Depending on your point of view, you either applaud Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass for helping bring country music to a mainstream audience, or you think that they pulled it too far away from its traditions. I guess I’m on the fence with this one, but I do have to point out that country music has been diverse for a long time. After all, Western Swing bands like Spade Cooley’s certainly had plenty of modern instrumentalists on board.
Danny Davis was born George Nowlan, a native of the Boston area and someone who pointed toward a musical career even as a child. He not only received a classical music education but also played solo trumpet in the state symphony as a young teenager. But like so many musicians of the pre-war swing era, he felt the pull of the big bands and was soon joining up with Gene Krupa’s bunch (and calling himself Danny Davis).
During the war years and for a decade beyond, Davis gained musical experience and also began to learn a lot about the production side of the business. By the late 1950s he’d added the roll of producer to his musical talents, and had a key role in producing records for Connie Francis and others. Within a few years he was spending most of him time in Nashville, working with record company czar (and guitar genius) Chet Atkins. He eventually got Atkins’ OK to form a brand new group — the Nashville Brass.
Beginning in the late 1960s, Davis and the group he formed spent decades as popular stars of the modern Nashville sound, adding a distinctly new angle on many traditional country songs. Although purists might have cringed in the early days, the group had countless best-selling records and was voted the CMA Best Instrumental Group five years in a row. As the years passed the group made numerous TV guest shots and toured the world extensively, building a strong fan following. Davis eventually retired from performing and died a few years later (in 2008), but the group he started continues to have many fans.