Steve Winwood Pays Tribute to ‘Big Brother’ Spencer Davis

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Winwood and Davis (Undated photo via Winwood’s Facebook page)

Upon hearing the news of Spencer Davis’ passing today (October 20) at age 81, a prominent former bandmate paid tribute to the multi-instrumentalist from Wales. None were more associated with Davis than Steve Winwood, who as a teenager, became the lead singer and keyboardist for the Spencer Davis Group. In his tribute, Winwood wrote about the man who was “like a big brother to me” and one of the “pioneers of the British Invasion.”

“I’ve known Spencer since I was about 13–he would have been about 22,” wrote Winwood on his Facebook page. “I was playing a show at Birmingham University with my brother [Muff] and his band. Spencer, who was a student at Birmingham, was playing with a small group of musicians. We met and the the seeds of The Spencer Davis Group were sown.

“Spencer was an early pioneer of the British folk scene, which, in his case embraced folk blues, and eventually what was then called ‘Rhythm and Blues’. He influenced my tastes in music, he owned the first 12-string guitar I ever saw, and he was taken with the music of Huddie ‘Lead belly’ Ledbetter, and Big Bill Broonzy. I’d already got a big brother who influenced me greatly, and Spencer became like a big brother to me at the time.”

Along with drummer Pete York, Davis and the Winwood brothers formed the Rhythm and Blues Quartet. In 1964, the quartet changed its name to the Spencer Davis Group. By 1966, they scored a worldwide hit with “Gimme Some Lovin’.”

Watch a live performance featuring Winwood’s swirling keyboards

Winwood’s tribute continues: “He was definitely a man with a vision, and one of the pioneers of the British invasion of America in the sixties. I never went to the U.S. with Spencer, but he later embraced America, and America embraced him.

“I feel that he was influential in setting me on the road to becoming a professional musician, and I thank him for that.”

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