STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The musician Guy Davis once brought his son into a recording studio, and the teenager praised the music that his father hates.

(Soundbite of music from album “Skunkmello”)

Mr. MARTIAL DAVIS (Son of Guy Davis): (Singing) Rap is what's happening.

INSKEEP: The son talked up rap music and trashed his father's blues.

(Soundbite of music from album “Skunkmello”)

Mr. M. DAVIS: (Singing) Blues ain't got nothing.

INSKEEP: And talked back when the father tried to respond.

(Soundbite of music from album “Skunkmello”)

Mr. GUY DAVIS (Musician): (Singing) The blues is where rap came from.

Mr. M. DAVIS: (Singing) So what. Who cares now?

INSKEEP: All of which set up the father's musical reply.

(Soundbite of music from album “Skunkmello”)

Mr. G. DAVIS: (Singing) Now, wait a minute, junior, you're talking kind of fast. You're about to say something to make me whoop your. You're talking out your head; to you it's all a mystery. Blues is your legacy; you don't know history.

INSKEEP: That song is on Skunkmello, an album that is an argument for the music that Guy Davis loves. Davis is the son of the great actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. He says his blues music is inspired by the southern speech of his grandmother.

(Soundbite of music from album “Skunkmello”)

Mr. G DAVIS: While I was going to school learning to speak English just as good as the white man, I'd come home and hear plenty of southern speech, like the southern stories. And what draws me into the blues, I think, is the music not only of the instruments, but the music of the language.

(Soundbite of music from album “Skunkmello”)

Mr. G. DAVIS: Ain't no beef with working so hard. I got a woman and a beautiful yard. (Unintelligible), she think I'm working, ain't doing a thing. I'm on the road again.

INSKEEP: Some people may not know that one of the things that you've done is play a musician onstage, and a famous one, Robert Johnson, the great blues man.

Mr. G. DAVIS: Oh, yes. My gosh, that was more than 10 years ago. The play was called Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil.

INSKEEP: Which gets right to the point about Robert Johnson. According to legend, this was a man who was believed to have made a deal with the devil, and who certainly sang songs about people facing that kind of temptation.

Mr. G. DAVIS: Yes, he did. Me and the devil walking side by side. I'm about to beat my woman until I get satisfied, stuff like that. There is a political statement underneath that. I think my dad might agree that there might not be a black man in America who, at some time or other, hadn't sold his soul to the devil.

The black man has been catching hell all through slave times and since. And I think that we sort of have a personal relationship with the devil and God on a name kind of basis. It's not where you go to church and can sort of be anonymous amongst the crowd.

INSKEEP: Oh, it's you, Guy. Good to see you again. How have you been?

Mr. G. DAVIS: Yeah. To say I got my eye on you, too. I saw what happened last night. What you got to say now?

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. G. DAVIS: Here is one. If I could, I'm going to grab this banjo. It's a blues song by Muddy Waters.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. G. DAVIS: I think this will do. This song is called Can't Be Satisfied.

(Soundbite of song, 'Can't Be Satisfied')

Mr. G. DAVIS: (Singing) Well, I'm going away to leave you. Won't be back no more. Gone down south, oh, baby, don't you want to go? I be trouble, Lord, and I'm onward now. Lord, well, I can't be satisfied, just can't keep from crying. Well, I feel like snapping my pistol in your face, let some lonesome graveyard, baby, be your resting place. I be trouble, Lord, and I'm onward now. Lord, well, I can't be satisfied, just can't keep from crying.

INSKEEP: Guy Davis, playing a wonderful old Muddy Waters song. That was great.

Mr. G. DAVIS: Thanks.

INSKEEP: I heard a story about you and an old home of Muddy Waters.

Mr. G. DAVIS: Are you getting ready to tell it?

INSKEEP: I'm hoping you'll tell it actually.

Mr. G. DAVIS: Okay. Let me take a sip of this water and I will tell it.

Over a decade ago, we went out to the Stovile(ph) Farm, which I guess was a plantation where Muddy Water grew up. We walked across the field and I saw this shack right out in the middle of the field, and I knew something was waiting in that shack for me. I knew right away, because as I looked at it, I remember feeling emotional. So I made up my mind as we walked across that field that I wasn't going to physically touch that shack. I wasn't going to put any part of me against any part of it. And I walked around the shack, and I looked at it, and it was a sign up that said that - its construction indicated that it was from before the Civil War.

And I walked a little further and I saw a sign that said, please don't take souvenirs because this belongs to all of us. Well, in my guitar case I had some pliers to change strings with. So I went and got those pliers, and I was going to pull a nail out of that shack.

INSKEEP: Are you telling me that as soon as you saw that sign you had to get a nail?

Mr. G. DAVIS: Well, I was intending on getting that nail, sign or no sign. I just wasn't going to touch it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. G. DAVIS: So I put the pliers on the nail, and I pulled and pulled with all my strength, and that nail would not budge. So I tried another nail and it would not budge out of that wood. The wood that that shack was made of was as tough perhaps as the life that the people who lived in that shack had been. But the nails that were in that wood to me were as tough as the people and their resilience to withstand such a life.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: The latest album from Guy Davis is Skunkmello, a word that is defined for you at npr.org.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Lind Wertheimer.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. G. DAVIS: (Singing) It takes bricks and mortar to make a house of stone. It takes love to make a home. It takes love to make a home. It takes love to make a home.

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