CeDell Davis was born in 1927 in Helena, Arkansas. His right hand was crippled by polio at the age of ten, so he switched his guitar to a left-handed bottleneck style played with a knife, which made for a unique, atonal sound.
He played locally throughout the 1950s and '60s with friends such as Robert Nighthawk
, Big Joe Williams
, and Charlie Jordan. In 1957, Davis was badly injured in a stampede at a St. Louis tavern, crippling him even further and confining him to a wheelchair, yet he persevered with his music. After a series of compilation appearances and several live dates in New York, Fat Possum Records
signed Davis. Noted blues journalist Robert Palmer produced his debut, Feel like Doin' Something Wrong (1994). The Best of CeDell Davis (1995) was also released, with help from Col. Bruce Hampton & the Aquarium Rescue Unit
. The Horror of It All followed in 1998. Davis took time away from recording after these releases, and spent the next four years writing and performing. When he returned to the studio, he drafted musicians like R.E.M.
's Peter Buck and the Screaming Trees
' Barrett Martin
into his sessions. The final results, When Lightnin' Struck the Pine, arrived in stores in the summer of 2002. Three years later, a stroke took away Davis' ability to play guitar, but he continued to perform and record as a singer, releasing Last Man Standing in 2015 and Even the Devil Gets the Blues in 2016. He was hospitalized after a heart attack in September 2017, and died on the 27th of that month at the age of 91. ~ John Bush, Rovi