an on-line performance series exploring the music of blind blues musician, Rev. Gary Davis. Featuring: Warren Haynes, Larkin Poe, Bill Frisell, Fantastic Negrito, Rosanne Cash, Amythyst Kiah, Jorma Kaukonen, Dom Flemons, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams
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We hope you are healthy and safe out there. While plans for the New York Guitar Festival this year had to be adjusted for obvious reasons, we’re excited to share with you what we are up to.

We’ve invited a wonderfully diverse group of some of our favorite musicians to participate in Reverend Gary Davis: In Search of the Harlem Street Singer, an on-line performance series exploring the music of the blind blues musician, Reverend Gary Davis. 

Rev. Gary Davis performed on the streets of Harlem from the late 1940s until his death in 1972. He is one of those curious figures in music history who should be famous, but who’s also a lot better known than you might think.  Overcoming poverty, racial discrimination and blindness, Davis made influential recordings and festival appearances, and his songs have been covered by The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Peter Paul & Mary, and Bob Dylan.

Davis himself recorded as Blind Gary Davis and Rev. Gary Davis – he was ordained as a minister in the 1930s – and the two names seem to reflect the two halves of his personality.  Religious imagery fills his songs, and his version of the blues is heavily colored by the sounds of early gospel music.  But his guitar picking had a strong ragtime feel, and Mr. Davis was known to be, shall we say, a very secular guy when Mrs. Davis wasn’t around.  We know this because for most of the 60s and until his death in 1972, his Harlem apartment became a pilgrimage site for dozens of young guitarists eager to learn from someone who had lived the blues and played them from birth.  David Bromberg, Stefan Grossman, Dave Van Ronk, and Bob Weir are just some of the many students who left his apartment with new skills and often colorful, and occasionally off-color, stories. 

We’ve commissioned each artist to create a home-made video of themselves performing a song by Gary Davis. These videos will be released each day at 4pm EDT on the Festival’s YouTube channel starting on May 4th and running for two weeks.  

In partnership with this project, WNYC’s “New Sounds” will debut audio recordings of the full collection at 11pm EDT on May 4th  - on the radio dial at 93.9FM or at

Access to Reverend Gary Davis: In Search of the Harlem Street Singer  is FREE.  The Festival and the performing artists are asking viewers to make donations to MusiCares. Learn more about charitable foundation of The Recording Academy’s MusicCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, and donate to help the music community affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, here:

Listening to, and sharing, music has been a lifeline for so many people during this period of social isolation. We hope this project will spread joy, and shine a light on the remarkable music and resilient life of Reverend Gary Davis.

Take care of yourselves and each other as the current situation continues to evolve. We send our best wishes to you and your families.