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Paper Back

About the Author

Robert Tilling was born 1944, in Bristol, England and first became interested in blues and jazz as a teenager and his enthusiasm for Reverend Davis started during the early sixties. For the past thirty nine years he has regularly contributed to various blues and folk magazines in both Britain and the United States. He has lectured at universities, colleges, guitar teaching camps, and at blues festivals on both sides of the Atlantic. Since 1968 he has been living in Jersey, Channel Islands, and is married with two daughters. Robert Tilling is also a member of The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, London, and has held over thirty five solo exhibitions of his paintings, prints and drawings. He was appointed M.B.E. during 2006.

A Tribute To Rev. Gary Davis

1896 – 1972



Compiled by Robert Tilling


“Well thought out and beautifully illustrated with dozens of rare photographs. “Oh What A Beautiful City” is a welcome addition to the library of any true blues lover.” – Brett J. Bonner/Living Blues

“Reading this book makes you want to hear the man’s music and if thatis Tilling’s objective then he has done the Rev. Davis proud.” – David Lands/Jazz Journal

“If you have an interest in blues, in gospel singing and in guitar playing of the highest order do not miss this book which is very highly recommended.” – Jerry Whitehead/Storyville


The book presents a kaleidoscope of images (to quote from Paul Oliver’s perceptive and enlightening introduction). Rotating around a host of black and white photographs (spanning 1952 to 1972) the reader is presented with a biographical chronology, colorful anecdotes from fellow musicians and record producers (John Townley’s recollections are fascinating), concert reviews (favorable and otherwise), selected record reviews, obituaries and a discography. This inventive approach brings to the page a vividness of character that standard format biographies can often fail to achieve. Thus, via Tilling, we learn from others that Gary Davis was by turns a switch-blade-carrying street musician, a compassionate man of God (braving a white’s only hospital ward to preach over the dying Woody Guthrie) as well as a guitarist withthe ability to ‘teach a slug to use silverware’ (to quote a former pupil of Davis). The all pervasive impression created by Tilling with his use of this material is that, although the book is about a guitar playing gospel singer whose name happens be Gary Davis, it is the story of a ‘universal human being’ (to paraphrase Buffy St. Marie)." – Alan Balfour/Blues & Rhythm 78

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