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Gregory Davis: Son of Miles

R.J. DeLuke By

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AAJ: Some of them covered the musicians and life very well, the guys that he played with and traveled with. But a little light on the family stuff.

GD: Even in my extended family, I'm the only one that he called on. Out of all my brothers, I'm the one that he called on. This is what he did. I'm not setting myself up as someone better than anybody else. When he wanted something done, he called on me. He prepped me for this position during his lifetime, I guess, because he loved boxing. I'm the one that won all the trophies. He was friends with Sugar Ray Robinson. He talked to Muhammad Ali on the telephone. He was friends with all these great fighters and athletes. He supported me in boxing. It helped me along the way. When I was in the service [the Army] it helped keep me out of military duty because I went on the boxing team.

I'm the only one, if you ever saw the team picture, that has two trophies in his hand because I won in two weight classes.

AAJ: What weight classes were those?

GD: Light welterweight 139 and then 132 lightweight. I had to go down seven pounds. They said, "Davis, you have a chance. We don't have anybody to fight for the 132 championship. Within three days I had to do it. I was exhausted. They had me in a steam cabinet. I was training hard, hard hard, losing that seven pounds. You have to make weight, get on a scale or else you are disqualified.

It helped me help him, with all the hangers on and the bad drug deals and stuff that went on when I was with him. I had to protect him. I was kind of prepped for the situations that I had to endure while I was with him.

AAJ: A lot of the books, or if you talk to musicians—I've talked to Dave Holland, Herbie [Hancock] and Chick [Corea] and Elvin Jones, Sonny Rollins, Shirley Horn, other ones—they all describe him as highly intelligent, warm a lot of the time, and very funny. But mercurial, of course. Back and forth. Is that a fair assessment? I've never heard a musician speak ill of him.

GD: He was that kind of way. You have to remember—a lot of people don't know this—Miles Davis comes from royalty. Our ancestry goes back. I've done research and I need to be doing even more research; that will be my second book, I think ... All the way back the Pharaohs. The black Pharaohs and the black Indians that came out of Mecca and Medina from the West Nile to the East Nile. He always said that he came from royalty. My ancestors did no harm to the earth. They did no harm to the animals. They were caretakers of God's domain. I think this was a gift back to my ancestors from him in some kind of way; one of the gifts. Giving this musical gift to humanity, through the ancestorship, inherited kingship all the way back to the black Pharaohs of Egypt, back further than that. Because they came over in ships. They weren't slaves when they came over here, my ancestors who were kings. They always used to tell him. He'd always say he came from royalty because they used to tell him that. He never checked it out. Now I'm the one that's checking that out.

He was highly gifted. I've seen him sleep with his eyes open, and I said to myself, "He must be asleep because he's snoring. This is something that highly intelligent and aware people do.

AAJ: Of course he had his moods...

GD: Mood swings. That's why he wasn't good for relationships with women, because he had so many mood swings.

AAJ: He had so many physical pains. He had the bad hips, he was in a car accident, and he was shot once. I think that's enough to make any of us irritable.

GD: Of course. Of course.

AAJ: Then the drugs made things worse. But even without drugs...

GD: The irritation when you have to stand and up and play trumpet—he wouldn't sit down. He hated that. The only time was when his leg was in a cast and he'd sit down. He stood up, even though he was in pain. He had to take pills for that. It makes you irritable. He had so many pills he had to take for this and for that, and then have to perform and stand up on that leg and was in such pain.

AAJ: I don't think that's widely talked about. That would bother anybody.

GD: Sure. I remember he was in a hospital for special surgery. A profound specialist in that area operated on him and put a bone in his hip—it was like an artificial hip that he had. He was in pain and he had to stand up and play the horn.

I remember times we were on the road when I knew he was spitting up blood, coughing up phlegm and this and that. He never missed a note. It was amazing. I used to take his horn in the wings [of the stage], on concerts, make sure they were ready to play. I knew he was sick, but he never missed a beat, never missed a note. If he missed a note, he would always know how to end it or fix it up so you couldn't recognize it, or turn it into something else.

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