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 (# 184) in Jackson, Mississippi. It’s a hillbilly boogie belter (call-and-response format) : strong steel guitar and sawing fiddle over an insistant fast rhythm. The flip side « No more » is a good uptempo hillbilly weeper, nicely done. He also cut as a tribute single, “A Tribute To Hank Williams, My Buddy“, a forgettable morbid slow weeper. 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.
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. He cut them either in radio station KWAB in Mobile, AL ; either at KWKH in Shreveport, La.; either in Cincinnati King studio.
« The automobile song » (King 1336), a fast hillbilly bopper, is done in gaiety, “Money Bag Woman” (King 1380) was particularly strong, fusing his hillbilly with a rhumba beat.
“The automobile song”
« I can’t go » (King 1276) is also a strong, although ordinary bopper. The mid-paced « One more heart » (King 1426) is less interesting as the slowie forgettable « Let me be a souvenir » (# 1356) and « Honey, won’t you please come home ». « Crying my heart out for you » (# 1356) renews with the « Money bag woman » rhumba beat with a welcome mandolin (maybe played by himself?). « Drive on » (# 1287) is a strong although ‘quiet’ bopper in the Hank Williams vein.
“I can’t go”
It has been reported in a music paper circa 1954 that Luke was « spinning country records » at WLAU in Laurel, MS.
“Crying my heart out for you”
When the King contract expired, he went back to New Orleans where he recorded for the Meladee label in 1955/56 under the alias Jeff Daniels at the legendary Cosimo’s Studio with the pick of the city’s black musicians. Only one single was released, the great frantic “Daddy-O-Rock” coupled with the quieter “Hey Woman” (# 117)
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” [a song about prostitution] under the pseudonym of Earl Lee, which Buddy Holly would later record on Decca.
Buddy Holly “Midnight shift”
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 September 56 or/and January 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 (Ferrero/Barbat 600 serie reissues). “Uh Babe” (Sun 620) is seminal-Sun rockabilly with Jimmy Van Eaton on fine form behind the skinned boxes. “High high high” is more a good uptempo rocker and sounds like a cross between Hayden Thompson and Gene Simmons.
“High high high”
Later McDaniel went to pure rock’n’roll on Venus, Astro, Big Howdy or Big B, but never achieved the big time.
Some songs he published : “Out of a Honky Tonk” and “Six Pallbearers” – co-written with Bob Gallion; “Blue Mississippi” and “You’re Still On My Mind”; and finally, “Mister Clock”, co-written with Jimmie Rogers. Another song credited to “Earl Lee” – “Seven or Eleven”, co-written with Jimmie Rogers and someone named Ainsworth, perhaps Arlene Ainsworth.
Biography taken on « Youzeek.com » and « hillbilly-music.com ». Additions from bopping’s editor.