Tyrone Fettson was born in Greenville, Mississippi, in 1937 or 1938. He moved to Chicago in 1959 and began working as a chauffeur for Blues legend Freddie King. He also starting singing in local clubs, where he was noticed by Harold Burrage, who helped him record some early tracks for small Chicago record labels, with a modest billing as Tyrone the Wonder Boy! One of the top Chicago producers was impressed by Tyrone’s performances but not by the name. Carl Davis (of Brunswick Records) signed Tyrone to the company’s second label Dakar Records in 1968 and suggested a change of name to something with more humility …. Davis!
His first single was “A Woman Needs To Be Loved” with “Can I Change My Mind” on the B-side, released in 1968. As sometimes happened, radio stations seemed to prefer the B-side and so that was given priority. The record-buying public also appreciated the softer style of “Can I Change My Mind” and the song quickly climbed the charts, remaining at the top of the R&B chart for three weeks and reaching number five on the Hot 100 Pop chart. Sales went over one million, earning Davis his first gold disc. What a great start!
Davis’ 1969 release “Is It Something You’ve Got” reached number five on the R&B chart and then, the following year, he took the top R&B spot again with “Turn Back the Hands of Time”, his best-known song.
The single reached number three on the Pop chart, selling over one million copies and bringing a second gold certification from the RIAA. The accompanying album, also called “Turn Back the Hands of Time”, gave rise to two more hits in the R&B Top Ten, “I’ll Be Right Here” and “Let Me Back In”. Davis went on to release another eighteen singles on the Dakar label between 1970 and 1976, including the chart entries “Could I Forget You”, “I Had It All the Time”, “Without You in My Life” and “There It Is”. In 1975, he scored his third number one R&B hit with “Turning Point”.
Producer/arranger Willie Henderson, who had worked with Davis on “Can I Change My Mind” in 1968, helped Davis to achieve remarkable consistency, with a series of hits that developed this new, smoother style. These romantic ballads became the trademark of 1970s Chicago Soul, but before the end of the decade, Davis moved on.
He switched to Columbia Records in 1976, now working with producer Leo Graham and arranger James Mack, who hoped to reproduce some of his success with Brunswick/Dakar. Davis released seven albums over five years, before moving to Highrise Records. He had several major hit singles with Columbia, including “Give It Up”, (R&B number 2 in 1976), “This I Swear” (R&B number 6 in 1977) and “In The Mood” (R&B number 6 in 1979).
Davis changed labels a few more times, until 2003 when his final album was released on Future Records.
He died in a Chicago hospital on February 9th 2005, following a stroke the previous year. Tyrone Davis may not be well-known now, but he made an important contribution to the development of Soul music.