Dave Alexander Elam in Shreveport, Louisiana, Dave
Alexander grew up in Marshall, Texas. Self-taught
pianist, he began to play piano after hearing Albert
Ammons and made his first professional appearance
in 1954. But it was not before he was discharged from
the navy in 1958 that he moved to Oakland, California
where he began a long history of working with various
Bay Area musicians and traveling acts.
Dave started writing his own material in 1968. His first
recordings were released in 1969 on the sought after
“Oakland Blues” album on World Pacific featuring support
from Albert Collins on guitar and George
Harmonica Smith on harp. Two highly regarded
albums for Arhoolie Records followed. In 1976 he
changed his name to Omar Hakim Khayyam and is now known
as Omar Sharriff.
A versatile pianist and singer who mixes elements of
jazz with his strong blues and boogie-woogie playing,
his live show is a capsule of blues piano.
Along his career Omar Sharriff played with LC
Robinson, Big Mama Thornton, Muddy Waters, Jimmy
Witherspoon, Buddy Guy, Jimmy McCracklin, Lafayette
Thomas… Among his appearances in the States and
Europe, he performed at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz
Festival in 1970, and has played at the San
Francisco Blues Festival, many times since 1973.
He was also the warm up act at the Last Waltz at
Winterland, Thanksgiving, 1974.
Nominated for a W C. Handy Award in 1993, Omar
Sharriff kept on recording through the 90’s and 2000’s.
In 2010, John Tennison, a San-Antonio-based
Boogie Woogie musicologist, proved that Marshall, the
city where Omar grew up, was the home of Boogie Woogie.
Omar was asked by the city to become its musical
ambassador. Omar has now returned to Marshall, the
city he left more than 50 years ago: "It's like I've
been given a time machine, and I've been able to erase
all that stuff I didn't want when I left so long ago -
all that hatred, all that racism, all that bad. And I
can still come back, keeping all the good things”.