Rev. Gary Davis was one of the foremost guitarists in acoustic blues, gospel and folk music, a spirited performer who not only dazzled audiences with his virtuosity but who also served as a mentor and personal instructor to generations of guitar pickers. A self-taught musician, the blind Davis often played the streets for tips in the Carolinas and New York before he became a sought-after festival performer and private teacher during the 1950s and 60s. Born in Laurens, South Carolina, on April 30, 1896, Davis made his first recordings in 1935 under the name Blind Gary, performing both blues and gospel songs. As Reverend Gary Davis he later devoted his public performances to gospel singing, although there was still plenty of blues, jazz, and ragtime influence in his instrumental work, and students or producers might coax a few blues out of him at home or in the studio. Renowned as the master of finger picking styles, Davis was such a wizard that he only needed to use his thumb and forefinger while chording complex figures with his left hand. His students ranged from Blind Boy Fuller to Dave Van Ronk, Rory Block, David Bromberg, Ry Cooder, Jorma Kaukonen, Taj Mahal, Philadelphia Jerry Ricks, and Ernie Hawkins. Davis died in Hammonton, New Jersey, on May 5, 1972.