Davison, Wild Bill (actually, William Ed-ward)

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Davison, Wild Bill (actually, William Ed-ward)

Davison, Wild Bill (actually, William Ed-ward) , jazz cornetist, band leader; b. Defiance, Ohio, Jan. 5, 1906; d. Santa Barbara, Calif., Nov. 14, 1989. His parents died when he was very young; he was raised by his grandparents, the town librarians. He began on mandolin, banjo, and guitar, and then switched to mellophone and cornet. He worked in local groups the Ohio Lucky Seven and James Jackson’s Band, then with Roland Potter’s players in Cincinnati. He joined the Chubb-Steinberg Orch., which recorded in April 1924. This band was subsequently jointly led by Art Hicks and Paul Omer, and as the Omer-Hicks Orch. it played in N.Y. in early 1926. Wild Bill left the band, returned to his home town, then joined Seattle Harmony Kings, and traveled to Chicago with them. He worked mostly in and around Chicago during the five- year period 1927–32, including a long spell with Benny Meroff, also worked with Charles Dornberger and Ray Miller, etc. He came under the influence of the young generation of Chicago musicians, and was particularly impressed by the playing of Louis Armstrong. In late 1931, he began organizing his own big band. After intensive rehearsals the band worked briefly at Guyon’s. Davison’s Chicago career was cut short in 1932 by a car accident that killed his fellow bandmember, Frank Teschemacher (Some have blamed Davison for Teschemacher’s death). He moved to Milwaukee and worked there for most of the time between 1933 and 1941, leading his own small groups at various clubs including East Side Spa and Schmitz’s, and also worked for other leaders, including Charles “Murph” Podolsky. During these eight years Wild Bill occasionally doubled on valve trombone. He overcame a lip injury in 1939 caused when a fan flung a beer mug at his face. He moved to N.Y. in the spring of 1941, and led his own band at several small clubs. Dancer Katherine Dunham launched a revue during 1943 which included a recreation of the Original Jazz Band; Davison was enlisted for the group. This resulted in a 1944 recording session and paved the way for a switch from a Chicago-style approach to a New Orleans-traditional approach. He served in the army from 1943-mid-1945, and then worked with Art Hodes and led his own band in St. Louis, before becoming a regular at Eddie Condon’s Club from December 1945 in N.Y. He toured Britain with Eddie Condon in February 1957. Davison moved to the West Coast in 1960, where he played at the 400 Club, Los Angeles. Through the 1960s, he alternated between touring with his own bands and working with other Dixieland-revival groups. He was very popular in Europe, and spent the early 1970s living in Denmark. He was back to working at Condon’s club from 1975–85, while continuing to tour with various ensembles. Davison continued to play and record through the end of his life.


This Is Jazz, Vol. 1 (1947); S’ Wonderful (1962); That’s a Plenty (1943); Sweet and Hot (1947); Individualism Of… (1951); Ringside at Condon’s (1951); Showcase (1951); Live! Miami Beach (1955; 1956); Blowm Wild (1965); Nick’s (1974); Plays Hoagy Carmichael (1981); Wild Bill Davidson and Eddie Miller (1982); All-Stars (1986).


Hal Willard, The Wildest One: The Life of Wild Bill Davison (Monkton, Md., 1996).

—John Chilton/Lewis Porter

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Davison, Wild Bill (actually, William Ed-ward)

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