The release of Gail Davies’ album “The Songwriter Sessions” comes as no surprise to people who have been following her career through the years. Although best known for being the first female record producer in country music, Gail Davies is also a prolific songwriter and the author of such radio standards as Bucket To The South for Lynn Anderson, Hometown Gossip for The Whites and Tell Me Why for Jann Browne, as well as her own hit recordings of Grandma’s Song, Boys Like You, Not A Day Goes By, Good Lovin’ Man, and Someone is Looking For Someone Like You. As a singer, Gail’s voice, described by renowned jazz critic Nat Hentoff as “brilliantly evocative, ” has earned her 18 Top 40 Billboard singles, with 6 songs in the Top 10, and two standing ovations on The Grand Ole Opry.
Born Patricia Gail Dickerson in Broken Bow, Oklahoma on June 5, 1948 (the daughter of country singer Tex Dickerson), Gail knew from an early age that she, too, wanted to be a singer. Her parents separated when she was five years old and Gail moved to Washington State with her mother and two brothers. Her last name was changed when her mother remarried and Gail and her siblings were adopted by their kind and loving stepfather Darby Davies. After graduating from South Kitsap High School, Gail moved to Los Angeles, California, where she met and married a jazz musician. She attempted a brief career in jazz but quit after they divorced and went to work at A&M Records as a session singer, backing such legendary artists as Hoyt Axton, Neil Young and Glen Campbell. She was even invited to sit in on a recording session (produced by Phil Spector) with ex-Beatle John Lennon.
“Sitting at the board between John Lennon and Phil Spector was one of the most exciting things that happened to me at A&M,” Gail recalls.
It was during this time that Gail was befriended by singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell and her recording engineer Henry Lewy. Henry was the one who taught Gail the art of record production and set her on a path that would forever change her life. Besides working in the studio, Gail was also the lead singer for The Midnight Band, who played on Saturday nights at The Troubadour in Hollywood. Frank Zappa, impressed by Gail’s performance, invited her to tour Europe with him. Gail chose to go on the road with country icon Roger Miller instead, making her television debut as his duet partner on The Merv Griffin Show. A clip of this performance is now available on youtube.
Surrounded by great songwriters, including her older brother Ron Davies (the writer of It Ain’t Easy for David Bowie’s album Ziggy Stardust), Gail bought a guitar in a pawn shop and started writing songs. She signed with EMI Publishing in 1975, then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where she immediately scored as the writer of Ava Barber’s hit single Bucket to the South (also recorded by Lynn Anderson), and Hometown Gossip for The Whites.
Determined to stake her claim as a singer, Gail signed with CBS/Lifesong Records in 1978. Her debut album earned her three Top 20 hits: No Love Have I (originally recorded by Webb Pierce), a remake of the 1957 Johnny & Jack classic Poison Love and one of Gail’s own timeless compositions entitled Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You. This song has since been translated and recorded in seven languages by such internationally known artists as Nana Mouskouri, Susan McCann, Iona & Andy, George Hamilton IV, and bluegrass legends The Country Gentlemen.
Unhappy with the production of her first album, Gail signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1979 and became the first female record producer in the history of country music. She delivered a series of successful albums and hit singles during the 1980s (click on the discography page for a list of song titles) and was voted “Best New Female Vocalist” by the DJs of America and nominated for a ACM and CMA Award.
Gail took a short hiatus in the winter of 1982 to give birth to her only child, Chris Scruggs. A multi-talented musician in his own right, Chris is also the son of songwriter Gary Scruggs and the grandson of banjo wizard Earl Scruggs.
RCA Records signed Gail in 1984 to produce Where Is A Woman To Go with her longtime friend and bass player Leland Sklar. The first single from this album, Jagged Edge of A Broken Heart, quickly made it’s way into the Billboard Top 20. The follow up, a song entitled Unwed Fathers, didn’t fare as well. Written by John Prine and Bobby Braddock (and featuring Dolly Parton singing harmony), Unwed Fathers was thought to be too controversial for country radio. In spite of the lack of airplay, Newsweek magazine dubbed it “The Best Country Song of 1985,” adding that it “would have been a hit had there not been so many Unwed Fathers programing country radio stations.”
Gail traveled to England in 1985 to perform at the Wembley Festival. Inspired by a British musician named Hank Wangford, she returned to Nashville and formed a country/rock band called Wild Choir. Considered by many to be the forerunner of today’s Americana movement, the band released one self-titled album produced by Gail and her guitarist Pete Pendras and three singles, including one entitled Safe In The Arms of Love.
Returning to a solo career in 1988, Gail signed with MCA Records and produced Pretty Words with label head Jimmy Bowen. Despite her choice for a single (a song written by Gail and Harry Stinson entitled Tell Me Why), the record executives disagreed, and the song became a hit for Curb recording artist Jann Browne. Gail signed with Capitol Records the following year and produced two more albums, The Best Of Gail Davies and The Other Side of Love. Although touted by music critics as one of her best albums, there were no hit singles.
Convinced that her career as a recording artist was over, Gail accepted a position at Liberty Records as Nashville’s first female staff producer in 1990. After three years of working with talented young artists like Mandy Barnett, Gail left the company to start her own independent record label, Little Chickadee Productions. Her first release entitled Eclectic was listed in Tower Pulse magazine and The New York Times as “One of The Ten Best Albums of the Year.” Other LCP releases include: Love Ain’t Easy, Gail Davies Greatest Hits, Live at the Station Inn, The Songwriter Sessions, Beyond The Realm Of Words and Since I Don’t Have You, featuring Jazz legend Benny Golson.
Gail Davies has received numerous accolades through the years, including a Grammy nomination and an IBMA Award for her duet with bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley. She was inducted into The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2018 and honored by the Americana Association for producing Caught In The Webb – A Tribute To Country Legend Webb Pierce, with performances by George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Pam Tillis, Dwight Yoakam, Crystal Gayle, Charley Pride, Allison Moorer, Dale Watson, The Jordanaires and a host of other great artists.
In harmony with a promise Gail made to her older brother, who passed away in 2003, Gail also produced an album entitled Unsung Hero – A Tribute To the Music of Ron Davies. This album features 22 of Ron’s songs performed by some of his favorite artists including John Prine, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, John Anderson, Shelby Lynne, Guy Clark, Suzy Bogguss, Delbert McClinton, Mandy Barnett, Rodney Crowell, Bonnie Bramlett and Jim Lauderdale. Proceeds from this album will benefit The W.O. Smith Music School and provide instruments and free music lessons for underprivileged children.