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 of 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 joined the 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 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", 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 business - 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 June 1992.

  Recommended listening: Daddy-O-Rock - Hydra BLK 7715 (vinyl) - 1996.

  Top 10
  1. Uh Uh Uh ­ wonderful commercial bopper, sort of Foxy Dan meets the Andrews Sisters.

  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 backbeat.

  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 the fiddle.

as Luke McDaniel
  Trumpet Records
        Whoa Boy / Tribute To Hank Williams (1952)
        A Tribute To Hank Williams, My Buddy / This Cryin' Heart (1953)  

King Records
        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
Meladee Records
        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)

Astro Records
        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?)

Sun (unissued)
        Go Ahead Baby

        Huh Babe

        High High High

        My Baby Don't Rock

        That's What I Tell My Heart

Posted June, 2008

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