Wer war/ist SAMMY GOWANS ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD und mehr

SAMMY GOWANS, singer-pianist-guitarist, was born in Hartsville, South Carolina on June 23, 1937. He was christened Cole Ghoens but never knew his given name until 25 years later when he applied for a passport. His ancestry is uncertain but he thinks his grandmother was English.

Inspired chiefly by Ray Price ("though I did like Elvis pretty good too") Gowans set out for Washington DC in 1957. A flourishing club scene promised plenty of work for white Southerners from rural areas. He played piano for Patsy Cline ("she's from Winchester ... I know her mother and all of them real well") and sat in with other musicians at hillbilly dives all over the city. He appeared with Link Wray, Bobby Poe ("one of my best buddies") and Big Al Downing, the Poe-Kats' singer-pianist.

Kissin' At The Drive-In was Gowans' first record. He was spotted by a United Artists producer (I mentioned Jack Lewis and Lou Krefetz but he didn't remember their names) and taken to New York where he wrote Rockin' By Myself at the same session. "For side two" as he put it. This brain-bending explosion of a record features black pianist Bert Keyes, Sticks Evans on drums and jazzmeister Kenny Burrell on lead guitar. The wild, extrovert solo represents something of a departure for Burrell whose lines had only recently graced Benny Goodman's orchestra. Gowans was aware of the disc's cult popularity in Europe and of its appearance on 'Imperial Rockabillies' in 1977: "I got some money from it. Not much, about three or four dollars."

In the 60s, Gowans changed his name to Danny Denver - "we figured it was easier to remember" - and recorded for Go-Go (his own label), Chancellor and Deville. Image Of Love, on Go-Go and Chancellor, was recorded at Ray Vernon's studio with Roy Buchanan, the Telecaster genius who killed himself in 1988. Baby One More Chance, on Deville, also featured Buchanan. They first met in 1960 when Roy and Dale Hawkins stopped in DC to play at the Rocket Room. They began working together in the early 60s. A self-produced Go-Go album contains Gowans' breathless imitations of Little Richard, Marty Robbins, James Brown and Elvis. It was recorded on stage at the Stardust Inn, Waldorf, Maryland in 1968. A C&W album, 'The Best Of Denver with Roy Buchanan', came out on Wrayco Records. Tom Zito praised Buchanan and the Danny Denver band in his articles for 'The Washington Post' and 'Rolling Stone' in 1970-71.

This tale has a hauntingly sad conclusion. In 1986, Gowans suffered a major stroke which affected his speech and mobility leaving him paralysed on his left side and unable to sing or play. I asked him if he'd like me to include any particularly fond memory in these notes. "I worked with the best guitarist in the world", he replied. "The finest guitar player who ever lived. We were so successful in the latter part of the 60s. Me and Roy ... we'd draw thousands and thousands of people."
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