WHOA, BOY ! LUKE Mc DANIEL ON PAUL VIDAL's BIG V JAMBOREE
WHOA, BOY !
was a time when Luke Mc Daniel was mostly known for having
posed with Elvis Presley on a photograph which, incidentally, also featured
another superb Rockabilly singer, Joe Clay. However, thanks to the efforts of
excellent music researchers over the past twenty years, the world has been able
to appreciate Luke's talent. Let me take you back to Jackson, Mississippi, in
1952 for a reevaluation of his early recording years.
In the segregated
society of Mississippi, Mrs. Lillian Mc Murry, almost singlehandedly, helped
make things change when she set up her - now much acclaimed - Trumpet label
in 1950. Indeed, just
about all of the artists and groups she signed in '50 and '51 were black.
Beginning with Gospel acts such as The Southern Sons, she soon introduced
to the world some of the all-time great Bluesmen : Aleck Miller aka Sonny
Boy Williamson, Elmore James and Willie Love for starters. Their work on the
tiny Jackson-based label is timeless and has been masterfully anthologized
by Marc Ryan on his own Acoustic Archives imprint in the early '90s. Marc's
book, 'Trumpet Records - An Illustrated History With Discography' (Big Nickel
Publications, Milford, New Hampshire - 1992) is required reading for anybody
with an interest in early Delta Blues.
Thanks to Marc's research, it transpires that, as early as 1950, there was
also a Hillbilly band on Trumpet : accordionist Kay Kellum & His Dixie
Ramblers. They had two releases in a row, predating those of Jimmy Swan by
more than one year.
Even more interesting was a '78 by guitarist Roy Harris, who had played on
Kellum's sessions ; the pairing of 'Olds 88' with 'Rockin' Boogie' (Trumpet
136, by Texas Jack & Rocky Jones), both from a March 1951 studio date
with black sax player, Duke Huddleston, is rumored to be in the same vein
as Jackie Brenston's famous proto-rocker, 'Rocket 88' (Chess 1458). Apart
from The Hodges Brothers, who later cut a rare rockin' single on Mississippi
(#574, in the Starday 'Custom Series'), the next Hillbilly singer on Mc Murry's
label was to be Jimmy Swan, who would prove to be the most successful (and,
in later years, the least politically correct !) as well. His career has been
well documented and Bear Family put out a definitive CD on him a few years
back. 'Juke Joint Mama' (Trumpet 176) and 'Triflin' On Me' (Trumpet 177) were
two very good honky-tonkers cut at his first session in 1952. It was Swan
who recommended a certain Luke Mc Daniel to Lillian Mc Murry.
Luke Jefferson Mc Daniel was born on a farm near Laurel (Mississippi)
on February 3, 1927. According to a biography which appeared in an old issue
of 'Country & Western Jamboree', we learn that Luke sandwiched in the
chores of the farm with going to school. During his high school days at Laurel,
Luke became entranced by the featured mandolin accompaniment of the Bailes
Brothers records. A very influential outfit specializing in sacred material,
the Baileses were West Virginia natives and their band, The West Virginia
Home Folks, once included Clyde Baum and Ernest Ferguson, both mandolinists.
Among their better known songs, we find their Columbia recording of 'Dust
On The Bible' which was later cut by The Blue Sky Boys (Bill & Earl Bolick)
on RCA Victor (#48-0036). The desire to play the mandolin became so strong
that Luke gave his only suit of clothes and seven more bucks for his first
instrument. He soon was playing local benefits and church socials. Mc Daniel
then switched to composing, singing and playing the guitar. One day, Curly
Fox & Texas Ruby came to Laurel as part of the Jamup & Honey Show
; that's when Luke decided to give up his daily job at the cotton mill and
joined the troupe as handy man : it didn't last very long, though.
To Be Continued
Soon................................. PAUL VIDAL * Privas, France * August 2002