Meet the Detroit musician who taught Jimi Hendrix how to play guitar

Billy Davis at his Southfield home. (WDIV/Alex Atwell)
Billy Davis at his Southfield home. (WDIV/Alex Atwell)

DETROIT – Did you know a Detroit musician actually taught the late Jimi Hendrix how to play guitar?

Billy Davis, born JC Davis, moved to Detroit as a teenager and never left. The Detroit guitar legend has worked with musical greats like Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and the Vandellas.

At the age of 18, Davis played lead guitar for Hank Ballard and The Midnighters.

Davis met the teenaged Jimi Hendrix in 1959, in Seattle while on tour with The Midnighters, becoming mentor to the future legend, teaching him what he knew about guitar.

Also in 1959, Davis met Mr. B.B. King, one of his own personal heroes, and they became friends for life. Davis was to meet and become friends with many music legends. He is currently working on a project to showcase a vast personal photograph collection, and the many fascinating stories that go with it, about his life and the people he has known.

The Legendary Hank Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and Davis, his main collaborator, has a statue of his own, since 2012. Recently Davis visited the Rock Hall in Cleveland, as well as the Library and Archives, and enjoyed an Inductee’s welcome from the entire staff.

In 2001, most of The Midnighters along with Hank Ballard and Billy Davis, were among the first to be inducted into the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame, out of Boston, through the effort of Mr. Harvey Robbins. Billy Davis is also an Inductee of Detroit’s Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame, since 2015. The Detroit Blues Society awarded Davis a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

Uniquely Detroit's Alex Atwell sat down with Davis for a feature story on Live in the D. Watch it in the video player above.

Buy Billy Davis’ new full-length CD, recorded and produced in Detroit! The CD includes twelve tracks, including two tracks that are unavailable on the vinyl issue, which was released on Record Store Day by Jett Plastic Recordings. 

Billy Davis - PJ's Lagerhouse Detroit

About the Authors: