Often it's the small things that guitarists include that make all the difference. Many of us have played Candy Man by Gary Davis, for a long time, with various degrees of success. I've played this for years, and then I decided to take a closer look to see what's going on.
Acoustic Blues Guitar - Reverend Gary Davis
Of course, we know that he used just one finger and his thumb for his right hand picking, but that's just the start of his genius for blues music. Loosen up those fingers and let's go ... One Of The Last Great Blues Guitar Masters
The Very Best in Acoustic Blues From the MasterReverend Gary Davis was unusual in many respects. The complexity and musical richness of his blues guitar music is legendary, and we could consider ourselves to be very lucky that his prowess remained undiminished in his later years. Unlike many blues men, who stopped playing and restarted after they had been 'discovered' again, Gary Davis never stopped playing guitar and many of his songs in his can be found on Youtube.
Gary Davis - Street Blues SingerIt was still his habit to play the blues in the streets around Harlem until he became in vogue once again, then started to record and play live gigs once again. He was also very willing to give blues guitar lessons to almost anyone that asked him, it seems, and so the skills were passed on to young guitarists such as Stephan Grossman and many others.
First of all, Davis used the thumb and index finger of his right hand to fingerpick all of those incredibly complex sounds. Of course, his finger could move rapidly and seemed to move independently from his thumb. He also used finger picks to play guitar, which helps to be more accurate.
Gospel, Ragtime Or Blues GuitarHe was very proficient in any key, either major or minor, but it wasn't this fact that exemplified his guitar music (for me.) The timing of his thumb beats were rock solid, as you would expect, and he could break out of the alternating bass pattern at will, either to double time and produce syncopated rhythms, or to produce lightning fast single string runs.
For the latter, he would pick a string alternately with his thumb and finger, as though he were using a plectrum. This was impressive enough, but he often sang at the same time which is some trick - try it sometime!