Meet Gibson Davis, the next generation of bluegrass

With a name like “Gibson,” one might guess that this West Virginia teenager was a musician. Well, that would be correct! Gibson, a fourth generation musician, hammers the five string.

The rising 9th grader explained his name. “My dad is friends with Elmer Burchett, banjo picker with Wildfire. They went camping and Dad was wondering what to name me. Elmer suggested Gibson…and it stuck.”

Gibson has quite the family lineage. 

His great grandpa, Elzie Davis, was an old time fiddler who played with Red Allen, and embedded the pickin’ gene for his future generations.

“Grandpa (Danny Davis) played with Ralph Stanley and some of the greats.”

Gibson’s dad is Chris Davis, who currently performs with the Grascals, but has played with Larry Cordle, Melvin Goins, Junior Sisk, and Marty Raybon among others.

The fourteen-year-old stresses that his name wasn’t what led him to the banjo. “My name wasn’t the factor. I liked the way the banjo sounded. I thought (learning to pick) it was a good thing to do.”

Gibson gravitated toward the instrument when he was 7 or 8 years old.

“My grandpa showed me a forward roll and told me to do that 100 times. He showed me some of Earl Scruggs’ stuff. He kick started me.”

Cripple Creek was the first tune that Gibson learned to play on his grandpa’s Gibson bowtie archtop. As he progressed, he began to explore other styles and other pickers.

“I really like Terry Baucom and the original Quicksilver. I like Scott Vestal, Béla Fleck, Noam Pikelny, and Steve Dilling,” the aspiring musician stressed. “There are so many great ones. I went with Dad to bluegrass festivals and jam sessions, and folks would show me stuff; folks like Kristin Scott Benson and Jody King.”

“People gave me banjos. Marty Raybon gave me a Rual Yarbrough banjo. It’s one of my favorites. I don’t take it out to jams or plan on selling it. Currently, I am playing (you guessed it) a Gibson, an RB-250 built in the ’80s.”

The surviving three generations of Davises enjoy jamming with each other.

“We play every time we see each other,” Gibson confirmed. During the quarantine, the trio has performed several times on Facebook Live.

Chris, Gibson’s dad, is his biggest fan. “He has an old soul and doesn’t think like other kids. He approaches music the same way. He has a keen ear for melody, timing, and tone. All three are very important. He has stood side by side with some of the best in bluegrass and held his own. I couldn’t be prouder of Gibson.”

His grandpa weighed in. “I think my grandson is well ahead of his time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bragging, but I’m very proud of him. I was a little rough on him really, but he stuck with it. It was then I knew he was going to be a good little picker.”

Gibson is appreciative of his mom, Rhonda Davis, as well. “She really encouraged me with my music!”

Also an outdoorsman, he enjoys bass fishing, and hunting (deer, squirrels, and turkeys). Like most youth, he likes to ride four-wheelers.

The Ona, WV teenager utilizes technology, learning new tunes from YouTube. However, he credits his musical talents to his grandpa.

“He has worked hard and practiced. He has bright future in music should he chose that as a life career,” his father stressed.

“Bluegrass is my style,” Gibson firmly stated. “I have three goals for my life: I want to work on banjos. I want to travel and play in a band. I want to teach and give banjo lessons.”

There is no doubt that this young man has obtainable goals with the skill and determination to achieve them. Remember the name, Gibson. You will be hearing his name, not just describing banjos and mandolins, but as a solid picker in bluegrass circles and beyond.

With rising stars like Gibson Davis, the future of bluegrass music is in good hands.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.