Across a 40-plus year career, Gail Davies has gifted country music fans through a wide range of roles. She’s been a singer-songwriter with songs covered by the stars, a member of proto-Americana band Wild Choir and Nashville’s first woman staff producer for Liberty Records.
The daughter of country singer Tex Dickerson, Davies came from a musically-inclined family. For example, her brother Ron Davies wrote “It Ain’t Easy” for for David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album. She’d go on to have one child, the multi-talented BR549 veteran and current Marty Stuart bandmate Chris Scruggs, with fellow musician Gary Scruggs. As his surname implies, Chris’ birth forever connected the bloodlines of one of country’s most versatile talents to bluegrass royalty — his grandpa is Earl Scruggs.
A Fast Learner
As a young woman in Los Angeles, Davies worked as a session singer for A&M Records and a hand-picked tour mate of Roger Miller. Since then, she’s lent her vocal talents to records ranging from Neil Young’s Old Ways (1985) to Robbie Fulks’ Georgia Hard (2005). Davies also showed an early career affinity for producing, sitting alongside John Lennon and Phil Spector at a session and learning from friend Joni Mitchell’s go-to engineer Henry Lewy.
The Oklahoma native’s songwriting chops were apparent early on, as well. Like many great talents, Davies started out as a songwriter-for-hire in Nashville. Her “Bucket to the South” became a hit for The Lawrence Welk Show regular Ava Barber. Davies later co-wrote Jann Browne’s solo hit “Tell Me Why” with Chris Scruggs’ current Fabulous Superlatives bandmate Harry Stinson.
A Mainstream Solo Star
Early career singles “Blue Heartache” and “Someone is Looking for Someone Like You” (both from 1979) set the stage for Davies’ solo career. Unhappy with the sound of her early recordings, she started self-producing her albums and singles. Songs capturing both her production skill and the imagination of the public include a cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Like Strangers,” Emmylou Harris collaboration “It’s a Lovely, Lovely World” and the self-penned, introspective “Grandma’s Song.”
A less commercially successful song due to its controversial subject matter, Davies also cut a version of Bobby Braddock and John Prine’s “Unwed Fathers” with guest vocalist Dolly Parton for the 1984 album Where is a Woman to Go?
In the mid-’80s, Davies recorded as a member of country-rock band Wild Choir. Too “rock” for country radio at the time, the band would probably sound at home today on the Americana charts. Its song “Safe in the Arms of Love” got a fair shake at success nearly a decade late when Martina McBride made it a top five hit.
A Groundbreaking Producer
In 1989, Davies began focusing on producing others’ records with Liberty. During her three years with the company, she guided some of Mandy Barnett’s early career demo sessions.
Since then, Davies has recorded her own songs for her Little Chickadee Productions record label. Among its releases was 1994 solo album Eclectic, 2001’s star-studded compilation Caught in the Webb (A Tribute to the Legendary Webb Pierce) and a 2016 co-production with Chris Scruggs, Beyond the Realm of Words.
Nowadays, Davies still plays the occasional intimate set at a place like the Station Inn — the site of her 2001 unplugged album that captured the varied talents and greatest hits of one of America’s unsung musical treasures.