Stewart Davis (1918 - 1985) -- New Orleans Jazz Bassist
Born Humphrey Stewart Davis, in New Orleans, Louisiana, but never used his first name professionally. He inherited is musical talent from his mother Beatrice Stewart Davis, a concert pianist who taught at the Tuskegee Institute and played with the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra. His mother taught him to play the bass when she noticed he had a natural talent for music.
As a young man, Mr. Davis carried his bass all over New Orleans, stopping wherever he heard music. He would walk in and ask if he could play, once he began playing, everybody would swing to the corner where he was playing and crowd around.
His first steady job was with Clyde Kerr's 17-piece band at the Tick-Tock Club (then located on Rampart and Gravier Streets). He also played and made two recordings on Cosmo Records with Oscar "Papa" Celestin. He also recorded with Melvin Lastie. He played with Paul Barbarin, Albert French (on the Poydras Street wharf when boats sailed to South America), Kid Sheik (at Preservation Hall), Andrew Hall's Society Jazz Band (at The Maple Leaf), Danny Parker, Edgar Blanchard and the Gondoliers (at the Dew Drop), Dave Bartholomew, Isadore Crump, Snookum Russel, Emanuel Sayles (a/k/a Professor Sayles at the Paddock), Armand J. Piron, Arthur Derbigney, Oscar (Fish) Rouzan and many other musicians.
In the early 60's, as his children grew older, he set aside his music career to get a steady job and became an ordained Methodist minister. At age 58 Mr. Davis suffered diabetic induced blindness. Andrew Hall, a leader of the Society Jazz Band talked him into coming out of retirement and playing with his band. Once he played with Mr. Hall, it was like old times.
Mr. Davis played at Preservation Hall, Storyville Jazz Hall, The Famous Door, The Dew Drop, the Maple Leaf and at the outdoor French Market concerts. He also played at the Jazz and Heritage Festival the year of his death.
His son Humphrey Jr. continues in the family musical tradition by professionally playing alto and tenor saxophone in and around New Orleans.