James Davis - Timothy Duffy
Perry, Georgia, guitarist James Davis practices a form of blues he calls "Georgia Drum Beat," an all-instrumental boogie groove he performs with the accompaniment of a drummer each Saturday night at a club called The Turning Point in Warner-Robins.
I was born in 1931 in Perry, Georgia. I have three brothers. My older brother used to play blues on the guitar. My daddy was a drum beater and played for 50 years, him and his brother. Clint Davis, his brother, played the bass drum; my father, Ulysses Davis, played a kill [kettle] drum. They played all around at picnics, school closings. It was just drums. Then I came on and played guitar with his drums. They call it Drum Beat. My daddy has been dead 20 years. When he died, Verlon Gilbert tried to keep it going. He can play a little bit but not much. I play the same type of beat my daddy used to play but I put the blues to it.
I learned the bottleneck from other people around here; Joe Davis and his daddy were guitar players. His daddy was Wash Davis. I used to sit down and watch them. I don't sing 'cause I never could. I have been playing every week at the same bar for eight years. They do the slow drag and all kinds of dancing. People come from Perry, Warner Robins, Hawkinsville, Elberta, and all up in there. I haven't traveled much and played. I wouldn't mind going somewhere.
I have some songs: they are Drum Beat, Go On Have Your Way, Honky Tonk, Fred, You Ought to Be Dead, and I have a version of Down in the Valley. I have other tunes; I play in two different tunings on the guitar. Jimmy Thomas plays the drums with me. It is just the two of us, drums and guitar and no singing. I'm keeping my father's music alive. Bubba Davis, my daddy's daddy, used to beat a little bit. We all know this music as Drum Beat.
I play the guitar with finger picks and I use copper tubing for a slide. I use an electric guitar. I like the blues today but I still like my style of songs. I let the guitar tell the song. Nobody plays like me. I learned my own music. None of the younger kids are picking up my music. I wish one of my boys would pick it up.
I helped out on the farm until I got grown. I worked at the sawmill for 20 years and I retired from that. I have been playing my music for 50 years. I'm 65 years old and still going strong. I hope to get my music a little further. Yet, I'm satisfied with my music, and I am trying to keep this old Georgia Drum Beat music alive.