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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


A celebrated American Indian guitarist and session musician during the rock era of the 1960s into the 1980s, Jesse Ed Davis was of Kiowa, Comanche, Seminole, and Muscogee (Creek) heritage. He was born in Norman, Oklahoma, on September 21, 1944, the only child of Jesse Edwin (Bus) Davis II, a noted American Indian artist, and Vivian Mae (Bea) Saunkeah.

"Eddie" or "Ed" Davis graduated from Oklahoma City's Northeast High School in 1962. He had an early band that included its share of Oklahoma talent. After high school and a brief enrollment at the University of Oklahoma, studying to be an English teacher, he joined Conway Twitty's band, arriving in California in the mid-1960s. From then into the 1970s Davis's guitar prowess made him a much-sought-after session guitarist.

Davis is known as the "guitar hero's guitar hero." His discography, a who's who of rock and roll, includes recordings with more than fifty major artists and crosses into the country, rhythm and blues, pop, and folk genres. His collaborators were amazed not only by his style, versatility, and technique but also by his love for the guitar. He is known for his primary work with Taj Mahal, his recordings with many of the Beatles, his appearance in the Concert for Bangladesh, and his later work with John Trudell. Davis also released three solo albums including Ululu. As he explained his music theory, "I just play the notes that sound good."

Jesse Ed Davis had a ten-year relationship with Patti Daley and married twice, first to Tantalayo Saenz and then to Kelly Brady. He had no children. He died of an apparent drug overdose on June 22, 1988. In 2002 he was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, in 2011 into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, and in 2018 into the Native American Music Institute Hall of Fame. Davis summed up his career simply: "I ain't an Okie from Muskogee" but rather "a red-dirt boogie brother, all the time."

Richenda Davis Bates


Dan Forte, "Jesse Ed Davis: Guitar Hero's Guitar Hero," Vintage Guitar, August 2005, accessed on 3 April 2019 at https://www.vintageguitar.com.

"Jesse Ed Davis, III," The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 27 June 1988.

Ryan LaCroix, "Rock This Way," Oklahoma Today, July/August 2013.

Jas Obrecht, "Jesse Ed Davis: I Just Play the Notes That Sound That Sound Good," Jas Obrecht Music Archive, 2010, accessed on 7 March 2019 at http://jasobrecht.com.


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Richenda Davis Bates, “Davis, Jesse Edwin III,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=DA021.

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