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Carl Davis

Successful record producer Carl H. Davis was born September 19, 1934, in Chicago, Illinois, where his father was a postal worker. He attended McCosh Elementary School and Englewood High School. He later earned a GED in 1954 and an associate’s degree from Cortez College of Business in 1957.

Davis began his radio career typing play-lists for popular Chicago disc jockey Al Benson on WGES Radio in 1955. He quickly earned a reputation as a “hitpicker.” His success allowed him to join the marketing department of Arnold Distributors. In the early 1960s, Davis managed the Nat label and had a minor hit with “Nite Owl” by the DuKays. In 1962, he became a producer for Okeh Records. There, Davis discovered the legendary Gene Chandler and produced and co-wrote the “Duke of Earl” in 1962 and Major Lance’s “Monkey Time” in 1963. Through his work, Davis created a Chicago sound with upbeat arrangements backed by musicians and arrangers like Johnny Pate and Sonny Sanders. A partnership with Curtis Mayfield resulted in hits for Major Lance, Billy Butler (Jerry’s brother) and Walter Jackson. Meanwhile, Gene Chandler’s “Rainbow,” “Just Be True,” and “Man’s Temptation” were all hits. Davis produced the hit “Dear Lover” for Mary Wells and often hired Motown’s Funk Brothers band. Davis was then hired by Brunswick Records where he produced Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” and Barbara Acklyn’s “Love Makes A Woman.” After forming Atlantic’s Dakar Records, he produced the Chi-Lites and Tyrone Davis’ “Turn Back the Hands of Time” and “Can I Change My Mind.”

Davis had eight grandchildren, lived in Chicago and managed his own record label, Chi-Sound, until 2012.

Davis passed away on August 9, 2012.

Accession Number

A2003.306

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/19/2003

Last Name

Davis

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Englewood High School

Emmett Louis Till Math & Science Academy

First Name

Carl

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

DAV12

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

South Carolina

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/19/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Summerville

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Death Date

8/9/2012

Short Description

Music producer Carl Davis (1934 - 2012 ) produced a number of hits starting in the '60s, earning his reputation as a "hitpicker."

Employment

WGES Radio

Arnold Distributors

Okeh Records

Brunswick Records

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188014">Tape: 1 Slating of Carl Davis' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188015">Tape: 1 Carl Davis lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188016">Tape: 1 Carl Davis talks about his mother's family history</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188017">Tape: 1 Carl Davis talks about the book, 'Trinal American Family Gibson,' by Edward "Boo" Gibson, about his maternal family history</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188018">Tape: 1 Carl Davis talks shares a story about his father's last name, and being born as Carl Adams</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188019">Tape: 1 Carl Davis describes why his family moved from Louisiana to Chicago, Illinois and where he falls in the family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188020">Tape: 1 Carl Davis talks about his childhood neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188021">Tape: 1 Carl Davis describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188022">Tape: 1 Carl Davis describes his childhood personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188023">Tape: 1 Carl Davis talks about attending James McCosh Grammar School and Shiloh Seventh-Day Adventist School, in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188024">Tape: 1 Carl Davis talks about his teachers and his favorite subjects in school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188025">Tape: 1 Carl Davis describes his experience at Englewood High School in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188026">Tape: 2 Carl Davis describes joining the U.S. Air Force</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188027">Tape: 2 Carl Davis remembers having trouble with the police in Shreveport, Louisiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188028">Tape: 2 Carl Davis describes being relocated after experiencing racial discrimination in the U.S. Air Force</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188029">Tape: 2 Carl Davis talks about working for disc jockey Al Benson in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188030">Tape: 2 Carl Davis describes discovering the band, the Dukays, and encouraging the lead singer to change his name and go solo</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188031">Tape: 2 Carl Davis talks about Al Benson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188032">Tape: 2 Carl Davis talks about Gene Chandler's hit, 'Duke of Earl'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188033">Tape: 3 Carl Davis talks about the success of the record, 'Duke of Earl'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188034">Tape: 3 Carl Davis talks about working at OKeh Records and working with Curtis Mayfield</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188035">Tape: 3 Carl Davis talks about African American songs becoming a hit after being re-recorded by white groups</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188036">Tape: 3 Carl Davis compares the music industry today to the 1950s and 1960s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188037">Tape: 3 Carl Davis talks about groups he managed and Brunswick Records being sued</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188038">Tape: 3 Carl Davis talks about starting Carl Davis Productions and Chi-Sound Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188039">Tape: 3 Carl Davis describes the personalities of the artists he worked with</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188040">Tape: 4 Carl Davis talks about leaving Columbia Records, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188041">Tape: 4 Carl Davis talks about leaving Columbia Records, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188042">Tape: 4 Carl Davis talks about Gene Chandler</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188043">Tape: 4 Carl Davis tells stories about the artists he managed</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188044">Tape: 4 Carl Davis talks about new artists he's signed</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188045">Tape: 4 Carl Davis talks describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188046">Tape: 4 Carl Davis describes the differences between digital recordings and live recordings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188047">Tape: 5 Carl Davis describes how the music industry has changed</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188048">Tape: 5 Carl Davis talks about different musicians who recorded at his studio and two of his brothers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188049">Tape: 5 Carl Davis reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188050">Tape: 5 Carl Davis talks about WVON radio station and radio personalities today</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188051">Tape: 5 Carl Davis considers what he would have done differently</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188052">Tape: 5 Carl Davis describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/188053">Tape: 5 Carl Davis narrates his photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

5$5

DATitle
Carl Davis talks shares a story about his father's last name, and being born as Carl Adams
Carl Davis describes discovering the band, the Dukays, and encouraging the lead singer to change his name and go solo
Transcript
Now, what about your father's side of the family? What's your father's full name and can you spell his name for us?$$Well my father's real name was William Adams and he was a young man, his mother--his father had died and so his mother remarried a guy named Davis and my father just started using the name, Davis. He was never adopted and there was never any legal papers done. He just started using Davis. So his name was William Adam Davis and--and everybody from that point--there was nine boys and two girls in my family and out of all eleven children, they were all born as Davis' except me. For some reason we had moved up here [Chicago, Illinois] at that time and things had gotten rough. He had--I think he broke his foot and he couldn't work so he applied for public assistance and the guy was trying to tell him, you know, you have to be careful, you've got to answer all these questions right and, you know, so he ended up giving his real name, was Adams. So when I was born, my birth certificate said Carl Adams and I never knew that because when I started school, it was always under Carl Davis and it was only till I was sixteen years old and I wanted to join the Service, that I went down to downtown to the City Hall to get my birth certificate and there was no such thing. So I came home and told my mother that I couldn't find a birth certificate, she said, well go back and see if there's one under Carl Adams. And sure enough, there was one under Carl Adams. So, you know, for a long time I thought I was adopted, you know, but of course I looked just like my dad but--and then she explained to me that for that one instant, he gave them his real name, which was Adams. So out of eleven children, I was the only one that got the name Adams and everybody else had Davis.$So in a couple of years you become pretty adept at choosing who's gonna--at predicting what kind of music was going to be popular down the line?$$Yes.$$Okay. So I just wanted to know what some of the--examples of some of the songs that were big then, you know?$$Yeah, I used to know many of the Orioles and all those kinds of things.$$Okay.$$So--and then I had this group called the Dukays, D-U-K-A-Y-S, and there was a--it was--actually, first before that, there was a guy named Bunky Sheppard, well his name was Bill Sheppard, and he used to come up there and he used to bring Al Benson some vodka or gin or whatever, trying to get his record played and Mr. Benson wouldn't play none of that stuff. So he had a group called the Sheppards and I thought they were really good. And so I told him I would try to help him get his record played. So and he and I got to be friends and then we both discovered this group called the Dukays and we were going to take 'em into the studio and cut four sides on and it was like 'Nite Owl' was one of the tunes, and 'Kissin' In The Kitchen' was one and--but there was another one that they were rehearsing. We had already settled on the four tunes we were going to do and we had booked time at Universal Studios here in Chicago [Illinois] and my brother, Cliff Davis, was--he was a good arranger and so he used to do the lead sheets for us. In those days, you did like lead sheets that all of the musicians could basically follow and then everybody made their own little contributions. And so they were out there rehearsing for the session but they were rehearsing a different song, it was like, I don't know what they were saying, I thought they were saying, "Duke Cover", they were saying like "Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl", you know and I didn't know what they were saying so I went outside, I asked them, "What is that?" And they said, "Oh this is just a new song that we was gonna--we were thinking about doing for the next session." I said, "No, no, no, we're gonna do that at this session." "Well, we ain't got no--we don't have the words for it, all he had was the chorus. And so I called their manager, a lady named Bernice Williams, and I said, "Listen, go home, and write this song, put this song together." So they did. They went home and then they called me at home and they said, "Well, we know if a guy's is a king and he has--he owns land, it's his kingdom," and he said, "so what if he's a Duke?" I said, "Well it's Dukedom, put that in there." And we talked about some other different things and so she ended up writing these lyrics and so they came back on the day we were going to do the session, and we did these four tunes and we had made a deal with a guy out of New York, named Bill Lasley, he was gonna release two of the four. So we sent him all four tunes and he picked two. He didn't pick this 'Duke of Earl', he sent those back. So, they released 'Nite Owl', which one they released 'Nite Owl' by the Dukays. And so I was sitting talkin' with Bill Sheppard and I was saying, you know, maybe what we need to do is, let's take these other two songs, with this 'Duke of Earl' 'cause that's the one I really like, I said, but the guy's name was--the lead singer's name was Eugene Dixon and I didn't like that at all but Jeff Chandler used to be a movie star that I really loved, he used to play Cochise and all that--$$Right, right, that's right.$$--I liked that guy so I told him, I said why don't you take your name, instead of Eugene, we'll call you Gene and then you use Jeff Chandler's last name, so your name is Gene Chandler. I said, now you make a decision whether you want to stay with the Dukays or you want to go out as a solo artist, as Gene Chandler. So, he thought it over a couple of days, then came back and said I want to go out as Gene Chandler. So we put that record out--$$Now what year is this? What year is this?$$This is in 1962.$$Okay.