In the above picture, Davis is on the far left.
Though Chicago’s soul scene was less celebrated than those of Detroit or Memphis, it was rich with talent, and Mr. Davis was at the center of it through the 1960s and ’70s. He worked with Curtis Mayfield, Major Lance, Jackie Wilson, Tyrone Davis, the Chi-Lites and many others in a number of capacities, including producer, scout, manager and record company boss.
“Like Berry Gordy, he understood the modern recording industry of the ’60s and ’70s, and really understood how to make hit records,” said Robert Pruter, who has written several books about soul and R&B music in Chicago.
Davis was born in Chicago on 19 September 1934, but in spite of the fact that most of his family were musically gifted, Davis “couldn’t play a note” – according to his brother, George.
But his gift for recognising hits quickly became apparent when he took a job alongside the DJ Al Benson in the mid-1950s.
His defining success came with Duke of Earl, whose vocal riff he first heard during a rehearsal session by the Dukays. The Gene Chandler hit went on to top the charts in 1962 for five weeks and sold more than one million copies.