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Monday, April 19, 2021

Spencer Davis, a Brooklyn musician who became a singer and songwriter, dead at 81

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On Thursday, Spencer Davis became the second Brooklynite in as many weeks to pass away. An army veteran who worked in the garment industry, Mr. Davis sang and wrote music in Brooklyn and around the city in the late 1950s and early ’60s as Spencer Knowles.

Mr. Davis formed a trio with two fellow union workers and — using a bass player, a drummer and a saxophone player who later took the name Bobby Rydell — they became a hit-making, tune-drifting success in the Village.

In 1958, after a record deal with the Warner Bros. label expired, Mr. Davis changed his name to Spencer Davis and began touring and recording separately under his new moniker, with the groups Spunky and Spill. Both groups went on to great success, making appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Dick Cavett Show.”

Mr. Davis, 81, died at home at 1:55 p.m. on Oct. 19, the New York Times reported.

A tribute in the Times by Michael Shear said that as a young man in the 1950s, “Mr. Davis found a kind of magical music and a kind of freedom, a solitude, to do as he pleased.”

After leaving Manhattan to live in Harlem, Mr. Davis began again to work the garment district, playing on tunes for his friends’ jobs. By the time he made an album that became an R&B classic in the ’60s, he was again playing exclusively by himself, and singing songs inspired by R&B, jazz and pop, the Times reported.

Mr. Davis’s brother, Johnny Davis, was the drummer in the Spencer Davis Group, an R&B act that recorded a series of hits in the mid-’60s, including “Positively 4th Street,” “Lonely Avenue” and “Hardly Been a Chance.”

Later in life, Mr. Davis teamed up with fellow union members to form the Randy Deena Band, later the Randy Davis Band and finally the Randy Davis Band. All of those groups recorded under the Randy Davis name.

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