The Romantic Chicago Soul of Tyrone Davis


Who is Tyrone Davis?

Tyrone Davis was an American soul singer, also known as Tyrone The Wonder Boy. For the next eight years with Dakar label Davis had a string of several hits (esp. R&B) that included his first big hit “Can I Change My Mind” – a top 10 pop and R&B smash – and others such as “Is It Something You’ve Got,” “Turn Back The Hands Of Time” (another Top 10 pop/R&B hit), “I’ll Be Right Here,” “Let Me Back,” “Could I Forget You,” “One-Way Ticket,” “You Keep Me Holding On,” “I Had It All The Time,” “Without You In My Life,” “There It Is,” “I Wish It Was Me,” “What Comes Up (Must Come Down),” “Turning Point,” and “So Good (To Be Home With You).” Next, Davis was signed to Columbia and also scored respectable R&B hits such as “Give It Up (Turn It Loose),” “This I Swear” and “Are You Serious,” Davis then continued recorded for smaller labels, and although his hits had dried up, he was still a popular live attraction. A stroke in 2004 ultimately ended his career, and the following year he died from its complications. Davis was 66 years old.

Tyrone Davis’ early life and start in showbusiness

Tyrone Davis was born Tyrone Fettson in Grenville, Mississippi on May 4, 1938. He spent his formative years in Saginaw, Michigan before settling to Chicago in the late 1950s.

It was Chicago where he later found a job as a valet and chauffeur for bluesman Freddie King. He also became friends with the likes of Bobby Bland, Little Milton, and Otis Clay. Along the way, Davis pursued his own singing career by performing at local clubs there as well as recording for a few small local labels. Davis’ earliest records billed him as “Tyrone the Wonder Boy.”

Davis’ stay at Dakar Records and his first hit with “Can I Change My Mind”

Producer Carl Davis (with whom Davis obviously wasn’t related to) discovered the young singer and signed him to Dakar Records in 1968.

His first record, released that same year, was “A Woman Needs to Be Loved” b/w “Can I Change My Mind.” However, radio disc jockeys much preferred the B-side and so frequently flipped the single over. Gradually, “Can I Change My Mind” got more and more airplay that demand for the song grew. Eventually, “Can I Change My Mind” became really popular that it ended up at the top of the Billboard’s R&B singles chart, and #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969. The record sold over a million copies and was awarded with a gold disc.

The single’s album, also titled Can I Change My Mind, rose to its peak position at #12 on the Billboard R&B album chart and #146 on the Billboard 200.

“Turn Back the Hands of Time” and other hits

Davis scored his biggest chart smash with “Turn Back the Hands of Time” in 1970. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard pop chart and #1 on the R&B singles chart.

Davis represented the romantic, tender side of Chicago soul. His rather vulnerable charm yet dashing style made him really popular especially with the female fans. This appeal served Davis well in his career as a singer and balladeer especially throughout the 1970s. In particular Davis scored a lot of big R&B hits in his seven-year stay with Dakar.

Some of these hits are “Is It Something You’ve Got” (#34 pop, #5 R&B), “I’ll Be Right Here” (#53 pop, #8 R&B), “Let Me Back” (#58 pop, #12 R&B), “Could I Forget You” (#60 pop, #10 R&B), “One-Way Ticket” (#75 pop, #18 R&B), “You Keep Me Holding On” (#94 pop, #15 R&B), “I Had It All the Time” (#61 pop, #5 R&B), “Without You in My Life” (#64 pop, #5 R&B), “There It Is” (#32 pop, #9 R&B), “I Wish It Was Me” (#57 Pop, #11 R&B), “What Comes Up (Must Come Down)” (#89 pop, #11 R&B), “Turning Point” (his third and last #1 on the R&B chart), and “So Good (To Be Home with You)” (#9 R&B), among so many other charting singles.

Davis’ tenure at Columbia Records

In the mid-1970s Davis signed up with Columbia. His reputation as a slick balladeer continued, although occasionally he entered into the dance territory as evidencd by his other R&B hits “Give It Up “Give It Up (Turn It Loose)” (his last Top 40 pop hit at #32, #2 R&B) and “Get on Up (Disco)” (#12 R&B). His other hits with Columbia include “This I Swear” (#6 R&B) and “In the Mood” (#6 R&B).

Later life and career

In the 1980s his R&B hits were beginning to dry up; nevertheless Davis never stopped recording for the time being. He left Columbia for Highrise where he later scored his last R&B top ten hit with “Are You Serious” (#57 pop, #3 R&B) in 1983. He later recorded for other labels Ocean-Front, Prelude, Future, and (in the 1990s) Ichiban and Malaco. Davis was still fairly prolific in releasing records, and was actively touring until stroke effectively ended his career in 2004. He died from the stroke’s complications in 2005, aged 66. Davis also had a younger sister, singer Jean Davis who had been a member of the soul/disco group Facts of Life.

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