Eddy Davis “The Manhattan Minstrel” was a musician’s musician. Someone who’s dedication and passion for the music could be felt in his performance on and off stage. His style on tenor banjo was not of the flashy pyrotechnic nature. He possessed a swinging feel that sounded true, relaxed, beautiful, and intelligent. He was an active promoter of the four string banjo, and a knowledgeable mentor to countless musicians.
Eddy had many career accomplishments in his over 45 years of musical activity, and was inducted into The American Banjo Museum Hall Of Fame. His most famous collaboration was in Woody Allen’s New Orleans Jazz Band as seen in the documentary Wild Man Blues. The band later would be more appropriately billed as “Eddy Davis’s New Orleans Jazz Band with Woody Allen.”
Through playing in theater orchestras in musicals such as Hello Dolly, Davis spread the sound of the banjo to new audiences around the country. Eddy loved early classic jazz, started his own record label, and collaborated with jazz legends like Jabbo Smith. His own groups were many; his 1973 quartet Whizz Bang, a stage tribute to music of Spike Jones (The New York Society For The Preservation Of Illegitimate Music), or an ensemble for the different voices of banjo (The New York Banjo Ensemble).
Some folks lovingly know Eddy from his posts on the Banjo Hangout forum, and his numerous contributions to his Youtube channel (we’re talking hundreds of videos). From his Manhattan apartment just behind Carnegie hall, Eddy would play old tunes and give banjo lessons. A video might be him singing lyrics he wrote to a jazz song like Potato Headed Blues. Another might focus on one song for 30 minutes, with Eddy explaining different ways of looking at the chords, or telling stories, or giving the history behind songs. For banjo players and fans of the music, these videos are rare treasures that Eddy gave away for free. For the love of the music.
Eddy Davis 1940-2020