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Davies releases album tribute to her songwriting brother

Ron and Gail Davies perform together at Bluebird Cafe in Nashville.  - Photo courtesy of Gail Davies
Ron and Gail Davies perform together at Bluebird Cafe in Nashville.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Gail Davies

South Kitsap High School graduate and country music singer/songwriter Gail Davies released another album highlighting the works of her late brother, Ron Davies.

The album “Unsung Hero: A Tribute To The Music of Ron Davies” was released March 25 in Nashville. Ron, who also attended South Kitsap High School, died of a heart attack at age 57 in 2003.

The album features 22 of Ron’s finest compositions recorded by some of his favorite artists including Dolly Parton, John Prine, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Shelby Lynne, Delbert McClinton, Crystal Gayle and others.

Gail said her brother’s music “mean a lot to her.”

“I think he was one of the most brilliant and talented people I’ve ever known and his songs deserve to be heard,” she said. “I produced this tribute for that very purpose.”

Ron’s catalog has more than 600 songs written for entertainers such as David Bowie, Three Dog Night, Helen Reddy, Joe Cocker and many others.

“I wanted to show the depth of his writing by presenting some of his compositions that were never recorded, but should have been,” Davis said.

She said Ron was “intensely creative and dedicated to his craft.”

“Writing songs was the most important thing in his life,” she said. “He always had a pocket-size tape recorder in his pocket to note his song ideas and was never without a pencil. Ronny also had a great sense of humor and was, as my British husband always says, ‘A great hang.’ ”

Some of Ron’s songs are still being recorded.

Gail performed one of Ron’s song, “Beyond The Realm of Words” at a West Virginia festival last year.

“Robin and Linda Williams heard it and recorded it on their new album,” she said. “I also pitched ‘It Ain't Easy’ to Jack White a few years back, hoping he would sing it on this tribute. I guess he thought I was just trying to get it cut, so he recorded it with The Racoteurs.”

During her career, Gail has recorded several of her brother’s works. She recorded “Dawn,” “Lovin’ Me, Too” with Vince Gill, “One More Night With You,” “It's You Alone” with Ricky Skaggs, “Since I Don't Have You,” “The Way It Used To Be,” “Cry On My Shoulder” and others.

“I’m sure there are more. I just can't think of them,” said Gail, who was getting ready for an album release concert in Nashville last week.”

Ron was born in Shreveport, La., and is the son of country singer Tex Dickerson. After his parents divorced after they moved to Kitsap County. His mother remarried and Ron took the name Davies after he was adopted by his stepfather, Darby Davies.

He started playing guitar and writing songs at the age of 11.

Davies dropped out of high school and joined the Army.

By the time he was 17, Ron had written an album’s worth of excellent material for a Tacoma-based band called, The Wailers. One of the first singles released from this album, “It’s You Alone,” became a regional hit for the band and put Davies on the map as a songwriter.

At 20, Davies signed with A&M Records and recorded his first album, “Silent Song Through The Land” and later, “U.F.O.”

One of his best known compositions, “It Ain’t Easy,” was released in 1970 on Davies’ debut album, “Silent Song Through The Land.” Since then, the song has been recorded by numerous artists including Three Dog Night, Dave Edmunds, Long John Baldry and most notably by David Bowie on his 1972 concept album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars”.

Another of Davies' signature songs was “Long Hard Climb,” the title of a platinum-selling Helen Reddy album in 1973 and also appeared in 1974 on Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight On The Oasis.”

John Kay (of Steppenwolf), Dave Edmunds, Chris Smithers, Long John Baldry, Mitch Ryder and Merry Clayton are only a few of the artists who have recorded Davies’ songs.

In the late 1980s, he moved to Nashville to write for Cedarwood Publishing. His songs have since been recorded by Anne Murray, Dobie Gray, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Thompson Brothers Band, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill.

Two of Davies’ songs appeared on the Grammy-nominated Joan Baez album, “Play Me Backwards.” He also starred as the lead character in the George Jones video, “Cold Hard Truth” in 1999.

Gail said that she doesn’t come back to Port Orchard because of the sad memories.

“There’s not much for me in Port Orchard,” she said. “Just a lot of sad memories about my family imploding following the death of my brother and our father. Death seems to bring out either the best or the worst in people. In the case of my family, it brought out the worst.”

She said she’s very close to her 80-year-old aunt lives in Seattle

“I talk to her on the phone quite a lot,” Gail said. “She has always been there for me.”

She added she still keeps up with some of her old friends from school and family.

“I do keep in touch with my great-nephew, Gibson Davies,” she said. “Gibson is in Nashville for the album release show. He’s also a talented singer/songwriter and musician.”

Gail said there’s “a little of both of her brothers” in Gibson and her son, Chris Scruggs.

“Chris is a great musician and will be touring this summer with a duo called She and Him,” she said. “He is carrying on the musical tradition of our family.”

Proceeds from the album will benefit the Nashville-based W.O. Smith Music School and will provide instruments and lessons to underprivileged children.

W.O. Smith, who died in 1991, was the professor of music at Tennessee State University, a member of the Nashville Symphony, and a noted jazz bassist.  He played with the great jazz players of the time, including Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

He had a dream that by offering musical instruction to low-income families that these children also could change their lives. In 1984, his dream became a reality, when the W.O. Smith Music School opened its doors. It has grown from 45 students in 1984  to more than 650 in 2013.

 

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