Deciding the time had come to sing his own songs, Mac Davis recorded “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” on Mar. 1, 1972.
Born in Lubbock, Texas during the second year of World War II, Davis grew up in the “Hub City” of the South Plains with his parents and a sister, all squeezed into an efficiency apartment in a complex his contractor father built and owned.
Of the family patriarch the son would only say he was “very religious, very strict and very stubborn.”
Looking back on his black-andblue youth, Davis winced, “In those days, it was all about football, rodeo and fistfights. Oh, man, I got beat up so much. I was five feet, 9 inches and weighed 125 pounds. I joined Golden Gloves but didn’t do good even in my division.”
He had fond memories of Buddy Holly driving around town in a brand new black and pink Pontiac convertible.
Inspired by the homegrown celebrity, he took an interest in music and finally found something he was good at.
Right after graduating from Lubbock High in 1958, Davis moved to Atlanta, Georgia to live with his mother, who had remarried after divorcing his dad. The musically inclined teenager put together a rock ’n’ roll band that cut two singles for a local label.
In spite of his youth and inexperience, Davis talked his way into a job as a regional manager for Liberty Records. The songs he wrote in his free time revealed a hidden talent that would take him far.
Davis got his big break in the mid-1960s, when Nancy Sinatra hired him for a position with her company Boots Enterprises. In addition to publishing his songs, thereby making them available to a wide range of recording artists, she found a place for the Texan in her stage show.
None other than Elvis Presley himself was impressed by Davis’ gift for lyrics, so much so that he called him “one hell of a songwriter.” In 1968 Elvis recorded “A Little Less Conversation,” that Davis originally wrote with Aretha Franklin in mind, and then asked him to come up with something new for the television show now known as Presley’s “comeback special.”
Davis rose to the challenge with “Memories,” which became his first Top 40 credit and a permanent part of Elvis’ repertoire.
He followed that up a few months later with “In The Ghetto” a socially conscious ballad that soared to the top of the charts and in the years since has been recorded by more than 170 artists.
Davis was particularly proud of “In The Ghetto.”
“It’s a good feeling to know I wrote a song that touched somebody and in some small way changed their life.”
Taking advantage of the exposure from his collaboration with Elvis, Davis left Boots Enterprises for Columbia, a major player in the record business. He kept on cranking out surefire hits for everybody from Bobby Goldsboro to Kenny Rogers & The First Edition until deciding in 1972 that it was his turn.
Davis could not have chosen a better song to launch his new career as a vocalist. “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” conquered both the Pop and Country Music charts, sold over a million copies and earned a gold disc from the Recording Industry Association of America.
Any doubts about Davis’ ability to carry a tune were dispelled in 1974, when the Academy of Country Music honored him as “Entertainer of the Year.” While most performers would have been content with two rewarding careers, singer and songwriter, he capitalized on his new-found popularity by branching out into movies and television.
In 1974 NBC offered Davis a weekly show in its prestigious primetime lineup. His impish personality and song styling attracted a large and loyal audience that kept “The Mac Davis Show” on the air for three years.
In 1979 the big screen beckoned with a leading role in “North Dallas Forty,” the first and best of Davis’ 17 motion pictures. Based upon former Dallas Cowboy Peter Gent’s irreverent novel about professional football, the role of the wisecracking quarterback was tailor-made for Davis, who played the part to perfection.
His many fans saw and heard less and less of Davis in the Eighties. A lifetime of heavy drinking had taken its toll, and he spent most of the decade in an eventually successful struggle with alcoholism.
The title role in the Broadway production of “The Will Rogers Follies” could not have come at a better time for Davis, who was his old entertaining self on the stage. He was grateful for the opportunity that resulted in “the biggest turnaround in my life.”
After two failed marriages, including one to an 18-year-old girl who left him for Glen Campbell, Davis found the love of his life.
He walked down the aisle with Lise Gerad in 1982, and for 38 years they remained husband and wife until his death om 2020 following heart surgery.
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