Father of West Coast R&B
"No one in the field of rhythm and blues has been more of an unsung hero than the late Maxwell Davis. He was a tenor saxophonist par excellence and a brilliant arranger..." "Within a short period he became a pivotal figure in the whole post-war R&B recording scene which flourished in Los Angeles."
"As a prolific all-purpose producer/songwriter/sideman, tenor saxman Maxwell Davis arranged and produced a myriad of West Coast sessions for Aladdin, Modern, and other postwar R&B indies from the late '40s on, lending his husky sax to scads of waxwings."
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Maxwell was born and educated in Kansas. At the age of 17, he joined the Gene Coy band and travelled extensively throughout the mid- and northwest parts of the country. In 1937, he moved to Los Angeles, joining the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. Davis worked as a freelance arranger and musician for many companies, including Black & White, Specialty, 4 Star, Aladdin, Modern, Crown, Kent, Capitol, Imperial and Miltone, where he accompanied vocalists such as Jo Evans, Helen Humes, Kay Thomas, T-Bone Walker and Ernie Andrews.
In 1948, he contracted with Aladdin Records in Beverly Hills where he recorded with musicians/ singers such as Amos Milburn, Peppermint Harris, Charles Brown, Floyd Dixon and Calvin Boze. During this period, his wife, Adelia, described a special arrangement Maxwell made with Louis Jordan, famous band director, who had lost all of his band arrangements in a fire. Jordan asked Maxwell to accompany him on his upcoming tour, while writing his replacement arrangements. She and Maxwell followed the band to several east coast cities with the understanding that Maxwell would get the additional opportunity to play with the band at the famous Apollo Theater in New York. This was very exciting for him.
Modern/ Kent probably kept him employed the steadiest throughout the '50s and '60s; he worked with Pee Wee Crayton, Etta James, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Lowell Fulson, Z.Z. Hill, and plenty more on the Bihari Brothers' star-studded roster. By 1954, Maxwell was working as full-time arrange/producer for Modern producing several hits with B.B. King, Jesse Belvin, The Teen Queens, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, Richard Berry, The Cadets, The Jacks and many others. He arranged and recorded several albums in tribute to the Big Band Era. He continued recording sessions right up until the day before he died, September, 1970.