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NIGHT LIFE THE CLUB SCENE

Red-Hot Blues : Guitarist Debbie Davies is a standout 'in a man's world.' Her crowded schedule includes a Ventura performance Saturday.

April 04, 1991|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Debbie Davies is certainly not your typical Valley girl, and that's fer sure, fer sure. As one of the best blues guitarists around, she doesn't spend a lot of time in the new mall. As a working blues musician, she probably can't afford those Valley malls anyway and she hasn't the time to hang out at Zuma Beach and get a tan. She's on the road about half the year with blues legend Albert Collins, trading guitar solos and generally blowing people's minds.

The rest of the time, she's fronting her own group, the Debbie Davies Band, which will perform Saturday night at the venerable Ventura Theatre. Her band, which plays two to five nights a week, has lots of work, if no tapes or band T-shirts.

"You know, I'm playing as often as possible," Davies said in a recent telephone interview. "I've been touring with Albert for three years now; but making a record is simply a matter of financing. I'm just surviving as a musician. My music is my thing, but I don't have a day job so there isn't the extra money to make a record. That's why musicians seek record deals--to let someone else pay for it. Yet I hope to have a product available by the end of the year."

Davies is no stranger to Ventura--she's been playing at a variety of venues for years with Collins and with her own band. She also played with the now defunct all-female blues group Maggie Mayall and the Cadillacs.

"I used to play in Ventura a lot, mostly at Eric Ericsson's with Maggie's band. But she dissolved the band about four years ago. This will be my fourth or fifth time at the Ventura Theatre. It's a wonderful place--one of the most beautiful venues anywhere. I'm so happy places like that are being preserved."

A Valley girl with a guitar may seem unusual. Maybe Davies just wanted to corner the market.

"It's a man's world out there," Davies said, "but there's more and more female players all the time. I'll know things have really changed when people quit asking me what it's like to be a woman blues guitarist. I'm pretty much the only one doing what I do right now. All that stuff before just caused me to work that much harder and now it actually works for me."

Her bio is bursting with swell adjectives, including a glowing testimonial from blues legend John Mayall, who gave first breaks to such guitar gods as Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Peter Green. "Perhaps the major misconception concerning my work is that I'm a rhythm guitarist only, or second guitarist. But I do take the lead often for solos--Albert is very generous and we duel back and forth. The recording work I've done with Albert and John has been rhythm work. Some people are also surprised that I sing."

Others may be surprised at how one gets the blues in the Valley.

"Well, both my parents are musicians," Davies said. "My mom was a classical pianist and vocalist and my dad was a jazz singer. I've had a guitar since I was 12. I got the blues bug listening to people like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton on the radio, and I made a solid decision that I wanted to be a musician.

"When I was learning to play my electric guitar, I found that the blues was what I liked the most. I used to play other things with different bands, but I kept coming back to the blues. My band is definitely blues-based--we do some rockin' blues that's pretty earthy."

The hours for a musician are weird, but it's tough to find one who would trade places with a drone working at the mall, which brings us back to the money thing.

"I'm just trying to survive financially and emotionally," Davies said. "I don't mind traveling so much--at least it means you're working."

As for any future goals?

"Sometime I'd like to do an extended jam type thing with Eric Clapton--it's too late for Stevie Ray Vaughan. I have this shallow goal: to someday play for half a million people at one of those Farm Aid-type things. But to use that old show biz cliche--this business is feast or famine."

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