Following up on my last post, I decided it was time to go to Dennis Davis’s son’s, Hikaru Davis’s, talk with George Murray, the bassist for the DAM trio (Davis-Alomar-Murray), who Tony Visconti described as locking in with Dennis. This is my take on one of the interviews Hikaru conducted in his Tracing My Dad series, accompanied by Nacho. Part 1:
It is surprising and inspiring. Murray’s life followed an unusual trajectory. He went from the rock stage to the Alhambra Unified School District’s (part of Los Angeles County, CA) career education program, where in 32 years he worked his way up to assistant superintendent. It’s inspiring to me because I admire people who make unusual choices. Why did he give up bass? He explains that he was busy working, raising a family, and in LA did not have the connections he had in New York City, his hometown.
Murray seems a calm, centered, smooth, wise elder. I’d guess he worked well with students.
I wonder if after working with Bowie, who we learned from Visconti’s interview would present DAM with a general idea and let them go, it was utterly unappealing to be treated as The Help in the music industry. There’s a subtext here. I remember when the Beatles worked with Billy Preston and Springsteen with Clarence Clemons. It was a Big Deal. See too Carlos Alomar on the “historical relevancy” of DAM.
When Marcus Murray, George’s son, takes a turn as the interviewer, he starts with a hard question: what did Murray take away from playing with DAM and Bowie: “the uniqueness” is the answer. That and the “good fortune” to have been together at that juncture in their lives. And the unpretentiousness of Bowie. Dennis was Dennis, Carlos was Carlos; individuals, unique souls, in other words.
Murray talks about his experiences with no trace of regret.
What he does regret: losing touch with Dennis Davis. Too soon it is too late.
Murray remembers Davis as an “energetic” and “artistic” drummer. Dennis knew Carlos Alomar; when Bowie’s band needed a new bassist, Dennis reached out to George Murray, who had previous experience of world touring with George McRae. Thus was born the DAM rhythm trio. Their first album together was Station to Station. The self-taught Murray is seen in footage from that era, wearing his top hat, Stetson or cap.
To Hikaru, Murray expresses his pleasure in Dennis’s company, both for the drummer’s positivity and humor, and the way he pushed the boundaries of whatever project he was involved in, from neighborhood bands onwards.
Hikaru’s older brother joins in Part 2. Until this, Darien Davis had not realized that Murray was the top hat guy with the snakeskin boots on Isolar tours. Darien is so gracious too toward Murray, thanking him for filling him in on aspects of his father’s life he did not previously know. That a child may not know about a lot of his parent’s past is not at all unusual. Last Christmas I made little books for my children: Before There Was You.
Hikaru ends the segment by asking Murray why he agreed to the interview. Murray has kept a low profile for years. But Hikaru was his friend’s son, and, Murray says to Hikaru, “You asked to find out more.”
Image belongs to Hikaru Davis. Used with his kind permission.