Detroit-based producer Don Davis started out as a teenaged jazz guitarist who began doing recording sessions during Detroit's soul music heyday as soon as he graduated from Central High. He can be heard on sides on Ed Wingate's Golden World label and early sessions for Motown Records. Stax executive Al Bell brought Davis and singer Johnnie Taylor together in 1968 with the idea of trying to merge the Detroit sound and the Memphis sound into a cohesive whole. Davis overheard the song "Who's Making Love" written by Homer Banks, Bettye Crutcher, and Raymond Jackson one day in a studio. Several Stax producers had passed on the song due to its overt-for-its-time sexual content. Unencumbered by its upfront delivery, Davis produced and played guitar on the track with Stax musicians, guitarist Steve Cropper, Jackson, and Banks, singing the chorus with Taylor. The million-selling "Who's Making Love" parked at number one R&B for two weeks and peaked at number five pop on Billboard's charts in fall 1968. Other Davis-produced Top Five hits on Taylor are: "Take Care of Your Homework," "Testify," "Love Bones," "Steal Away," and "I Am Somebody, Part 2." Taylor's second number one record started out as a jam session between the Stax musicians. Several months later, Davis' friend James Wilson was trying to persuade him to go out. While making a phone call, Wilson told the person on the other line, "Ain't no use in going home, Jody got your girl and gone." Davis latched on to the phrase and thought it would be an idea for the Stax jam track. He collaborated on the song with Wilson and his friend Kay Barker. At United Sound, he overdubbed horns and the Dramatics singing on the chorus. The Chicago market was one of the first "going on the record," ordering 35,000 copies its first day of release and 70,000 more two days later. "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone" stayed at number one R&B for two weeks in 1971. Taylor's next number one R&B single was a song Davis had begun writing in 1965. Two songs short while working to complete Taylor's Taylored in Silk LP, Davis chose an eight-year-old song. The basic track was cut at Muscle Shoals Sound in Alabama with members of its famed rhythm section: bassist David Hood, drummer Roger Hawkins, guitarist Jimmy Johnson, keyboardist Barry Beckett, and Davis overdubbing strings at United Sound. "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)" was a gold single, holding the number one R&B spot for two weeks in 1973. If you hear a Sam Cooke influence on the track, that's understandable because Taylor replaced Cooke in the Soul Stirrers and recorded for Cooke's SAR Records in the early '60s. Davis and The Dramatics met when the group recorded for Golden World. In 1969, the group signed with Stax Records. After working with former Motown talent developer Dick Scott for a year, Davis hooked the group up with talent songwriter/associate producer Tony Hestor. Their first Stax single was based around a phrase used by Flip Wilson on his top-rated NBC variety show Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get. The Latin-tinged single went to number three R&B/number nine pop in summer 1971. The group's sole number one single was written and produced by Hestor -- the dreamy, thunder-laden "In the Rain." It went to number one R&B for four weeks and peaked at number five pop in early 1972. When Stax folded, Johnnie Taylor signed with Columbia Records in 1975, retaining Davis as his producer. All were hopeful with this new label association, but no one could have foreseen the success of Johnnie Taylor's mega-hit "Disco Lady." Recorded at Davis' favorite studio, United Sound Studios in Detroit, the producer used Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions' "Gypsy Woman" and an African dancer he had seen on a vacation to Spain as a template for a partially finished song, "Disco Baby," that songwriter Harvey Scales had brought to him. After adding ideas by Albert Vance, Davis took his tribute to dancefloor seductresses to Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell who honed and tightened up the groove, while veteran arranger David Van DePitte did the horn arrangements. Background vocals were done by studio group Brandy and Telma Hopkins of Tony Orlando and Dawn ("Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree"). The phenomenally successful hit single parked at number one R&B for six weeks and number one pop for four weeks on Billboard's charts in early 1976. The BMI Award winning song can be found on his 1976 gold LP Eargasm. The Columbia Records 45 was the first certified platinum single by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) selling over two million copies and featured Parliament/Funkadelic members bassist Bootsy Collins and keyboardist Bernie Worrell. ~ Ed Hogan
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