Gail Davies (born Patricia Gail Dickerson June 5, 1948) is an American singer/songwriter and the first female record producer in the history of country music. She is the daughter of country singer Tex Dickerson and the sister of songwriter Ron Davies.
Gail Davies established herself as a successful singer and songwriter during the 1970s and 1980s, scoring numerous Top 10 and Top 20 Billboard hits. She was one of country music's most influential artists, becoming the genre's first female record producer. She has been cited as a role model for other female singers, including Suzy Bogguss, Kathy Mattea, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Pam Tillis. Gail's son, Chris Scruggs, is a former co-lead singer and guitarist for the roots-country band BR549.
Early life and career:
Gail Davies was born Patricia Gail Dickerson in Broken Bow, Oklahoma on June 5, 1948. Her father was a popular country singer in the 1940s, performing on The Louisiana Hayride. Although born in the South, Gail grew up in Washington State, where her mother re-married. Her last name was changed when she was adopted by her stepfather, Darby Davies. After graduating from high school, Gail moved to Los Angeles and married a jazz musician. She briefly sang jazz, but quit after they divorced. She was later hired as a session singer at A&M Records, working with artists such as Neil Young and Hoyt Axton. She was able to sit in on a John Lennon session, produced by Phil Spector, and was befriended by singer-songwriter, Joni Mitchell. Mitchell's engineer, Henry Lewy, taught Gail how to produce records. She was invited to tour Europe with Frank Zappa's band, but turned the offer down to work with country artist Roger Miller, making her television debut as his singing partner on The Merv Griffin Show.
Encouraged by her older brother, Ron Davies, (the writer of "It Ain't Easy" for David Bowie and "Long Hard Climb" for Helen Reddy), Gail began writing songs. She moved to Nashville Tennessee in 1976 and signed with EMI Publishing as a staff songwriter. One of her first successful compositions, "Bucket to the South", was a hit for Ava Barber. This song was also recorded by Lynn Anderson and Mitzi Gaynor. However, Davies was determined to prove she was a singer herself. She signed with Lifesong/CBS Records in 1978 and released a self-titled album that scored three Top 20 hit singles. One of her own compositions, an introspective song entitled "Someone Is Looking for Someone Like You", was the album's highest charting single, reaching No. 7 in Cashbox and No. 11 on the Billboard charts. It has since been recorded in several languages by such internationally known artists as Nana Moskouri, Susan McCann, George Hamilton IV and The Country Gentlemen.
The height of her career:
Unhappy with the production of her first album, Gail Davies switched to Warner Bros. Records in 1979 and became the first female record producer in the history of Country music. Her landmark album The Game was even more successful than her previous record had been. It featured a Top 10 single entitled "Blue Heartache", as well as two Top 20 hits, "Like Strangers" and "Good Lovin' Man". Gail produced I'll Be There in 1980, which spawned three more Top 10 singles. The title track went to No. 4 in Billboard followed by "It's a Lovely, Lovely World" - a duet with Emmylou Harris - and Gail's own composition, "Grandma's Song". Gail was nominated for a CMA and ACMA Award in 1981 and honored by the DJs of America, who voted her Country music's "Best New Female Vocalist."
The year 1982 showed that Davies was not slowing down. She released her third self-produced album Giving Herself Away. This record brought a new female perspective to Country Music with another Top 10 hit, written by Rory Bourke and K.T. Oslin, entitled "Round the Clock Lovin'". Gail's career took a short hiatus in the winter of 1982, when she gave birth to her son, Christopher Alan Scruggs, who is also the grandson of bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs.
Warner Bros. released Gail's last album for the label What Can I Say in 1983. Although there were some sizable hits from this record, including two Top 20 singles - "You're a Hard Dog (To Keep Under the Porch)" and a self-penned song entitled "Boys like You," - Gail's chart success was beginning to wane. The last single from this album, a duet with Ricky Skaggs entitled "It's You Alone," was released as Gail was preparing to leave the label. With no support from her record company it stalled at No. 55 on the Billboard charts. Gail signed with RCA Records in 1984 and released Where Is a Woman to Go. Produced by Gail and James Taylor's bass player, Leland Sklar, this album featured two hit singles - "Breakaway", which went to No. 15 on the Billboard charts and "Jagged Edge of a Broken Heart," climbing to No. 20.
Inspired by a trip to London in 1985, Gail formed the band Wild Choir. They released one self-titled album on RCA. Although there were no hits from this album, the band has been cited as one of the incunabula of the "alt-country" genre, also known as Americana Music. In 1989, Gail signed with MCA Records and produced Pretty Words, featuring her last charted record, a self-penned song entitled "Hearts in the Wind". Undaunted by the lack of label support, Gail continued to produce great music. She moved on to Capitol Records in 1989 and released two albums - "The Other Side of Love" and "The Best Of Gail Davies".
Later career and life today:
Capitol/EMI hired Gail Davies in 1990 to become Nashville's first female staff producer. She spent four years working with talented young artists like Mandy Barnett before starting her own record label Little Chickadee Productions. She released a self-written and self-produced album in 1995 entitled Eclectic. Written in part about her new husband, British musician Robert Price, Eclectic was chosen by The New York Times and Tower Pulse Magazine as one of the "Ten Best Country Albums of the Year." Other LCP releases include "Gail Davies Greatest Hits", "Love Ain't Easy", "Live At The Station Inn" and "The Songwriter Sessions."
Gail received an IBMA award in 2002, along with a Grammy nomination for her duet with bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley. She was also nominated for an Americana Music award for producing and arranging Caught In the Webb, a tribute to the late Webb Pierce. This album features, alongside Gail, George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Pam Tillis, Dwight Yoakam, Crystal Gayle, Charley Pride, The Del McCoury Band, Allison Moorer, Guy Clark, Dale Watson, The Jordanaires, Rosie Flores, Lionel Cartwright, Robbie Fulks, Mandy Barnett and Billy Walker. Proceeds from this album benefit The Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation and The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Although semi-retired, Gail continues to tour, mostly in Europe. She was named "Country Music International Ambassador" during CMA week in 2009 and released her autobiography "The Last of the Outlaws" in 2011. She teamed up with Jazz legend Benny Golson in 2012 and produced a critically acclaimed album of standards and originals entitled "Since I Don't Have You." Gail's latest project is an album dedicated to her late brother entitled "Unsung Hero - A Tribute To The Music Of Ron Davies," featuring Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Shelby Lynne, John Prine, Crystal Gayle, Jim Lauderdale and a host others. Proceeds from this album will benefit The W.O. Smith Music School and provide musical instruments and lessons to underprivileged children. See http://www.rondaviesunsunghero.com/
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license