Gene McDaniels Biography

Eugene Booker McDaniels, 12 February 1935, Kansas City, Kansas, USA. McDaniels began singing in church as a tiny child and by the age of 11 was a member of a gospel quartet. This was in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was raised and also studied at the Omaha Conservatory of Music. The quartet tried out in New York City where McDaniels was recognized as the pre-eminent singer in the group. In 1954, he relocated to Los Angeles where he swiftly built a reputation singing in jazz clubs. He performed with many noted artists, among them Les McCann, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Signed by Liberty Records, he had a US Top 5 hit in 1961 with ‘A Hundred Pounds Of Clay’ which was followed by another Top 5 single ‘Tower Of Strength’, and ‘Chip Chip’, ‘Point Of No Return’, and ‘Spanish Lace’, all of which made the charts in the USA. He toured Australia with Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughan but was becoming dissatisfied with the direction his career was being aimed by his recording company. When his contract ended he went back to New York where he worked with yet more important jazz musicians, such as Herbie Hancock. In 1967, McDaniels went to Europe, remaining there for two years during which time he honed his talents as a songwriter.

Back in America, he signed with Atlantic Records as both singer and songwriter. His song, ‘Compared To What?’ was recorded by McCann and also by Roberta Flack, for whom he then wrote ‘Reverend Lee’ and the immensely successful ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’ which reached number 1 on the Billboard, Cash Box and Record World charts in 1974. He also wrote ‘Before You Accuse Me’, recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival and covered by Eric Clapton. Between 1974 and 1979 McDaniels was also active as a record producer working with many leading pop artists including Nancy Wilson and Gladys Knight. Another move, this time to Seattle, brought him into contact with Carolyn E. Thompson but it took a few more years before their musical relationship blossomed. Back once again in New York he worked with Michel Legrand on film scores and also wrote songs which have been sung by artists such as Flack, Wilson, Patti Austin and Diane Schuur. It was in 1996 that McDaniels and Thompson formed their own company, Numoon Disc Company, and he entered yet another rewarding and musically fulfilling stage of his packed career. As a singer, McDaniels’ strong and commanding voice brought a sense of controlled power to his performances. Despite his considerable success in this area, however, it might well be his later achievements as a songwriter and record producer that will prove to be the most lasting testimony to his stature in the world of popular music.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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