George Davis was born June 18th, 1945, in Des Moines, Iowa. George began singing at the age of 9 with his siblings, Gilbert and Audrey, as The Davis Trio. At 12, he became the lead vocalist in the group, Little George & the Del-Rays. They performed throughout the state and in Omaha, Nebraska, but most of the engagements were on clubs on Center Street here in Des Moines.
While in high school, George spent a great deal of time song writing, and at 17 the Del-Rays were signed with a newly founded record company in Des Moines – Success Records. The Del Rays later changed their name to The Blendtones and released their first record titled Lovers, written by George. The record climbed to #3 in Los Angeles, behind #2 “Just One Look” (by Doris Troy) and the #1 hit “Fingertips” (by 12 year old Stevie Wonder).
In the summer of ’63, the group went on a very successful tour on the West Coast. While on tour, Success records signed more local groups including The Martinels, The Extensions, and The Casualtones. Upon completion of the tour, it was suggested that an album be produced featuring all of the artists that were currently signed with the company. Hence, the album Only For Teenagers And Swinging Adults was born. Four of the songs on the album were written by George, including “The Slide”, (performed by The Blendtones), and “Baby Think It Over” (performed by the Martinels).
At 18, George began taking guitar lessons and within a year the group, The Soul Brothers, was formed. The players consisted of Harlan Thomas on keyboards, Ron McClain on bass, Gene Jackson on drums and both “Chicago Rick” Lussie and George on guitars. The group also featured several vocalsists, including Willis Dobbins, Brother Butch Edmonds, and Anita Cooper. The Soul Brothers were featured as the house band at the San Francisco Lounge on Ingersoll Avenue in Des Moines for a number of years.
In ’65, George got his greeting from Uncle Sam. After serving 2 years in the Army, which included a year in Vietnam, George returned home and returned to his spot in the band, who were anxiously awaiting him. Being the youngest and only unmarried member of the group, George was ready to go on the road. The rest of the group had job and family obligations.
George got a call from his brother Gilbert, who had relocated to New Jersey sometime in ’68. he told George the area was wide open for musicians and that was all George needed to hear. George and longtime drummer friend, Billy Crawford, took off for the Garden State. The pair arrived in New Jersey and joined forces with brother Gilbert. They called themselves The Chosen Few and began playing almost immediately at the Orchard Lounge in Asbury Park two nights a week. Weekends were reserved for a vocal group known as The Fabulous Broadways, who were backed by a 4-piece band that featured a 270 lb. sax player named Clarence Clemons. At that time Clarence was also playing semi-professional football and worked as a live-in counselor at an all-boys detention center.
The months that followed brought some new members to the group, such as Jesse McFarland on organ and sax player Ronnie Bright. J.T. Bowen joined as a front man, which increased the groups versatility and popularity.
In early 1969, The Chosen Few and The Fabulous Broadways joined forces and became an East Coast powerhouse. They did shows from Atlantic City to Washington D.C., and also appeared in Des Moines during the annual Drake relays on several occasions. During their last trip to Des Moines, they acquired another vocalist, the aforementioned Butch Edmonds, who’s rendition of James Brown set New Jersey on fire.
Not long after their return to Jersey, The Broadways were signed to Stang Records, which was owned by the “Love Is Strange” duo of Mickey & Sylvia. They began working on their first release and were spending a lot of time in the studio. However, The Chosen Few were becoming more independent and performing 5 to 6 nights a week. The Broadways started having serious problems with lead singer, Billy Brown, failing to dub the lead on their first release and the company let them go and gave the song to another Jersey group called, The Moments, and the big hit, “Not On The Outside”, was born.
Over the next few years, The Chosen Few remained one of Jersey’s popular groups, which led to the loss of some of its finest musicians such as Clemons, who joined Bruce Springsteen, and multi-talented Desi Norman, who joined the famous guitar player, Grant Green and his band.
After the breakup of The Chosen Few, George was offered a position with a group from North Jersey, called The Everyday People. There had been a friendly common bond between the two groups, because they each played at many of the same clubs, and would often refer each other to new club owners.
At the time, Everyday People had already recorded a hit single, “The Bounce,” and were in the studio working on their first album.
George has said that although The Chosen Few was the best show group of his choice, Everyday People was definitely the most talented group he had ever performed with.
“We were seven pieces strong, with seven voices. I had never been in a group where everybody could sing both lead and background.”
About a year later, Gilbert Davis reunited with his brother, and joined the group. After signing with De-Light Records, the name of the band was changed to Hot Line. The group recorded a popular single called “Juice It Up,” and soon started a long tour from Atlantic City to several areas of Canada, including Nova Scotia. This tour included two weeks at the Rockhead’s Paradise Club during the ’76 Olympics.
They were welcomed back home with a two-night, 4-show stint at the famed Apollo Theatre with eight other acts, including Barbara Mason (“Yes I’m Ready”), Funkhouse Express, and The Joneses.
The success was short-lived, however, as the new era of Disco moved in, putting most groups out of business.
Today, George and Gilbert are back in Des Moines. George can often be seen at the Blues On Grand club, where he is usually coaxed up to the stage to sit in with the band that is playing. George is the epitome of class, and his impassioned, utterly soulful voice, never fails to bring down the house…
PHOTO © LORI BOWLING