Like a select group of other jazz instrumentalists, cornetist Wild Bill Davison had a talent that lives on long after his death. More than a decade after Davison died at the age of 83, record companies continue to reissue some of the more than 800 songs he recorded during his 70-year career. Jazz aficionados never tire of talking about some of the more memorable engagements played by the colorful Davison around the world.
Davison did not come by his lifelong nickname accidentally. He was a heavy drinker beginning in his teens and was known as a womanizer. Davison went through four wives before he finally got the knack of married life, settling down to a relatively monogamous relationship with his fifth wifeand love of his lifeAnne Stewart. Heavy drinking and womanizing were the two most obvious characteristics that made Davison truly wild. He also enjoyed a reputation for playful antics and kleptomania as well.
In fact, given his wild streak, it's particularly amazing that Davison was a musician of such memorable ability. Beginning in childhood, he had displayed an unfailing ability to commit to memory every song he heard, and his natural ear for pitch amazed even his fellow musicians. It's equally amazing that even with a life of such excesses, Davison retained his musical abilities until the very end of his life. He practiced daily into his 80s and spent the final two decades of his life playing concert dates in Europe, where his music was extraordinarily popular.