GENE MACDANIELS PASSES AWAY

Gene McDaniels

By ROCKIN' ROBIN
COURTESY OF CASHBOX MAGAZINE U.S.

Gene McDaniels, who was most famous for the 1961 hit "A Hundred Pounds Of Clay" and for writing the 1974 #1 hit "Feel Like Makin' Love" for Roberta Flack,  died today (July 29, 2011). He was 76.

Details are sketchy surrounding the circumstances of McDaniels' passing at presstime. Word of McDaniels' passing came to this writer courtesy of his good radio friend, Dick Bartley, who in turn passed along information posted on the web site of Ann Ruckert, The Music Business Guru. According to Wikipedia, McDaniels had been residing in Maine. It's believed he died in his sleep. On her website, Ruckert said, "His wife, Karen, told me he was working until the very end. They went to bed last night, he was full of ideas and new projects, and this morning, she turned in bed to wake him and he was gone."

The son of the Reverend B.T. McDaniels, Eugene Booker McDaniels was born February 12, 1935, in Kansas City and grew up in Omaha. According to Joel Whitburn's Record Research, he sang in church choirs and attended the Omaha Conservatory Of Music. According to writer Norm N. Nite, he  joined a professional gospel group at the age of 13, played saxophone in his high school band and would eventually form his own vocal quartet. McDaniels had at least one minor single release in 1960 with "In Times Like These" before hitting the jackpot with a song about God building the world.

The late Luther Dixon co-wrote "A  Hundred Pounds Of Clay" along with Bob Elgin and Eddie Snyder. Dixon's songwriting credits include "Big Boss Man" and  "Doncha Think It's Time" for Elvis Presley, "Just Born (To Be Your Baby)" for Perry Como and many of the Shirelles' hits like "Boys" and "Soldier Boy."  "A Hundred Pounds Of Clay" reached #3 in the spring of 1961 and was ranked #15 for the year by Cash Box magazine. After his followup release, "A Tear", reached #24, McDaniels had his only other Cash Box top 10 with the #9 "Tower Of Strength" in the fall of '61. McDaniels had three more top 40 hits in 1962 with "Chip Chip" (#16), "Point Of No Return" (#32) and "Spanish Lace" (#38).

Although the solo hits stopped for McDaniels on the Liberty label after 1963, he was always into various music projects right up until the time of his passing. He produced for at least seven labels, including Capitol, Motown and A&M. He wrote "Compared To  What" in 1968 and it became a minor #96 hit in early 1970 for Les McCann and Eddie Harris. The song made it onto the soundtracks of eight movies, including "Ice Storm" and "Casino."  McDaniels himself appeared in at least three movies: "It's Trad, Dad!" (released in 1962 in the USA as "Ring-A-Ding Rhythm"), "The Young Swingers' (1963) and "Uptown Saturday Night" (1974). He recorded at least two albums in the 1970's, another in the 1980's and still another as recently as 2009.

Roberta Flack recorded the most Gene McDaniels-penned songs, including "Feel Like Makin' Love," which was nominated for three Grammy Awards. At the time of his death, McDaniels was working with Mandy Bennett, an upcoming singer-songwriter.

In eulogizing McDaniels on her website, Ruckert wrote, "Whenever Gene came to New York, the joint was jumping. My house was filled with the folks who loved him and there was a lot of laughter."