“I’ve known Spencer since I was about 13, he would have been about 22,” Winwood tells Rolling Stone. “I was playing a show at Birmingham University with my brother and his band, Spencer who was a student at Birmingham, was playing with a small group of musicians, we met and the the seeds of Spencer Davis Group were sown.”
“Spencer was an early pioneer of the British folk scene, which, in his case embraced folk blues, and eventually what was then called ‘rhythm and blues,'” he adds. “He influenced my tastes in music, and he owned the first 12-string guitar I ever saw. He was taken with the music of Huddie ‘Lead belly’ Ledbetter and Big Bill Broonzy. I’d already got a big brother who influenced me greatly, and Spencer became like a big brother to me at the time.”
The Spencer Davis Group had hits in the Sixties that included “Keep on Running,” “Gimme Some Lovin,’” “Somebody Help Me,” “Every Little Bit Hurts,” and others. Winwood left the band in 1967 to form Traffic and later Blind Faith, but the band would continue to tour throughout the years in several iterations.
“He was definitely a man with a vision, and one of the pioneers of the British invasion of America in the Sixties,” Winwood says. “I never went to the U.S. with Spencer, but he later embraced America and America embraced him. I feel that he was influential in setting me on the road to becoming a professional musician, and I thank him for that.”
Davis died while being treated for pneumonia in the hospital at the age of 81.