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Eric 'Guitar' Davis, Fixture of Local Blues Scene, Shot to Death

By Josh McGhee | December 19, 2013 7:04pm | Updated on December 19, 2013 9:14pm
Eric "Guitar" Davis
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CHICAGO — Eric "Guitar" Davis, an up-and-coming blues musician who was the son of legendary drummer Bobby "Top Hat" Davis, was killed early Thursday morning on the South Side, authorities said.

Davis, 41, of south suburban Riverdale, was one of two people killed a short time apart on East End Avenue in South Shore, authorities said.

"He was a talented guy,'' said Ronnie Baker Brooks, a blues musician who worked with Davis on his last album. "It's just a tragic loss."

"We deeply grieve the loss of our Blues brother, Eric Guitar Davis," musician Billy Branch wrote on Davis' Facebook page.

Police said about 4:45 a.m., a 74-year-old man was found shot repeatedly in a car in the 7000 block of South East End Avenue. Killed was Willie Cooper, 74, of South Shore, who was pronounced dead at 5:08 a.m., the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office said.

 Eric "Guitar" Davis was found fatally shot in the 6700 block of the South East End, Thursday morning.
Eric Guitar Davis
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He was a retired CTA bus driver and longtime church deacon at St. Phillip Neri Church, ABC7 reported.

At 5:20 a.m., police said a man — later identified as Davis — was found behind the wheel of a car in the 6700 block of South East End Avenue. He had been shot in his torso and neck, police said. He was pronounced dead at 6:07 a.m., the medical examiner said.

On Thursday, police were investigating if there was any connection between the two shootings. No one was in custody.

"Doc" Pellegrino, who runs Kingston Mines blues club in Lincoln Park, said Davis was at a party at the club the night before the shooting.

"He was a really nice guy," Pellegrino said Wednesday. "People enjoyed him. He was well-thought of."

Bob Koester, owner of Delmark Records, said his label was about to record Davis.

"He was next in line for the blues before these guys shot him," Koester said. "Maybe we should give these gang guys some target practice."

In addition to Kingston Mines and House of Blues, Davis had dazzled crowds at Chicago Blues Fest and toured Europe frequently. He played Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage, earlier this month, with his band, the Troublemakers.

"It's like I lost a brother," said Tony Mangiullo, who owns Rosa's.

Mangiullo said it was "a matter of time" before Davis made it big.

"He had all the components. He had a vision. He had the roots. He was able to interact with people," he said.

According to Davis' website, the bluesman first learned drums from his father, who played with such greats as Muddy Waters and Otis Rush. 

By the age of 10, he was playing percussion behind blues greats Junior Wells, B.B. King and others at clubs like the Checkerboard Lounge and the now-shuttered Theresa's, the bio said.

Buddy Guy, though, is the one who turned him onto guitar years ago while the two were at the Checkerboard, which was on 43rd Street before it moved to Hyde Park.

"Buddy Guy ... told Eric that 'in order to get all the girls' you have to play this, and handed Eric his old beat up Fender guitar,and showed Eric his first chord," the bio says. "Fast foward almost 30 years later and you have Eric Guitar Davis."

Mangiullo said Davis had come a long way since he first played at the club a few years ago. He said Davis' set that night wasn't that great, but he knew he was dedicated because he brought in a full band with horns and was willing to work hard.

"I knew he had a vision, he was confidant about his talent and he was willing to work for it," he said.

He saw huge improvement when he played on Dec. 7 at the club. He was writing his own music and wowing the crowd.

"The last show was his best," he said.

His last text message from Davis was Monday, when Davis asked about playing the club in January. He signed off the text saying, "I can only be me."

Mangiullo thinks that was a reference to a conversation they recently had about the importance of carving your own niche as a musician.

Now instead of playing a gig at Rosa's, the club will hold a fundraising concert to benefit Davis' children on Jan. 19.