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DAVIS, LINCOLN, SR. [LINK]
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DAVIS, LINCOLN, SR. [LINK] (1914–1972). Lincoln “Link” Davis, Sr., tenor saxophonist as well as fiddler and vocalist, was born in Sunset, Texas, on July 8, 1914. One of eight children, he grew up in Wills Point in Van Zandt County and learned to play the fiddle at an early age. In the late 1920s he established a musical trio with two of his brothers, and they performed at area dances. Eventually, he switched to tenor saxophone and focused on the new western swing genre. During the mid-1930s Davis was a member of the Crystal Springs Ramblers, based out of Fort Worth, and he made his first recording with them in 1937. By the early 1940s he was performing with Cliff Bruner and the Texas Wanderers, and he played both saxophone and fiddle on their records. In 1945 Davis formed his own group which was later called the Blue Bonnet Playboys. Also known for his distinctive raspy vocals, he cut his first solo recordings in 1948 and released the song “Have You Heard the News” for the Gold Star label by the early 1950s.
During the 1950s Davis, based mainly out of Houston, performed and did session work with a variety of well-known musicians, including Floyd Tillman, Harry Choates, and Bennie Lueders (aka Leaders). His skills covered a range of styles from country to Cajun to blues and even the fledgling fields of rockabilly and rock-and-roll. He recorded his best-known song, the Cajun-flavored “Big Mamou,” in 1952. He recorded on the Big Bopper’s hit “Chantilly Lace” and on Johnny Preston’s “Running Bear,” and at times provided instrumental backup at concerts of Elvis and Tommy Sands.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Davis recorded across the musical spectrum on many record labels, including Starday, OKeh, Sarg, Columbia, Allstar, Nucraft, and Mercury. His own labels included Tanker and Western. Biographer Bruce Eder in All Music Guide commented on Davis’s versatility: “…he left behind a significant legacy spread among all of those variant styles, which may be one reason Davis isn’t better known. A fixture in the industry, he was too good at too many different kinds of sounds and not great enough in any one of them to make a deep impression with the public.”
Link Davis, aggravated by years of substance abuse, suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed in the late 1960s. He died from cirrhosis of the liver on February 5, 1972. He was survived by his son Link Davis, Jr., who carried on his father’s legacy as a multi-instrumentalist and recording artist. Davis Sr.’s musicianship was introduced to new audiences in the 1990s with the reissues of Floyd Tillman and Cliff Bruner recordings. Davis’s Cajun hit “Big Mamou” has been recorded numerous times and by prominent artists such as Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams, Jr. In the 2000s Big Mamou Day was held in the Houston area and featured musical performers, including Link Davis, Jr., honoring Davis.
All Music Guide (www.allmusicguide.com), accessed March 12, 2011. Andy Bradley and Roger Wood, House of Hits: The Story of Houston’s Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studios (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010). Andrew Brown, The Sarg Records Anthology: South Texas 1954–1964 (Sarg Records, n.d.). Link “Big Mamou” Davis (http://bigmamouday.tripod.com/), accessed March 12, 2011.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Laurie E. Jasinski, "DAVIS, LINCOLN, SR. [LINK]," accessed June 22, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdaal.
Uploaded on June 26, 2014. Modified on December 15, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.