Hank Davis, The Canadian Rockabilly Legend

Hank Davis was born in Dry Heave, Arkansas, a little town about 120 miles from Little Rock. Dry Heave was and is a little backwater (Confederate money was used there until the early 1950's). But you could pick up WSM (the Grand Ol' Opry) on clear nights and Hank grew up listening to Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams and Raunch Radley. He got his first guitar when he was twelve and was taught to play by his uncle, the legendary 'Shagpoke' Davis. Shagpoke would have got onto records at the same time as the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers but he was drunk on the afternoon of the Ralph Peer auditions and remainded drunk throughout the remainder of the 1930's. He did, however, manage to convey some of his amazing guitar virtuosity to the young Hank.

In early 1955 Elvis Presley played the Dixie Bar 'n' Grill in Dry Heave and Hank was in the audience. He noticed that the girls went crazy for Elvis and he decided to become a rock & roll star that evening, as he had only achieved sporadic success with women up to that point. He spoke to Elvis after the show and Elvis advised him to clear up his acne. Hank was so pleased with this advice that he gave Elvis some advice. He told him to record a song called Heartbreak Hotel. By early 1956 Hank's acne had completely cleared up and Heartbreak Hotel was one of the top selling records in the world. That chance meeting in the parking lot of the Dixie Bar 'n' Grill was a boon to the careers of both men. Elvis never forgot Hank and, towards the end of his life, when asked for his recollections of Hank, Elvis would reply warmly "Who?"

In 1956 Hank and his group went to Memphis and auditioned for Sun Records. After nearly two years they had heard nothing so they called the studio and were told, "I think we lost the tape." Later that night, Hank was so dispirited that he resolved to get a bus back to Dry Heave and work in his father's store. He got drunk near the bus terminal, however, and boarded a bus to Canada by mistake. He arrived hungover in Montreal the next day with no money for the return fare. He still had his guitar, however, and he got a Job playing at a local club, Le Mangeur de Merde.

Hank soon decided to make his home in Canada. His wild pulsating brand of rockabilly was an instant success and Hank and his group toured the seaway valley, in 1958 Hank made his first recordings for Disques Frogges in their Maudits Anglais series. Hank's forty-seventh record for Disques Frogges became a regional breakout and Hank and the boys were on the way to superstardom. In 1964, while playing the Dead Moose Bar in Northern Ontario, they were spotted by Ed Sullivan who booked Hank for three appearances on his TV show. Unfortunately, a heavy snow fall and lack of gas money delayed to boys' arrival in New York by two months and an English group had taken Hank's bookings. The group was the Beatles and Hank had crossed paths with the famous once again. The Beatles were always grateful for this lucky break. "if Hank Davis hadn't got stuck in the snow," recalled John Lennon, "we would never have made it in the States."

By working in Eastern Quebec and Northern Ontario, Hank's music has retained its purity. His opinions of the so-called superstars of the 1960's and 1970's are legendary. "Those guys couldn't pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel," said Hank in a veiled reference to a well known group. The age of the overproduced superstar has passed and the music world is now ready for Hank Davis to step through the beer and smoke and bask in the limelight. Hank is ready. His toupee is on order, a recent paternity suit has been settled and his four string guitar is practically tuned. His attitude towards his impending superstardom and the entertainment business in general was summed up in his closing remark to an ecstatic crowd at the Dead Moose: "If youse wants an encore, the goddamn promoter's gonna have to come up with another five bucks."

From linernotes of "Stompin' At The Dead Moose"
By Colin Escott for Ducktail Records, 1979