The release of Gail Davies' new album "The Songwriter Sessions" comes as no surprise to people who have been following her career from the beginning. Although best known for being the first female record producer in country music, Gail is also a talented songwriter and the author of such radio standards as Bucket to the South for Lynn Anderson, Hometown Gossip for The Whites and Tell Me Why for Jann Browne, along with her own hit recordings of Grandma's Song, It's Boys Like You, Not A Day Goes By and Someone is Looking For Someone Like You. As a singer, Gail's voice, described by jazz critic Nat Hentoff as "brilliantly evocative, " has earned her 18 Top 40 Billboard hits (6 songs in the Top 10) and two standing ovations on The Grand Ole Opry.
Born Patricia Gail Dickerson in Broken Bow, Oklahoma on June 5, 1948 (the daughter of country singer Tex Dickerson), Gail knew at an early age that she wanted to be a singer. Her parents separated when she was five years old and she moved to Washington State with her mother and two brothers. Her last name was changed when her mother remarried and Gail and her siblings were adopted by their loving stepfather Darby Davies. After graduating from high school, Gail moved to Los Angeles, where she met and married a jazz musician. She attempted a brief career in jazz but quit after they divorced and went to work at A&M Records as a session singer, backing such legendary artists as Hoyt Axton, Neil Young and Glen Campbell. She was even invited to sit in on a recording session (produced by Phil Spector) with ex-Beatle John Lennon.
"Sitting at the board between John Lennon and Phil Spector was one of the most exciting things that happened to me at A&M," Gail recalls. " John was very nice but Phil was a bit crazy. He kept screaming at the musicians, firing them and then hiring them back again."
As luck would have it, Gail was befriended by songwriter Joni Mitchell and her recording engineer Henry Lewy. It was Henry who taught Gail the art of record production. Besides working in the studio, Gail was also the lead singer for The Midnight Band, who played on Saturday nights at The Troubadour in Hollywood. Frank Zappa, impressed by Gail's performance, invited her to tour Europe with him. Gail chose to go on the road with country icon Roger Miller instead, making her television debut as his duet partner on The Merv Griffin Show (now available on youtube).
Surrounded by great songwriters, including her older brother Ron Davies (the writer of It Ain't Easy for David Bowie's album Ziggy Stardust), Gail bought a guitar in a pawn shop and started writing songs. She signed with EMI Publishing in 1975, then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where she immediately scored as the writer of Ava Barber’s hit single Bucket to the South (also recorded by Lynn Anderson and Mitzi Gaynor). Determined to stake her claim as a singer, Gail signed with CBS/Lifesong Records. Her debut album earned her three Top 20 hits: No Love Have I (originally recorded by Webb Pierce), a remake of the 1957 Johnny & Jack classic Poison Love and one of Gail's own compositions entitled Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You. This particular song has since been translated and recorded in seven languages by such internationally known artists as Nana Mouskouri, George Hamilton IV and bluegrass legends The Country Gentlemen.
Gail signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1979 and became the first female producer in the history of country music. She delivered a series of successful albums and hit singles during the 1980s (click on discography for a list of titles) and was voted "Best New Female vocalist" by the DJs of America. Gail took a short hiatus in the winter of 1982 to give birth to her only child, Chris Scruggs, also the son of Gary Scruggs and the grandson of banjo legend Earl Scruggs.
RCA Records signed Gail in 1984 to produce Where Is A Woman To Go with her longtime friend and bass player Leland Sklar. The first single from this album, Jagged Edge of A Broken Heart, quickly made it's way into the Billboard Top 20. The follow up, a song entitled Unwed Fathers, did not fare as well. Written by John Prine and Bobby Braddock, and featuring Dolly Parton singing harmony, Unwed Fathers was thought to be too controversial for country radio.
Gail traveled to London, England in 1985 to perform at the Wembley Festival. Inspired by a British musician named Hank Wangford, she returned to Nashville and formed a country/rock band called Wild Choir. Considered by many to be the forerunner of today's Americana movement, the band released one self-titled album produced by Gail and her guitarist Pete Pendras.
Returning to a solo career in 1988, Gail signed with MCA Records and produced Pretty Words with label head Jimmy Bowen. Despite her choice for a single (a song written by Gail and Harry Stinson entitled Tell Me Why), MCA disagreed, and the song became a hit for Curb recording artist Jann Browne. Gail signed with Capitol/EMI the following year and produced The Other Side of Love. Although touted by music critics as one of her finest albums, there were no hit singles.
Convinced that her career as a recording artist was over, Gail accepted a position at Liberty Records as Nashville's first female staff producer in 1989. After three years of working with talented young artists like Mandy Barnett, Deryl Dodd and The Kinleys, Gail left the company to start her own independent record label, Little Chickadee Productions. Her first release entitled Eclectic was listed in The New York Times as “One of The Ten Best Albums of the Year.” Other LCP releases include: Love Ain’t Easy, Gail Davies Greatest Hits, Live at the Station Inn, The Songwriter Sessions and Since I Don't Have You, featuring jazz legend Benny Golson.
Gail Davies has received numerous accolades throughout her career, including a Grammy nomination and an IBMA Award for her duet with bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley. She was honored by the Americana Association in 2002 for having produced Caught In The Webb - A Tribute To Country Legend Webb Pierce featuring George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Pam Tillis, Dwight Yoakam, Crystal Gayle, Charley Pride, Dale Watson, Allison Moorer, The Jordanaires, Billy Walker, Del McCoury and a other great artists. Gail's latest production is an album entitled Unsung Hero - A Tribute To the Music of Ron Davies - who passed away in 2003. Click on the news page to learn more.