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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 after buying a seven
dollar mandolin, 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
Hank Williams/ Dear Joan). McDaniel had become a fixture on the "Tom 'N Jack" radio and
television show that aired over WKAB and WKAB-TV but during his time at King he 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 was a country deejay for radio station WLAU in Laurel, Mississippi and
Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, becoming a part of the touring Hayride show. It was a
wonderful time to be part of the Hayride set-up and the influence of Elvis Presley saw
McDaniel move towards a more rocking sound. It's also believed that that when Grand Ole
Opry stars Curly Fox along with Jamup and Honey came to do a show in Laurel, Luke gave up
the job he had at that time to join the troupe as a bit of a handy man. Around this time,
McDaniel wrote "Midnight Shift" under the pseudonym of Earl Lee, which Buddy Holly would
In 1956 Elvis and Carl Perkins urged McDaniels to submit a demo to Sam Phillips.
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
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", a song written for him by Carl Perkins. 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
another great hillbilly singer that just couldn't get the right breaks. A lot of his
rockabilly records got a new lease of life in Europe during the 70's and 80's but as far
as I know he never came over to play any live shows. He died in Mobile, Alabama on 27th
Recommended listening: Daddy-O-Rock - Hydra BLK 7715 (vinyl) - 1996.
1. Uh Uh Uh wonderful commercial bopper, sort of Foxy Dan meets the Andrews
2. Go Ahead Baby pure Sun rockabilly. This couldn't have been cut anywhere but
at 706 Union. Great guitar solos and drumming. LD sounds so at home in this rocking style.
3. Daddy-O-Rock superb black meets white rocker with honking sax.
4. Switchblade Sam kick-ass rocker like Dixie Fried on speed.
5. High High High line up for a stroller of the highest order. The backing
reminds me a bit of the Lifeguards' Everybody Out Of The Pool. Sax and a hot guitar solo
add to the excitement.
6. What I Tell My Heart country with a beat that could almost be from an
undiscovered Warren Smith session.
7. Foxy Dan the dapper Dan man who's "got more money than Wells Fargo".
8. I'm Tired Of These Country Ways hillbilly vocals with a semi-rockabilly
9. Uh Babe laid back Sun rockabilly with a wonderful vocal performance.
10. Drive On Not the Johnny Cash American Recordings song but a hillbilly song
steeped in the Hank Williams tradition. Luke's wailing vocals works in perfect tandem with
as Luke McDaniel
Whoa Boy / Tribute To Hank Williams (1952)
A Tribute To Hank Williams, My Buddy / This Cryin' Heart (1953)
Drive On / Let Me Be A Souvenir (1953)
I Can't Go / For Old Times Sake (1953)
The Automobile Song / I Can't Steal Another's Bridge (1954)
Honey Won't You Please Come Home / Crying My Heart Out For You (1954)
Money Bag Woman / Hurts Me So (1954)
One More Heart / Living In A House Of Sin (1955)
as Jeff Daniels
Daddy-O Rock / Hey Woman! (1956)
Big Howdy Records
Switch Blade Sam / You're Still On My Mind (1959)
Big B Records
Uh-Huh-Huh / Table For Two (1959)
Foxy Dan / Some Day You'll Remember (1960)
Big Howdy Records
Uh-Huh-Huh / Table For Two (197?)
Foxy Dan / Bye Bye Baby (197?)
Hard Luck / Johnny's (197?)
I Tried / I'm Tired Of These Country Ways (197?)
Switch Blade Sam / You're Still On My Mind (197?)
Go Ahead Baby
High High High
My Baby Don't Rock
That's What I Tell My Heart
Posted June, 2008
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