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Cal Davenport
Born:  February 27, 1891
Died:  April 25, 1973
WNOX Knoxville, TN

About The Artist

Old time banjo picker Jacob Calvin Davenport along with his Gang were early day radio and recording artists in Knoxville. The Gang consisted primarily of his nephews Hubert Davenport (December 25, 1909 - April 18, 1968) and Malcom Davenport (May 15, 1908 - November 23, 1992) although others were off-and-on members.

They played a regular program on Wednesday nights over WNOX for such sponsors as Big Four Markets and later for the Cas Walker stores. Although band members had day jobs, they also played frequently at local functions. In addition to Cal on banjo, Hubert played harmonica and Malcom guitar.

Research of newspaper archives did not provide any material such as promotional ads. But it did find several small one paragraph articles indicating where the band was playing. Some examples:

  • March 19, 1930 - Cal Davenport's sting orchestra provide music - Inskip PTA sponsored program.
  • December 27, 1931 - Cal Davenport's Gang radio entertainers music for danceung; E. P. King vocal music - Past Councilors Assocation, Daughters of America - Ida McKinley Hall
  • January 28, 1933 - Cal Davenport's string orchestra along with white and negro quartets - South Knoxville Methodist Church
  • February 8, 1936 - Cal Davenport and his Gang with Burns Brothers and Mount Olive Quartet - Galbraith PTA supper
  • September 6, 1931 - Cal Davenport and His Boys string band and Dixie Gem Quartet vocals - Farragut Council No. 11 meeting
  • August 28, 1932 - Cal Davenport and His Gang furnish music - D. of A. - Ida McKinley Council

On August 31, 1929, Cal Davenport and his Gang recorded four numbers for Vocalion. In addition to the three Davenports, William C. Brown played a second guitar. Three of the four sang vocals and while some doubt exists as to the singer, it was not Hubert as his French harp can be heard behind the vocal. Although they placed no more numbers on disc, the band remained semi-active into the 1950s. Their entire output was released on "The Knoxville Sessions, 1929-1930" Bear Family boxed set.

The Knoxville Journal wrote an article about this historic event. It was the first time recordings were to be made in Knoxville and all of the artists were local performers. The sessions began on August 27, 1929 and were done in the Sterchi Brothers broadcasting studio in the St. James hotel. The recordings were being done for Vocalion by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender company. Sterchi Brothers also carried Vocalion records. R. F. Lyons of Chicago came to Knoxville to oversee the recordings. The article reported that the following artists were to make records:

  • Cal Davenport and His Gang
  • University of Tennessee Trio
  • Maynard Baird and His Southern Serenaders
  • Tennessee Ramblers
  • Euclid Quartet
  • Will Bennet (negro/black) of Loudon
  • Hugh Ballard Cross
  • Haskell Wolfenbarger
  • Ridgel's Fountain Citians
  • Wise String Orchestra
  • Southern Moonlight Entertainers
  • Frank Murphy
  • Harry Van Gilder
  • Ruth Pippin
  • Thelma Davenport
  • Senior Chapel Quartet (negro)
  • Unnamed others

Jacob Calvin Davenport married the former Lida Elizabeth Woods (November 15, 1895 — July 11, 1935). The 1930 census indicated that he was 22 years old when he was first married to Lida, which would be around 1913. The 1930 census shows they had four children at that time; 3 sons (Harry, Alvin R, and Ray F) and one daughter (Wilma E.). It appears that he remarried (Anna R.) and had a one year old son, Thomas Edward, per the 1940 census.

Cal Davenport and His Gang - Vocalion 5371 - Little Rosewood Casket - August 1929

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its thanks to Ivan M. Tribe, author of Mountaineer Jamboree — Country Music in West Virginia and other books that can be found on Amazon.com and numerous articles in other publications for providing us with information about this artist.
  • Local Artists Make Records; August 27, 1929; Knoxville Journal; Knoxville, TN
  • Inskip Program Tonight; March 18, 1930; Knoxville News-Sentinel; Knoxville, TN
  • Entertain At Farragut; September 6, 1931; Knoxville News-Sentinel; Knoxville, TN
  • To Watch Old Year Out; December 27, 1931; Knoxville News-Sentinel; Knoxville, TN
  • D. Of A. To Eat Melons; August 28, 1932; Knoxville News-Sentinel; Knoxville, TN
  • Musical Program Planned; January 28, 1933; Knoxville News-Sentinel; Knoxville, TN
  • Galbraith PTA Sponsors Supper; February 8, 1936; Knoxville News-Sentinel; Knoxville, TN

Sound Sample—(YouTube Video Format)

Broken Hearted Lover

Printer Friendly Version

Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  05371 A Little Rosewood Casket
  05371 B Broken Hearted Lover
  05394 A Double Eagle March
  05394 B Hawaiian Medley (By Tennessee Ramblers)
  05398 A Blue Ridge Mountain Blues
  05398 B In My Dear Old Sunny South (By Tennessee Ramblers)

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