Tyrone Davis Biography

4 May 1938, Greenville, Mississippi, USA, d. 9 February 2005, Hinsdale, Illinois, USA. One of the great unsung talents of soul music, Davis was a consistent chart-maker for over 20 years. This former Freddie King valet was discovered working in Chicago nightclubs by pianist Harold Burrage, and began recording in 1965 as Tyrone The Wonder Boy. ‘Can I Change My Mind’ (1968), Davis’ second single for the Dakar label and his first R&B chart-topper, was originally recorded as a b-side, but its success on the mainstream pop charts (it reached number 5) determined his musical direction. A singer in the mould of Bobby Bland and Z.Z. Hill, Davis was at his most comfortable with mid-paced material, ideal for the classic ‘Windy City’ orchestrations enhancing the mature delivery exemplified on ‘Is It Something You’ve Got’ and ‘Turn Back The Hands Of Time’, a US number 3 pop and R&B number 1 hit in 1970. During the early 70s Davis’ producers began to tinker with this formula. ‘I Had It All The Time’ (1972) offered a tongue-in-cheek spoken introduction, while the beautifully crafted ‘Without You In My Life’ (1973), ‘There It Is’ (1973) and ‘Turning Point’ (1975, and his third R&B chart-topper) emphasized rhythmic punch without detracting from Davis’ feather-light vocals.

Davis continued to enjoy success after switching to Columbia Records in the mid-70s, with ‘Give It Up (Turn It Loose)’ (1975), ‘This I Swear’ (1977) and ‘In The Mood’ (1979) becoming substantial R&B hits. A number of tracks from this period experimented with disco beats but smooth soul ballads remained Davis’ forte. He switched to Highrise Records for one final Top 5 R&B hit (1982’s ‘Are You Serious’), but continued to place records in the lower reaches of the charts well into the late 80s, mainly on the Ocean-Front and Future labels.

Davis remained an active performer in later decades, finding stable homes with Ichiban Records and, in the late 90s, with Malaco Records. As the singer’s extensive catalogue suggests, he remained a greatly underrated performer throughout his career, although he received some belated recognition with the success of 2002’s Love Line. Davis died in February 2005, four months after suffering a stroke that left him in a coma.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.