Eugene Booker McDaniels was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1935. He was the son of a minister and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. His early gospel influences included the Soul Stirrers and the Swan Silvertones.
He had a four-octave range singing voice and joined his first gospel group, the Echoes of Joy (later the Sultans), when he was 11. He learned to play trumpet and saxophone and loved bebop with Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, his early heroes.
He studied at the Omaha Conservatory of Music, and became a member of the Mississippi Piney Woods Singers and enjoyed singing jazz. He was signed to Liberty Records and was produced by the legendary, Snuff Garrett. In 1961 he enjoyed two major hits with ‘A hundred pounds of clay’, and ‘Tower of Strength’ (covered by Frankie Vaughan in the UK). Both songs were penned by himself with the latter in collaboration with Burt Bacharach.
He continued to enjoy several other minor hits before leaving Liberty in 1965. He signed to Columbia then a series of smaller labels before opting out of the music business for several years to travel in Europe. He returned as "Eugene McDaniels" and resumed recording, on Atlantic. Despite his previous commercial success, he preferred jazz and later changed his style of music to incorporate a blacker consciousness. He wrote the protest song, "Compared to What," which was a hit for Les McCann and Eddie Harris in 1969.
“Feel like makin’ love,” in 1974 was sang by Roberta Flack and became a massive worldwide hit.
He continued to work 80s and 90s before becoming a recluse. Eugene McDaniels died aged 76 on July 29, 2011.
Worth a listen
A hundred pounds of clay (1961)
Tower of Strength (1961 )
Point Of No Return (1962)
Spanish Lace (1962 )
Jagger the Dagger (1971)
Les McCann and Eddie Harris
Compared to What (1969)
Feel like makin’ love (1974 )