The Kennedy Center

Daryl Davis


Chicago native Daryl Davis graduated from Howard University, with a degree in Jazz. Additionally, he was mentored by legendary pianists Pinetop Perkins of The Muddy Waters Legendary Blues Band and Johnnie Johnson who was Chuck Berry's original pianist. Both claimed him as their godson and praised his ability to master a piano style that was popular long before he was born. In addition to being a pianist and vocalist, Daryl is an actor, author, and lecturer, now residing in Silver Spring, Maryland.

In order to pursue a solo career, Perkins relinquished his piano stool to Davis who toured with The Legendary Blues Band for several years. This was followed by a 32-year tenure with the Father of Rock'n'Roll, on the piano stool vacated by Johnson.

Apart from leading The Daryl Davis Band, he has worked with Elvis Presley’s Jordanaires, Percy Sledge, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Moore, Trudy Lynn, Mabel Johns The Coasters, The Platters, The Drifters, and many others. Daryl’s CDs American Roots and Alternate Routes, received rave reviews from leading Blues magazines, winning several WAMA (Washington Area Music Association) Awards for Best Artist in the Roots and Blues categories. Daryl tours both nationally and internationally and recently released his Greatest Hits CD.

A man once told Daryl, he’d never seen a Black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis. Daryl explained, they both learned from black Blues and Boogie Woogie pianists. The man didn’t believe in the black origin of the music but became a regular fan of Daryl’s. Turns out, he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. This experience led to Daryl becoming the first Black author to travel the country interviewing KKK leaders and members, all detailed in his book, Klan-Destine Relationships. Today, Daryl owns numerous Klan robes and hoods, given to him by active members who became his friend and renounced the organization.

Davis has received numerous local and national awards for his work in race relations, and is often sought after by CNN, MSNBC and numerous other media outlets as a consultant on the KKK and race relations and lectures nationwide and abroad on the topic.

As an actor, Daryl has appeared in film, stage plays and the critically acclaimed television police drama show The Wire and most recently as the subject of the multi-award-winning documentary Accidental Courtesy about his real life encounters with Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi leaders as he helps to dismantle racism in the United States.

Watch Past Performances

Video 5/27/2017: Daryl Davis

Former Chuck Berry bandmate, Daryl Davis, will honor the late, great progenitor of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He may be gone, but his music lives on!

Presented in collaboration with JFK Centennial Week.

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Daryl Davis