Gibson Davis: Carrying the Legacy of Generations Before Him
by Shelby C. Berry
Gibson Davis is a fourth-generation teen musician from West Virginia. His great grandfather, Elzie Davis, was a fiddler for Red Allen whose pickin’ transcended the generations. His grandfather Danny Davis also played for some of the all-time bluegrass greats throughout his career—including Ralph Stanley. However, the biggest impact on Gibson was his father, Chris Davis, who is a member of the Grascals.
“When I was younger, I really had no idea what was going on,” said Gibson. “I would go on the road with my dad and be exposed to all of this great music. I got to meet and be exposed to all of these great banjo players, and it really kept me alive.”
Fifteen-year-old Gibson has played music for more than half of his life. At around age 8, Gibson gravitated to the banjo and learned to play Cripple Creek on his grandfather’s instrument. It was a Gibson.
“My grandad took out his banjo and showed me a forward roll and some licks. He told me to practice it 100 times. I did this over and over until I really got that playing banjo was for me. He taught me the basics.”
With the knowledge from father and grandfather, Gibson was on his way to becoming a proficient banjo player. “I also met a lot of great banjo players on the road with my dad, and they taught me so much,” said Gibson, remembering those days. “I got to go to Christmas in the Smokies when my dad played for Marty Raybon. They let me onstage to play with them, and it is probably one of my most memorable times on stage because it was the first big thing I ever got to do. It was the first time I saw people’s reactions to me and my music. It made me understand why bluegrass musicians really play for the live music and the people.”
Gibson, along with his father and grandfather, still enjoy jamming with each other.
“It happens all the time! We love to jam. We will pick up our instruments, and it happens naturally,” said Gibson. “We jam countless times in a month or year. It’s great!”
Although Gibson credits his growing musicianship to his father and grandfather, he credits artists like Earl Scruggs and Blue Highway as major influences. He is drawn to artists that play traditional bluegrass music with their modern twist.
“The best part of playing bluegrass music is meeting new people. There’s no one musician the same. You get to see all these different styles, backgrounds, religions, and cultures. You get to travel and meet all sorts of incredible people. It’s not just about playing music but meeting others along the way.”
This frame of mind led Gibson to Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars (TBS), the group for young musicians. It was a perfect fit for Gibson.
“Being from a small town in West Virginia, there aren’t a lot of people that play bluegrass. I had some friends that talked about being a part of TBS, and eventually, John Colburn reached out to me to join as well. I didn’t think there were a lot of young bluegrass musicians, but joining TBS made me realize there were,” he said.
“There were people I already knew in TBS, and I got to meet a lot of new people too. It’s one big family of musicians.”
Gibson hopes to record in the next few years and feature collaborations with his father and grandfather.
“I’d really love to travel the world and meet other musicians of all genres. And I’d love to be a music teacher for bluegrass music and encourage kids to play our type of music where everyone is a big family.”
Gibson Davis is well on his way.