3 min readWalter Davis – Come Back Baby (1940)

Walter Davis (March 1, 1911 or 1912 – October 22, 1963) was an American blues singer, pianist, and songwriter who was one of the most prolific blues recording artists from the early 1930s to the early 1950s. Davis recorded prolifically for Victor and Bluebird, making over 150 recordings between 1930 and 1952.

He started singing with pianist Roosevelt Sykes and guitarist Henry Townsend. Davis made his first recordings, including the successful “M&O Blues”, in 1930, as a singer accompanied by Sykes on piano. Many featured Townsend and/or Big Joe Williams on guitar. Described as “one of the finest and most original of all blues singers and pianists”, Davis had a varied repertoire, including melancholy songs, and according to Townsend, Davis “played some of the saddest songs that was ever heard about”.

Walter Davis - M & O Blues

Davis had a rich singing voice that was as expressive as the best of the Delta blues vocalists. His best-known recording, a version of the train blues standard “Sunnyland Blues”, released in 1931, is more notable for the warmth and poignancy of his singing than for his piano playing.

Railroad Man Blues (Take 2-test)

Townsend denied claims that Davis played club dates in the South and the lower Midwest with Townsend and Big Joe Williams, saying that Davis

didn’t do no entertaining, not to my knowledge, none whatsoever. … Walter was very, very bashful when it came to public entertainment. … I’ve never known him to be booked on no job, not even no house party.

Townsend also stated that Davis’s name was used falsely on club bookings by other musicians in the 1930s.

Getting back to “Come Back Baby”, it has been covered by many notable artists. One of the first was Lightnin’ Hopkins in 1948

Lightnin' Hopkins-Come Back Baby

In 1952 B.B. “Blues Boy” King and His Orchestra covered it as “Can’t We Talk It Over”

Can't We Talk It Over

It became more popularized when Ray Charles did it in 1955

Come Back Baby by Ray Charles 1955

To finish up this short list of versions, here’s Hot Tuna (Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady formerly of Jefferson Airplane) with an updated (1971), more electric cover

Hot Tuna - Come Back Baby - 11/20/1976 - Capitol Theatre (Official)

For a full list of who has covered this song, visit https://secondhandsongs.com/performance/88386/versions#nav-entity

In 1952, Davis had a stroke, which effectively ended his recording career. His style of music was already becoming unfashionable. He worked for the rest of his life as a desk clerk in a hotel and as a part-time preacher. He died in St. Louis in 1963, aged about 52, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, in Hillsdale, Missouri. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2005.

This song provides an interesting snapshot of how the British Invasion and the bands of Britain evolved into the Rock we have today. Riding a wave of Skiffle music there, the early musicians were heavily influenced by the Blues (Root) music that came from America. Back then, it was primarily the radio that let them hear what we had. In his song “Wavelength” Van Morrison recalled fond memories of his adolescence listening to the Voice of America and hearing that music.

Van Morrison - Wavelength - 6/18/1980 - Montreux (OFFICIAL)

I heard the voice of America
Callin’ on my wavelength
Singin’ “Come back, baby”
Come back
Come back, baby…

Take notice of those last few lines, “Come Back Baby”. We indeed have “Come Back” in a circle.

 

 

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