A few years back, Sylvania, Ohio, the town in which Louis “Chip” Davis, Jr. grew up, honored him by declaring September 14 as “Chip Davis Day.” The celebration was held at Northview High School, which Chip graduated from in 1965, only then it was called Sylvania High School. The real honor for Chip though, was hearing Alumni sing his school’s alma mater, which was written by his father, Louis Davis.
On this Father’s Day we take a moment to honor the man who inspired within Chip a fascination with music that has blossomed over a lifetime of work into a gift that millions of Mannheim Steamroller fans have come to know and love.
Born Into a Family Band
Chip Davis has been around music for as long as he can remember. He began his musical training at age 4, composed his first piece of music – a four-part chorale about his dog Stormy, at age 6, and was invited to join the famed Vienna Boys’ Choir at age 11. By age 16, he was playing bassoon in the Toledo Symphony. After graduating from the University of Michigan (and playing percussion in its marching band), Chip sang as a tenor in the Norman Luboff Choir.
“I have third generation musicians on both sides of my family,” he says. “My dad was a saxophone player in a big band during the World War II era and later a music teacher and orchestra director at my high school. My mother played trombone for the NBC Symphony and was a fine pianist. She was even a poster girl for the famed music center, Interlochen Art Academy. Both of my grandmothers were piano teachers.”
Chip’s high school band and orchestra director, Tom Watson, remembers Louis Sr. as one of the most talented musicians he’s ever known. “His mother, Betty, was also a fine pianist and accompanist. Chip has excellent musical genes,” Watson told the Sylvania Advantage.
Chip fondly remembers watching his parents perform Christmas carols for groups during the holidays and when Mannheim Steamroller started touring after the release of Fresh Aire, his parents played a role in the operation.
“My dad was the piano tuner for the tour and my mom would travel just to be out there,” Chip recalls. “They got to go and see the crowds build and see where it was heading.”
A Gift From Dad Gives Rise to Signature Sound
In the early days of Mannheim Steamroller, when Chip was still developing its signature sound, he commented to his father that he needed a harpsichord capable of delivering a unique sound. He’d gotten stuck trying to find it. Louis Sr., who had built harpsichords before, crafted one that turned out to be the one his son needed to deliver the signature sound he’d been looking for. Like the passion and talent of his father, the “Davis Harpsichord” still inspires Chip from him living room in Omaha, Nebraska.
“Here I can dream without looking over my shoulder to see what everyone else is doing,” says Chip, where ‘here’ is the living room occupied by his grandmother’s piano and his father’s harpsichord. Surrounded by his family’s musical legacy is invigorating, humbling, and motivating – nothing matters more family to this music man.
“I never thought I’d enjoy being a dad like I do,” says Chip. “It sheds new light on the quality of life. All I want for my kids is the ability to be passionate toward other human beings, their children, their families, and fully enjoy their lives.”
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