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Davis Causey Taught Us Just How Good Music Can Be

Davis and Randall at Winterville auditorium. Credit: Dan Johnson

The Saturday afternoon call came; Davis Causey was dead. The lead guitar player for my favorite Athens bands of the last 55 years was gone, and I was left with the memories.

My first memory of Davis is him playing the ukulele at the YMCA. By the time he was in the sixth grade, he had started fooling around on the guitar, and after witnessing Terry Melton perform a couple of Chuck Berry tunes during intermission at an Athens High School talent show, Davis knew what he wanted to be.

He didn’t wait until he grew up. In high school he joined with Harold Williams, Bill McDonald, Billy Young, Scotty Pietrowski, Donnie Whitehead, Freddie Seagraves and others over the next few years in forming one of the legendary Georgia beach party bands: The Jesters. The Jesters spent summers in Myrtle Beach’s Beach Club serving as a backup band for some of the top soul singers in the country, including Marvin Gaye. Davis was in the big time as a teen.

In Athens, I would get to hear The Jesters at our big high school dances or at private parties at Charlie Williams Pinecrest Lodge—my early education in great music.

During this time, Davis and Harold Williams began playing with King David and the Slaves, another legendary ‘60s band out of Jesup. The Slaves featured multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Randall Bramblett. This led to a musical kinship between Davis, Harold and Randall that was the closest I’ve ever seen, and which brought Randall to Athens around 1970. 

Musicians were everywhere: Jack Williams, Joe Barnes, Ed Dye, Bennett Johnson, Linda McMullen, Joyce Knight, Bob Jones, Brian Burke, Moi Harris, Cleon Nalley, Arch Pearson. Bands were forming: The Leaves of Grass, Crossover, Broken Homes. In the middle of all of it were Davis Causey and Randall Bramblett. 

Two clubs opened up: Your Mother’s Mustache downtown at 1 Wall St. and Between the Hedges in Normaltown below Allen’s. Both clubs wanted Mad Dog Melton and the Laughing Disaster featuring Davis Causey on the guitar for their house band. Davis had caught up with Terry Melton, who had inspired him 10 years before. 

I have many memories of the Hedges and Mustache and learning what great music was, and it was usually Davis leading the way.

About this time Capricorn Studios was exploding, and Davis and Randall answered the siren’s call to Macon, becoming part of the great Capricorn roster of musicians. However, in 1975 Davis and Randall returned here as The Randall Bramblett Band. 

Despite two great albums, The Randall Bramblett Band could not break out of the small clubs. However, after the breakup of the Allman Brothers, Chuck Leavell brought in his former Capricorn buddies Davis and Randall to join him and the Allman Brothers rhythm section in forming Sea Level. Their first show in Athens was before a packed house at the Georgia Theatre, with Joe Barnes opening. A truly wonderful night. 

It looked like they had hit the big time. They were playing arenas and had a couple of solid albums. Then the Rolling Stones made Chuck an offer he couldn’t refuse. Sea Level was history. 

Randall took a sabbatical from the music business, and Davis was back in Athens full time. Davis immersed himself in his home studio (Last House Studio), and he played with the Normaltown Flyers until Randall came out of seclusion. Randall moved back to Athens, re-forming The Randall Bramblett Band, featuring once again his brother in music, Davis Causey.

Davis concentrated more and more on his studio work, and in the last few years would appear with Randall when his band (with Nick Johnson now on guitar) played around Athens.

I hadn’t heard Davis play in over a year, and I was really excited to spot him before Randall’s Dec. 30 concert at the Marigold Auditorium for Arts and Culture. We talked, and I thanked him for putting out a Christmas CD with him and the late Jay Smith playing Christmas songs. He talked excitedly about his latest project in the studio and said that we’d talk again soon. 

Davis took the stage, and as always he and Randall were seamless. It wasn’t long before Davis and Nick were playing off each other and with each other, always pushing for a little more: Creating, taking the crowd with them. Still teaching me, showing me what great music is, making memories for a fan of over 55 years. Davis is gone, but the memories will never go away.