David Michael Gordon (Davy) Graham was born in 1940 in Hinckley, Leicestershire, England. His father was Scottish and his mother, Guyanese. David learnt to play the piano and harmonica as a child and took up the classical guitar at the age of 12. He enjoyed folk music and was inspired by folk guitarist, Steve Benbow.
He was also influenced by American folk and blues men, like Big Bill Broonzy, Josh White, Brownie McGee and Jessie Fuller.
By the time he was 19 his mastery of guitar was recognized and he appeared in a Monitor (BBC) documentary, ‘Hound Dogs and Bach Addicts: The Guitar Craze.’ The program was produced by Ken Russell and Davy played an acoustic instrumental version of Cry Me a River.
In the same year he wrote "Angi" (or "Anji") which Alexis Korner encouraged him to record in 1962. The EP highlighted Davy playing double-string choruses which helped the emerging generation of players caught between Skiffle and R&B.
In 1963 he played with folkie, Shirley Collins on "Folk Routes And New Routes", for Decca.
Always a free spirit Davy travelled and when he was in Tangiers he developed a modal tuning system similar to that used on the oud (a pear-shaped stringed instrument). Then it was standard for guitar players to use EADGBE tuning i.e., the six guitar strings are tuned, from low to high.
Davy used DADGAD (Open Dsus4) by tuning the first and sixth strings down a whole tone (two steps). This allowed him to explore the modal characteristics of traditional Celtic music, e.g. "She Moved Through The Fair".
He also experimented with the folk music of India and Morocco. Later DADGAD (Open Dsus4) became standard tuning system for many folk and some rock guitarists. Davy’s distinctive finger style acoustic guitar style also influenced many musicians. He released a string of albums during the sixties which highlighting his command of different and diverse genres.
In modern folk music he became a seminal influence. Always unpredictable and increasingly unreliable he skirted with commercial success. After he started experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs his marriage to Holly Gwinn (Singer) broke up and he dropped out. Davy did charity work in Camden Town whilst scraping a living teaching acoustic guitar. His friends did encourage him back to perform and he played with Bert Jansch, Duck Baker and Martin Carthy. His last album, Broken Biscuits (2007) consisted of originals and new arrangements of traditional songs from around the world.
A year later Davy Graham was diagnosed with lung cancer and died in 2008.
Worth a listen
Davy’s Train Blues (1962)
3/4 AD (1962)
Going Down Slow (1964)
She moved through the fair (1964)
I’m looking through you (1966)
Babe, it aint no lie (1968)
Freight Train Blues (1968)
Good morning blues (1968)
Blue Raga (1968)
Blood Red Roses (2007)