LUKE McDANIEL a.k.a. JEFF DANIELS (By Shaun Mather)
Born 3 February 1927, Ellisville, Mississippi Died 27 June 1992, Mobile, Alabama
Luke McDaniel, like many a good singer was born in the good ole southern state of Mississippi, in Ellisville on February 3, 1927. He started in music as a mandolin player, and was influenced by hillbilly singers like The Bailes Brothers. He formed his own band and turned professional in 1945. He opened for Hank Williams in New Orleans in the late 40's and appears to have become hooked on the lonesome sound of Hank. In 1952 he recorded "Whoa Boy" for Trumpet Records in Jackson, Mississippi as well as a tribute single, "A Tribute To Hank Williams, My Buddy". The Trumpet records were all high quality hillbilly, but as with many at the time, showed him at this stage as little more than a Hank Williams clone. I'm not knocking him, I love his Trumpet stuff, it's just that he hadn't developed his own sound yet.
In 1953 he was introduced to King Records by fellow artist Jack Cardwell (The Death of Hank Williams/ Dear Joan). He joined King but failed to register any hits despite half a dozen fine singles."Money Bag Woman" was particularly strong, fusing his hillbilly with a rhumba beat. When the King contract expired, he went back to New Orleans where he recorded for the Mel-A-Dee label. He worked under the alias Jeff Daniels and recorded his Mel-A-Dee tracks at the legendary Cosimo's Studio with the pick of the city's black musicians. Only one single was released, the great "Daddy -O Rock" coupled with "Hey Woman".
In 54 he joined the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport and became a part of the touring Hayride show. It was no doubt here that he saw Elvis Presley and started to move towards a more rocking sound. Around this time, McDaniel wrote "Midnight Shift" under the pseudonym of Earl Lee, which Buddy Holly would later record. In 1956 Elvis and Carl Perkins urged McDaniels to submit a demo to Sam Phillips. Sam was impressed and signed McDaniel to a contract with Sun Records. It's unsure whether he cut two sessions or just one at Sun (either Sep 56 or/and Jan 57). Nothing was issued though, as Sam and Luke had a financial disagreement. The unissued Sun sides have now seen the light of day thanks to reissue labels like Charly Records. "My Baby Don't Rock" sounds like a Sonny Burgess track with Martin Willis' sax to the fore and a firecraker solo from Roland Janes. "High High High" is another high class song in the best traditions of Sun. "Uh Babe" is more seminal-Sun rockabilly with Jimmy Van Eaton on fine form behind the skinned boxes. "Go Ahead Baby" is more exciting bop and sounds like a cross between Hayden Thompson and Gene Simmons.
As a songwriter he got some cuts by George Jones and Jim Reeves, but he was destined to fail as a singer in his own right. He recorded singles for the Big Howdy label, sometimes under the name "Jeff Daniels". Highlight is the manic "Switch Blade Sam", a frontrunner in anyone's bad boy rockabilly top ten. The other side was the original of "You're Still On My Mind", better known in the versions of George Jones and the Byrds. There are two versions of the great "Foxy Dan". Make sure you get the 1960 Astro recording, which is superior to the version on Big Howdy that was released in the 1970s.
Disillusioned by the early 60s he left the business to start his own trucking business - another great hillbilly singer that just couldn't get the right breaks. SUN stuff comes from either one or two sessions from either Sep 56 or/and Jan 57.
Recommended listening; Daddy-O-Rock - Hydra BLK 7715 (vinyl) - 1996. But where the fluffycats is a proper CD release?
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