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Play Acoustic Guitar -Reverend Gary Davis

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Reverend Gary Davis was a legendary figure in the world of acoustic blues, ragtime and gospel and influenced many guitarists such as Stefan Grossman and Ry Cooder. Althougb well versed in all styles of blues picking, he found religion in his thirties and was ordained as a minister, after which time he refused to play the ‘Devil’s music’.

In this video, I take a look at his basic technique when playing in the key of C, using ‘Cocaine Blues’ as an example. Gary Davis played a jumbo bodied Gibson and favored finger picks, which helped to amplify his sound when performing on the streets of Harlem, as was his habit when living in New York. It’s fair to say that Davis had no betters in this field, while other men that he mentored, such as Blind Boy Fuller, enjoyed much greater commercial success. Perhaps Blind Blake and Willie Walker were the only two guitarists to equal Davis, and of these, Blake’s playing was limited mostly to fast ragtime picking and didn’t have the range of the Reverend’s repertoire.

Davis’ guitar work was creative and complex, which was all the more impressive when we realize that he only used his thumb and forefinger to pick. His finger was nimble, and his picking thumb could move across all six strings producing a syncopated sound. A characteristic feature of the Reverend’s playing was the creation of fast single string runs picked with the thumb and forefinger.

From Texas to the Delta is a free weekly video guitar lesson series covering acoustic blues picking techniques. Your instructor is Jim Bruce, who has many years of experience teaching guitar players of all skill levels and styles, and will have an online classroom at TrueFire soon — stay tuned!

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Blues Guitar Lessons - Candy Man, Reverend Davis Style

 Candy man lesson on You Tube

In this video I take a look at the right hand techniques of some master guitar players. What are the similarities and how should we hold that picking hand for the best effect?


  • If you haven't got Jim's blues instruction DVD do your self a favour and invest. They are fantastic. Give the man some support. Keep it up Jim.

  • Hey, that's really nice of you.

    Best, Jim

  • Great video, Jim, thanks very much for putting this together.

  • Your very welcome


    • I always enjoy watching your videos cause they are always either very informative or entertaining,,only wish I could support you but my financial situation doesn't allow me to but I will take what I can get :)..What was tha little tune you were playing at the start of the video, sounds familiar?

    • Hi - it's Candy Man by Rev Gary Davis. I posted a lesson for it some time ago - the link is in the description. Have fun!

      Cheers, Jim

  • Thanks a lot, Jim! Awesome tutorial! I like it very much. Thumbs up!:)

  • Excellent free lesson Jim...thank u!

  • As soon as I read your answer, I said to myself "yes thats right!" lol..tks for your info and answer. I have checked out your lesson that you mentioned and can't wait to give it a go but it's only 7 oclock in the am here so I have to wait a little lol. Take good care!

  • That was a fantastic lesson. A thumb pick is one of the best $0.98 investments I've ever made. I file off some of its length so that I can avoid the "phantom pick" syndrome when I take it off to play more quietly. also can't anchor my pinky to save my life . It's too short, I think.

  • Thanks Jim, This video is great.


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