Joe Davis, the focus of The Melody Man enjoyed a 50-year career in the music industry, which covered nearly every aspect of the business. He hustled sheet music in the 1920s, copyrighted compositions by artists as diverse as Fats Waller, Carson Robison, Otis Blackwell, and Rudy Vallee, oversaw hundreds of recording session, and operated several record companies beginning in the 1940s. Davis also worked fearlessly to help insure that black recording artists and song writers gained equal treatment for their work.
Much more than a biography, this book is an investigation of the role played by music publishers during much of the twentieth century. Joe Davis was not a music “great” but he was one of those individuals who enabled “greats” to emerge. A musician, manager, and publisher, his long career reveals much about the nature of the music industry and offers insight into how the industry changed from the 1920s to the 1970s. By the summer of 1924, when Davis was handling the “Race talent” for Ajax records, he had already worked in the music business for most of a decade and there was more than five decades of musical career ahead of him. The fact that his fascinating life has gone so long under-appreciated is remedied by the publication of Never Sell A Copyright.
Originally published in England, in 1990, Never Sell a Copyright: Joe Davis and His Role in the New York Music Scene, 1916-1978 was never released in the United States and available in a very limited print run in England. The author, noted blues scholar and folklorist Bruce Bastin, has worked with fellow music scholar Kip Lornell to completely update, condense, and improve the book for this first-ever American edition.