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Arts & Entertainment

Larry Davis: tears in his beer led to singing career - at 74

Singer Larry Davis, 74, closes his eyes at Miles Recording and Mix as he records the followup to
Singer Larry Davis, 74, closes his eyes at Miles Recording and Mix as he records the followup to "Close Your Eyes."
John Rabe

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1/6/2014: UPDATE: Larry Davis, profiled on Off-Ramp in 2012, is out with his second album, "Larry Davis Too," available on iTunes and CD Baby, and I'm delighted that Larry chose to use my photo of him for the CD cover.

First of all, Larry Davis always smells great. It's some sort of cedar cologne. And looking at him, you'd never guess he's almost 75.

As he takes a break from recording his second album at Miles Recording and Mix, near the Capitol Records building, he laughs and refers to the old, probably offensive, saying. "I'm just not going to show you the parts that cracked."

Larry captivated me from the first time I heard him sing at The Other Side, the late lamented gay piano bar in Silverlake. His voice is a little rough-edged, which grabs your attention, and he almost speaks many of the lyrics of his songs - whether it's "It Isn't Easy Being Green," "Lush Life," or one of the highly suggestive (dirty) songs the crowd always loved to hear.

Larry sings like he's been doing it all his life. But his is another of those stories that prove F. Scott Fitzgerald was drunk when he said, "There are no second acts in American lives." Larry is on his third act ... at least.

Larry was born in Modesto, and raised in Iowa. There was a stint in the Air Force where his desire (and undoubtedly talent) in the area of modern interpretive dance was not fully appreciated. To say the least. Instead, he sang with the combo that played the Officers Club and enjoyed it. But not enough to seek out gigs when he left the service and started work as a graphic artist for ABC-TV in LA.

He stayed at ABC for forty years, retiring at 69. A few years later, his partner broke his back in a freak accident, and Larry found himself crying in his beer at The Other Side. He asked the piano player to sing Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady." "I will," he said, "if you'll sing 'Lush Life.'"

"I was just drunk enough," Larry says, "and just sad enough, to do it." He was asked to come back and sing again and became a crowd favorite. Eventually, recording artist Annie Miles heard him and took up "the personal challenge of getting an authentic version of his live performance into an excellent recording."

"Close Your Eyes," now out on iTunes, features Larry swinging on the title track and a couple others, updating "The Coffee Song" in a way we can't explain on the radio, and breaking your heart with "It Isn't Easy Being Green," which Larry says has become kind of an anthem for his younger gay fans.

"My whole approach is to have a conversation with the listeners. The words have to mean something to me." His style has changed since he sang in the Air Force, when he used to imitate Johnny Mathis. Then, he says, "I was singing words, and not really knowing the words." At 74, he has lived, and then some, and he knows the words.