1978)

Warner Brothers

•The Game (1980)

•I’ll Be There (1981)

•Givin’ Herself Away (1982)

•What Can I Say (1983)

RCA Victor

•Where Is A Woman To Go (1984)

•Wild Choir (1986)

MCA

•Pretty Words (1990)

Capitol/Liberty

•The Other Side of Love (1990)

•The Best of Gail Davies (1994)

Little Chicadee

•Eclectic (1994)

•Greatest Hits (1996)

•Love Ain’t Easy (1998)

•The Songwriter Sessions (2003) – Two CD set

Valley

•Live and Unplugged At the Station Inn (2001)

Gail Davies has some of her CDs available for purchase on her website http://www.gaildavies.com/ . It’s a very nice website and I recommend that anyone who is interest in Gail’s music give it a visit. The website contains a complete discography of Gail’s recordings, with many of her recordings available for purchase as well as her autobiography The Last of The Outlaws.

6 responses to “Country Heritage: Gail Davies

  1. Ben Foster March 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    I love Gail Davies, and I’m happy to see her get a Country Heritage spotlight today. I have her first album, which I love, and I intend to buy more of her records soon. “Someone Is Looking for Someone Like You” is my favorite Davies song, and I agree that the original Lifesong recording is the best. I also love her cover of Ray Price’s “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me).” Great article, Paul.

  2. Razor X March 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I always liked her music and was surprised that her time at the top of the charts was so brief.

  3. Ken Johnson March 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Paul:
    I share your affection for Gail’s great music and her expressive voice. “Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You” truly ranks as one of country music’s great songs. Shame that there is not a CD with original versions of all of her greatest hits available. The “best of” and “greatest hits” albums listed above are mostly re-recordings. Her excellent Warner Brothers solid country hits pre-dated the New Traditionalist movement by just a few years.

    Gail’s multi-talented son Chris was born in 1982. Her relationship with his father was already ending when she found out that she was expecting. Gail decided to become a single mother, something not very common at that time. Chris Scruggs’ dad is songwriter/producer/musician Randy Scruggs and his grandfather was the legendary Earl Scruggs.Chris inherited more than a little of the family talent. The singer/guitarist is also a master of the steel guitar and was a former member of the group BR-549. Later this month he’ll be touring with former Monkee Mike Nesmith. For more about Chris check his website:

    http://www.chrisscruggs.com/index.htm

  4. Leeann Ward March 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    What a voice Gail Davies has. And I have a lot of respect for the fact that she was one of the first solo female producers in country music. Ken’s right that Chris Scruggs is great too.

  5. Patty July 4, 2013 at 2:07 am

    Just to set the record straight, it is Gary Scruggs not Randy who is the father of Gail Davies’ son – the very talented Chris Scruggs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: