The Last Waltz for Dave

Bay Area blues pianist and singer Dave Alexander, aka Omar Sharriff, aka Omar Hakim Khayam, was found dead on January 8th in his hometown of Marshall, Texas, local radio station KSLA reported on January 9th. The radio station said he died in his apartment from a gunshot wound with most indications pointing to a suicide.

Dave returned to Marshall where he grew up in March last year after citizens banded together to get him an apartment. He left Marshall in 1955 to escape racial discrimination.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1938, Alexander joined the Navy in 1955, and moved to Oakland in 1957.

In 1968 and 1969 he cut his first sides for World Pacific (a jazz label purchased by Liberty Records in 1964) for a blues compilation album ‘Oakland Blues’ (WPS-21893)¬†with L. C. ‘Good Rockin” Robinson and Layfayette ‘Thing’ Thomas. He also recorded for Arhoolie Records in the early 1970s.

In 1976, he began to perform as ‘Omar The Magnificent’, having changed his name to Omar Khayam.

He was also a warm up artist at The Band’s ‘Last Waltz’ farewell gig at The Winterland in San Francisco in 1979.

US media claim that he was the last ¬†living link to classic boogie woogie piano¬†– which is nonsense. In fact West Coast music critic Opal Louis Nations piano stylings as ‘unpredictable and idiosyncratic’. Nonetheless, his sides on ‘Oakland Blues’ did open up the world of Bay Area blues scene when it was first released.

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1 Response to The Last Waltz for Dave

  1. Jack Canson says:

    Just want to correct any impression that Omar’s friends and admirers in Marshall may have suggested that he was the “last living link to classic boogie woogie piano.” That is certainly not the case and we wouldn’t suggest that. What we have said is that our research indicates he was the last Boogie Woogie player with a direct link to the generation that created the music in the Piney Woods logging camps of northeast Texas in the 1870s. This is based on the fact that Omar (Dave Alexander Elam) first learned Boogie Woogie from his father, Tom Elam, who learned the music when he worked as a muleskinner in those logging camps in the very early 1900s, when it is likely some old timers from the originating generation were still playing. Tom Elam also named Omar “David Alexander” after his friend David “Black Ivory King” Alexander, a Shreveport Boogie Woogie player now best remembered for “Flying Crow Blues.” Thank you.

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