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Bakersfield artist paves the way for others like him

Posted at 10:17 PM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 13:16:56-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — You’ve heard of the Bakersfield Sound, but what about the Modern Soul? It’s another genre of music born in Bakersfield.

It’s all thanks to a Black musician, who has helped paved the way for other standout stars.

“He used to practice at home in our kitchen, he had his whole band set up there. So, we had to maneuver our way around all of the instruments to get to the refrigerator and to the stove,” said Tansey Davis.

By night, an R&B and Blues musician; by day an Arvin sanitation worker, a Vietnam veteran, and a family man. That’s the life Tansey Davis said her father, Luther Davis Jr., lived.

Serenading nightclubs in town with Lord Luther and the inner eye. While performing locally, he became an international sensation, alongside his band, the Luther Davis Group. Their hits, “To Be Free,” and “You Can Be a Star,” made him one.

“He was totally surprised! He called us up and said, ‘I’m a star over there!’”

“He got a telephone for “Egon” Alapatt, from “Now and Again Records,” a Los Angeles-based record company, telling him that he had created this whole new sound, called “Modern Soul,” and it was from the United Kingdom. He was just in Bakersfield, playing around Bakersfield, and he had no idea,” said Kim Macabee Carter, Executive Producer at Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame.

The Bakersfield Hall of Fame is filled with artists that have left a legacy, including Luther Davis Jr. Meanwhile, other Black artists with Kern County roots make history right now.

Gregory Porter grew up in Bakersfield before becoming a two-time Grammy winner. He moved back a few years ago, while still hitting all the right notes, this is from a conversation we had with him in 2021.

"The one thing that makes me authentic, that makes any artist authentic, is to come from your roots. Nobody has the original roots that you have, that automatically makes you original."

Then there’s Sheléa Melody McDonald. She went from Southside Seventh Day Adventist Church to Bakersfield Adventist Academy, to Ridgeview High and then to the White House performing for the Obamas.

“It was meaningful for so many reasons. My grandmother, who is going to be 91-years old this year, she, my dad, and my uncle and aunt, they were in Birmingham Alabama. So, they lived through the Civil Rights movement and all things that happened during that time. I knew it would be just so special for her, for me to be there and perform for the first African-American president.”

Sheléa performed at the White House twice and working with many greats writing with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the production duo behind Janet Jackson’s hits. Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder even mentored Sheléa.

Most recently Sheléa starred in the Critic’s Choice and NAACP Image Award Nominated Biopic, ‘The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel’.

“There are times on my journey where you’re not so sure. Because I have to say, this industry is not always the easiest, it can beat you up a little bit on yourself. There’s a lot of rejection and ups and downs, but what keeps me grounded is that I get to do what I love.”

Black History Month
Black History Month

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