Sheriff Tex Davis
Thursday 13 September 2007
William Douchette (Sheriff Tex Davis), music manager: born 1914; married (one son, one daughter); died Nashville, Tennessee 29 August 2007.
Many of the managers of the first rock'n'roll stars had colourful names – Lord Jim Ferguson (Bill Haley), Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis Presley), Sheriff Tex Davis (Gene Vincent) – adopted with the idea of making both themselves and their clients seem more important. The names also implied that here were men to be trusted, which was often far from the case.
Although Sheriff Tex Davis gave his full name as William Beauregard Davis, he was born William Douchette in Connecticut in 1914. He served during the Second World War, then, under the GI Bill, he attended a radio school in New York. He commentated on baseball at WLOW in Norfolk, Virginia; when the season was over, the station asked him to present a country music programme. He thought it was fitting that a sheriff should be playing western records and began calling himself Sheriff Tex Davis. By 1955, he had moved to WCMS and was hosting talent contests.
In February 1956, Elvis Presley performed at Monticello Auditorium in Norfolk, Virginia. The former US Navy boilerman Gene Vincent was captivated with the performance and despite being on crutches as the result of a motorcycle accident, he won Davis's next talent contest with his version of Elvis's "Heartbreak Hotel".
In April 1956, Davis sent a tape to an executive at Capitol Records, Ken Nelson, who was searching for his own Presley. Nelson invited Vincent and some local musicians to Nashville, Tennessee. Following Presley's lead, Nelson used an echo chamber and it was employed to its full extent on Vincent's hit "Be Bop a Lula".
How the song came to be written is a mystery but it seems that Vincent wrote the song with a fellow patient in hospital, Donald Graves. Davis secured Graves's rights to the song, probably for $25. The record became an international hit and there are hundreds of cover versions including the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cliff Richard, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Davis left WCMS to manage Vincent and put his name on several more of Vincent's compositions, including "Race With the Devil", "Who Slapped John" and "Important Words". Vincent was a troublesome and troubled performer, however, constantly suffering from his leg injury and feeling he was being exploited. Things came to a head in November 1956 when he was booked into the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas and the engagement was cut short. Davis had had enough, but excused Vincent's shortcomings: "The boy was always in pain. He had to see a doctor in every town."
Davis then spent several years in charge of promotion at Monument records. While he was there, Vincent, down on his luck, asked about a record deal, but nothing came of it.
A cautionary tale for ambitious would-be authors
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