How a Black Blues Musician Befriended and Changed Members of the KKK


Playing music comes as naturally as breathing for 58-year-old blues musician Daryl Davis.

“I’ve been playing music professionally, full time since 1980 when I graduated college at the age of 22,” Davis said

Unique Relationships Formed

Through music he’s formed some unique friendships, with people like Dolly Parton, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry. It has also led to unlikely friendships, like Roger Kelly, the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

“I just happened to be, in 1983, the only black guy in this country band and consequently the only black guy in many of the places where we played,” Davis said.

One place was the Silver Dollar Lounge in Frederick, Maryland. After a performance there a white man stopped Davis as he walked off the stage.

“And he says, ‘You know I really like your all’s music.’ I said, ‘Thank you,’ I shook his hand…I don’t drink but I went back to his table and I had a cranberry juice with him,” he recalled.

“Then he makes the remark when the waitress brings my cranberry juice, he clinks the glass and cheers me and says, ‘You know this is the first time I ever sat down and had a drink with a black man,'” he continued. “Now I’m thinking, ‘Wow what’s going on here? This guys really having a night of firsts.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ Again I was na├»ve and I wasn’t trying to be facetious.”

“He stared down at the table top and didn’t answer me and he had a friend with him and he goes, ‘Tell him, tell him, tell him,'” he continued. “I said, ‘Tell me,’ and finally he says, ‘I’m a member of the Ku Klux Klan.'”

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Caitlin Burke