Monday, February 14, 2011

John Davis Interview (Part 1)

A few months ago I posted an entry looking for John E. Davis of the disco group John Davis and the Monster Orchestra and I found him on facebook! He has agreed to do an interview with me and here is the first half of it!

Let me tell you a little bit more about John Davis! He started out writing music in college and then later went on to become a band leader and composer while he was in the Army. In the 1970s and 1980s he produced, arranged and worked with some of the biggest names in the music business including Bobby Eli (from MFSB), Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson, Yvette Benton (The Sweethearts of Sigma), William DeVaughn, Arthur Prysock, The Intruders, Ricky Nelson, Bootsy Collins (of Parliament), Rhonda Heath, The Salsoul Orchestra, Silver Convention, Carol Douglas, Charo, Donna Summer and more. He also released 5 of his own albums under the name John Davis and The Monster Orchestra between 1976 and 1981. In the 1980s and 90s John started working as a composer for television and made music for the shows Dynasty, The Colbys, MacGyver, TJ Hooker, Mission: Impossible the series and Beverly Hills 90210 (the new and old version).

Today John is living in Ohio with his wife and has 3 daughters and recently became a grandfather! Here is the first part of my interview with John Davis!

1. Where were you born and what were your parents names?

I was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1947. I was an identical twin to my brother, Joe Davis. He went on to become one of the best trumpet players in the business and enjoyed a great career as a studio musician and many tours and live shows. My parents, John and Luciene Davis, were just regular folks who worked in Philly - but nowhere near the music business. My Dad worked for the board of Education and my mother worked at our local bank.

2. Did you have a musical home when you were growing up and did you learn any instruments at an early age?

While growing up, my Dad, in particular, was a huge fan of the big band era and always had big band music playing in the house. When I was 9 years old I got a plastic clarinet for Christmas. I loved playing that silly thing until next year I got a real clarinet to play in the school band. Not having a lot of extra money, I studied with a teacher at school until I got to Junior High School where I began to show some talent on this instrument. I can still remember sitting on the floor and listening to Glen Millers band and thinking how wonderful it would be to be able to write stuff like that.

3. Did you have any high schools bands or projects before the Monster Orchestra? What was the first record you ever worked on?

When I got to high school, I had become pretty good on clarinet and had begun playing the sax in the jazz band at school. My "reputation" had grown to the point where I was invited to join the US Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, MD when I graduated from high school. It was here that I actually began to write for a band. I had access to a jazz band, concert band and a marching band. I was writing for everything because I could have them play it back and actually hear what certain instrumental combinations would sound like. After writing a few things for the band there, I submitted one song to a publisher, and it was published for high school bands. I remember it was called "Nightfall".

4. Who were your biggest influences, musically and otherwise when you first started writing music?

At that time I was pretty well influenced by the big band sound and classical music. Then, I remember hearing a record on the radio that just totally blew me away - it was MacArthur Park - the Richard Harris version. I had never thought about combining the pop sound with an orchestra. It was such an exciting time for me that I just began hearing and studying writers like Bacharach and Davis, Jimmy Webb, Ashford and Simpson and many more. After getting out of the service, I started work for a company in Philly. It was there that I was sent to the studio to produce an artist named William DeVaughn. I wasn't very experienced in the studio, but managed to come out with "Be Thankful For What You Got" which became a #1 million seller in 1974. Of course, this opened the doors for me to start getting other projects on my own.

Part 2 is coming soon!