Being the frontman of one the most important British Invasion bands of the era, it was only a matter of time before Ray Davies got a bullet in the leg. I’m joking of course, but it’s not so outlandish to suggest that it was Ray Davies’ love affair with America that got him caught up in an armed mugging in New Orleans back in 2004. Indeed, the incident wouldn’t have taken place at all if the former Kinks frontman hadn’t decided to take a holiday in the states with his girlfriend Suzanne Depsies.
They were taking a walk around New Orleans’ French Quarter on January 5th, 2004, when a gunman jumped out of a passing car and demanded Despies’ handbag. She acquiesced, but Ray Davies wasn’t so forthcoming. He bolted after the man in an attempt to reclaim the handbag, but, just before the mugger jumped into the getaway car, he turned to face Davies, aimed his gun, and shot a bullet into the singer’s leg – crippling him instantly.
Davies was promptly taken to hospital. Luckily, his injures weren’t life-threatening and he was discharged shortly afterwards. Nevertheless, the experience made a lasting impact on him – so much so that when he sat down to write his 2013 book Americana: The Kinks, the Riff, the Road: The Story, he chronicled the incident in much detail. The account of his treatment is, as you would expect, filtered through a sort of morphine-induced delirium. Still, he holds nothing back in scolding the staff’s stunning lack of professionalism. Apparently, one radiologist, holding up an X-ray of the musician’s broken femur, asked for his autograph before admitting that the request was indeed a little ill-timed.
The police were even less sympathetic than the hospital staff. Shortly after the attack, New Orlean’s police chief Eddie Compass said: “I’m sorry for what happened but Mr Davies showed poor judgment in running after the individuals,” before going on to clarify that a 25-year-old man, named Jerome Barra, had been arrested and would be charged with armed robbery and aggravated battery. A second man, Kawan Johnson, was also arrested but never bought to trial. Subsequently, Berra – who was the driver of the getaway car rather than the assailant – was charged twice.
The case was dismissed twice because Ray Davies, in true rock star fashion, failed to appear in court to testify. He claimed that he’d only been notified of the trial two days before he was asked to appear and couldn’t make a trip from London to America at such short notice. Davies eventually decided that the best thing to do was to put the incident behind him, and both Berra and Johnson were allowed to walk free.