Born: November 24, 1918 | Died: 1995 Primary Instrument: Organ, Hammond B3
Wild Bill Davis was the top cat among organists prior to the rise of Jimmy Smith in 1956. He could be credited for taking the instrument from the swing era into the R&B infected jazz of the early ‘50’s, and was a pioneer in the organ trio format. He could swing like crazy, grind out dirty blues, or could play in a laid back easy listening style.
He originally played guitar and wrote arrangements for Milt Larkin's legendary band during 1939-42. Davis also played piano with Louis Jordan's Tympany Five (1945- 49) before switching to organ in 1950 and heading his own influential organ/guitar/drums trios. Together with guitarist Floyd Smith and drummer Chris Columbus, Davis set the framework for the jazz organ combo sound.
In addition to working with his own groups in the 1960s, Davis made several albums with his friend Johnny Hodges, leading to tours during 1969-71 with Duke Ellington. He was featured organist on “Blue for New Orleans,” from “New Orleans Suite.”
In the '70s he recorded for Black & Blue with a variety of swing all-stars, including a stellar dates with tenor man Buddy Tate, bluesman Memphis Slim, and played with Lionel Hampton, appearing at festivals through the early '90s.
He held an enduring tenure at Atlantic City’s Little Belmont club, where he played every summer from the ‘50’s to the ‘90’s.
He died in 1995 during convalescence following a road accident.