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About The Artist
Luke McDaniel was born in 1927 in the small town of Ellisville, Mississippi. Though, a 1953 Cowboy Songs writeup in its "Stars on the Horizon" feature indicated he was from Laurel, Mississippi. Laurel is a bit north of Ellisville.
He grew up on a farm and found a desire to learn how to play the mandolin while he was in high school, influenced by tunes from the Bailes Brothers that he heard over the radio. That first mandolin cost him seven dollars.
After he learned how to play the mandolin, he found himself playing at local benefits and church socials and other public venues. At the time, he was only 16 years old. Around then it's said he wrote his first tune.
He formed a backup band and started playing professionally in 1945. In the late 1940s, Luke and his band opened for Hank Williams during an appearance in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In 1952, Luke McDaniel and his band recorded a tune called "Whoa Boy" for the Trumpet Records label that was located in Jackson, Mississippi. That record foretold the era of rockabilly that was to come.
He worked with several small groups, but didn't find the break he was looking for until he went to Mobile, Alabama and teamed up with then King recording star, Jack Cardwell. Soon, Luke had become a fixture on the "Tom 'N Jack" radio and television show that aired over WKAB and WKAB-TV. It wasn't too long before the King label signed Luke as well.
In 1953, he did some recordings with the King label, but found no hit records.
Bobby Gregory wrote in his "Your Favorites And Mine" column in 1954 that Luke was "spinning country wax" over radio station WLAU in Laurel, Mississippi.
The timing is unclear, but a 1957 article mentions 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.
Luke returned to New Orleans in 1954, to record for the Mel-A-Dee label and began playing the Louisiana Hayride regularly. During that time, he met Elvis Presley and Joe Clay, among others.
Around this time, Luke wrote the tune "Midnight Shift" under the pseudonym of Earl Lee, a tune which Buddy Holly would later record. In 1956 Elvis and Carl Perkins urged McDaniels to submit a demo to Sam Phillips. He did so, and was quickly signed to a contract with Sun Records, breaking McDaniel's contract with Mel-A-Dee.
But after recording two sessions for Sun, Luke was told that he would only be paid for cuts that were released, not the entire sessions. He left the studios and Memphis in anger and never returned.
But he didn't leave the music business. He was still writing tunes and managed to pitch songs to George Jones and Jim Reeves, but found no further success with his own recordings.
He recorded five singles on the Big Howdy label under the name "Jeff Daniels". One of these, "Foxy Dan", was written for him by Carl Perkins. Even though none of his Sun material was issued at the time, subsequent release by Charly Records has made McDaniel a popular artist to current generations of rockabilly fans, with songs like "My Baby Don't Rock" and "Huh Babe".
In our collection of old magazines, we see Luke's songwriting 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. We also found another song credited to "Earl Lee" - "Seven or Eleven", co-written with Jimmie Rogers and someone named Ainsworth, perhaps Arlene Ainsworth.
Credits & Sources