Slow Drag, also known as Cincinnati Flow Rag, was written by the Rev. Gary Davis.
Reverend Gary Davis was born in 1896 in Laurens County, South Carolina. Blind from an early age, he grew up as a guitar prodigy in a musical culture, absorbing a wide variety of styles. In his teens he played in a string band with the legendary Blind Willie Walker that performed the blues, ragtime, jazz, country, and dance tunes popular at the time.
In 1935, Davis recorded 14 brilliant gospel tunes in New York City for ARC (American Record Corporation), only to disappear from the scene, disenchanted with the recording business. For the rest of the 1930s and 1940s, he survived on the edges by playing wherever he could, traveling with the tobacco industry around the Raleigh/Durham area with other musicians, many of whom were also blind. Wherever there were refreshments or a little cash flowing, the musicians would be there trying to pick up some change. During this time Davis befriended Blind Boy Fuller, teaching him many songs as well as his standard-tuning style. During the 1940s, Davis moved to New York City, where he lived until his death in 1972.
Surviving decades of trials and deep poverty, Davis finally became known to guitar players through four now-classic Prestige/Bluesville LPs released in the early ’60s. When performers like Peter, Paul, and Mary and Joan Baez recorded his songs, he earned royalties that allowed him and his wife, Annie, to live more comfortably, with a house and a car – for his various lead boys to drive him to gigs. He also had the benefit of a great manager, Manny Greenhill, who sent him on concert tours around the world.
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