How bluesman Cyril Davies inspired a generation of British bands
What do The Kinks, Stones and The Who all have in common? For one thing, a bluesman nicknamed ‘Squirrel’, who inspired and gave a helping hand to the brightest of early British bands
Hailed by many as the best blues harmonica player this country ever produced, Cyril Davies was a grumpy, balding panel beater who happened to lead the London R&B scene that shaped British rock, yet made few records before passing away in January 1964 at the age of only 31.
The man nicknamed ‘Squirrel’ was an aggressive purist who blew with untamed elemental power in Blues Incorporated; the world’s first white electric blues band he formed with the better-known Alexis Korner and one of the most significant outfits in the history of British rock’n’roll. Cyril helped the nascent Rolling Stones with early gigs and encouragement and inspired Ray Davies to make a go of The Kinks. Jimmy Page says he “pioneered a sound that was to give incentive to every group of the time”. But, curiously and unjustly, Cyril has been all but air-brushed out of the musical history he helped shape.