With a keen ear for sound and a knack for numbers, Don Davis carved out one of the most distinctive high-profile careers in Detroit.
Davis, a musician and producer who went on to helm one of the country's biggest black-owned banks, died Thursday at 75. He leaves behind a litany of hits — including work with his cousin Johnnie Taylor, the Dramatics, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. — and a three-decade stint as CEO of First Independence Bank.
Lisa Wilmore, a spokesman for the family, would say only that Davis died after a brief illness, with more details to be released later.
It was a unconventional career that took him from the wild-and-woolly world of music to the buttoned-down realm of finance. Fittingly, his big break in Detroit music came with Money, the 1960 Barrett Strong hit that featured Davis's guitar work.
Having worked up through the ranks of Detroit music in the 1960s — first as a session guitarist at Motown — Davis headed to Memphis soul label Stax Records in the late 1960s, turning out his first big production hit: Taylor's 1968 song Who's Making Love, which topped Billboard's R&B chart.
Davis headed home and purchased United Sound in 1971, turning the vintage Detroit studio into a hit hotspot and helping define the pop landscape of the mid-'70s with work like Taylor's "Disco Lady" and the McCoo-Davis Jr. song You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show).
In 1981, he took over the struggling First Independence Bank, eventually rebuilding it to more than $200 million in assets and the 12th-biggest African-American owned bank in the United States.
The funeral will be handled by Swanson Funeral Home's northwest Detroit office, but arrangements have not been set.