RIP Davey Graham

I was deeply saddened today to hear of the death of Davey Graham.

I’m not ashamed to say that I cried and that’s something Davey only shares with Alex Harvey and Jimi.

I first heard him when I was about 16. I was heavily into Cream and Hendrix by then and already gigging and playing guitar too loudly.

A friend of mine turned me on to Davey by lending me a copy of his seminal album Folk Blues & Beyond.

It totally blew me away – I mean I was into acoustic stuff, mainly Dylan’s earlier recordings, but I didn’t realise anyone could play acoustic guitar with such balls and excitement.

That set me off looking for the people who followed on from Davey – Jansch, Renbourn, etc – but somehow I always went back to him.

No-one ever played such a vast range of material, blurred the genres or ‘dug in’ quite like Davey – and no-one’s ever come close since.

I wrote the piece below for a newsgroup tribute post – any typos, etc can just bloody stay in it – and describes how I once met him and supported him – LITERALLY! – some 36 or so years ago…

I used to run a folk club at college and several of us were well into people like Jansch, Renbourn and the guy who really started that whole
school of British solo acoustic guitar- DG.

Anyway, we booked Davey for a college folk night.

We went and met him off the London train and he was, quite frankly, out of it. He was narcotically compromised by something and I don’t
think it was booze.

Anyway, we walked him up to the college – about 10 minutes from the station usually although I recall the walk as much longer… – got him
to one of the bedrooms, plied him with strong black coffee, and thought we’d straightened him out enough for his gig that night.

Anyway, after the usual supporting artists – including the duo I was in – so, YES, I actually supported Davey Graham once! – he went on.

I’d like to say he rose above whatever chemical he’d ingested but he didn’t – he was absolutely fucking terrible…

He played about three numbers very, very badly – I can’t be more precise and recall what they were because I was stoned myself – and
then he just basically lost all power of movement and sat there like a frightened rabbit in the headlights.

Anyway, we hauled him off, took him back to the bedroom, plied him with more coffee and then took another extended walk – this time
*back* to the station.

We put him on the next Euston train and didn’t give him his fee.

At the time we were all more than a tad pissed off but looking back it’s very amusing.

At his peak and in his prime he was a peerless player – basically the mid to late 1960s.

If you never hear anything else by him there are two albums anyone with the smallest bit of interest in modern acoustic guitar should
hear – After Hours, an amateur recording made in a student bedroom after a gig with Davey just playing because he *loved* to play, and
Folk Blues & Beyond, a virtuouso album that trancends several genres and takes my breath away even today.

RIP Davey.

Looking back, it all seems like some sort of hallucination. There we were, all fans of the man, all in our early 20s, excited, slightly stoned on some shitty dope that the resident ‘source’ had got hold of for the night, going down to the station to meet Davey Graham and then finding him totally out of his skull…I can vividly remember my best mate Paul – soon to become the usher at my wedding and now sadly, like Davey, no longer with us, saying in a low voice, ‘Oh shit, Steve’ as we tried to stop the guy tottering into the road as we walked him up to college. Then the sheer, blind, sphincter-tightening panic as we tried to ready him to play. Paul even had to tune his guitar for him as he was totally incapable.

And then, in that crappy UV-lit little student bedroom, just before he staggered through the doorway out into the corridor he just played a few licks and, just very briefly, we heard the magic and thought everything was going to be OK.

It wasn’t, but that’s history and for what we have received, am I ever fucking grateful…

Thank you, Davey.

Davey’s site is here.