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Spencer Davis in song and story
The Spencer Davis Group, (left to right), Pete York, Spencer Davis, Muff Winwood and Steve Winwood.
The Spencer Davis Group, (left to right), Pete York, Spencer Davis, Muff Winwood and Steve Winwood.

Veteran Swansea musician Spencer Davis still creates 'stories' in song.

Keep on Running, I'm a Man, and Gimme Some Loving were all huge hits in the '60s for his band.

He said: "I see nothing wrong in telling stories, whether they are songs or poems."

He has played and socialised with Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. In 1966 Keep on Running made it to number one in the charts.

It knocked the double A-sided Beatles single We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper from the top slot, and Spencer received, as was usual at the time, a telegram from the band.

He said, "It's in a pile of papers somewhere. It said congratulations on reaching number one - The Beatles."

After being invited to join 'the boys' in Cornwall, he was pictured on The Magical Mystery Tour album, together with his then wife and children.

The 70-year-old has not forgotten his roots and he plans to return to his old school in Swansea for a jamming session.

Bill Wyman

"Some people burn their bridges in this business, this shark-infested business, but you always end up meeting the same sharks on the way down as on the way up," he said, "I'll always be from Swansea. That is where I was born."

"There are friendships that have lasted and Bill Wyman's is one of them. Bill is a man with great musical taste"

And reflecting on some of the songs on one of his own recent albums, he said that a lot of his work is autobiographical.

He said, "The Swansea Shuffle is dedicated to 'happenings' in Wind Street, which used to be the red light district - it was the first port of call for merchant seamen."

image shows a head and shoulders of Spencer Davis
Spencer Davis arriving at an awards ceremony

Spencer has lived in California since the '70s, but still recalls some of the locations that were important to him growing up in Swansea.

He said, "The King's Arms in High Street was one of the places I used to play in a kind of skiffle, country and blues band.

"And in St Helen's Road there was Rob's Cafe - it was a place to go late at night because, in theory, everybody in Swansea was asleep after 10.30!

"You'd always get a warm welcome. It was only a coffee shop, but Rob catered for the more bohemian people in Swansea.

"Beaches like Langland or Rotherslade were always meeting places for the pals - there was a flat rock in Rotherslade that everybody used to claim for sunbathing."

"When I was in Dynevor School, I was good at chemistry, not so good at physics, but languages were my forte."

Checkpoint Charlie

Eventually that ability led him to taking a languages degree and he found himself in Germany at a key point in its turbulent history.

"I met a guy, who told me Berlin was a divided city," he said, "I got there in time to see the wall go up - you watched American and Russian tanks facing each other."

And he recalls playing in a club close to Checkpoint Charlie for ten deutschmarks a night.

He has returned to Germany many times since his time studying there, and he took one of his children, Gareth, to witness the fall of the Berlin Wall.

One of the things he regrets about the current music scene is the emphasis on the way musicians look rather than their music.

"At one stage being a fan, involved listening to Radio Luxembourg on a crackly radio on 208.

"Now your concentration is diluted. It's more of a fashion statement or a celebrity statement - I regret that in a way."

Spencer is staying in Wales for Christmas, but will start touring again on the other side of the Atlantic in March 2010.




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