Maxine Daniels

Dance-band 'girl singer' with swing
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The Independent Online

Gladys Lynch (Maxine Daniels), vocalist: born London 2 November 1930; married 1950 Charlie Daniels (died 1988; one daughter); died Romford, Essex 20 October 2003.

"The public loved her," wrote Humphrey Lyttelton of Maxine Daniels, "and what's more she had the universal respect of musicians for her natural sense of phrasing, perfect pitching, exemplary diction and ability to swing."

That is a pretty fair assessment of a woman who ranked highly amongst the "girl singers" and went on to become perhaps the most tasteful English vocalist of her time. Daniels chose her musicians and her songs with unerring instinct.

"Girl singers"? That's how young ladies who sang with dance bands were known when Maxine Daniels's career began, although, oddly for a black cockney, one of her first public appearances was at an Eisteddfod in Carmarthenshire, where she had been sent as an evacuee during the Second World War.

She was one of 13 children, and one of her younger brothers is the entertainer Kenny Lynch. Returning to London after the war, she sang with Johnny Dalton's band in Canning Town and then with another led by Reg Cavell in Romford. She won talent contests, notably ITV's "Youth Takes a Bow" in 1953 but she made her name with two years' hard work (1954-56) in dance halls with the Denny Boyce Band, mainly at the Orchid Room in Purley.

Although she worked so long in dance bands, she never, throughout her life, had much of a grasp of musical theory. If an instrumentalist was taking a solo, she would sing the song to herself throughout so that when the solo finished she would know when it was time for her to come in. This weakness and a retiring nature led her to stage fright that persisted until the end of her career.

Signed by the Bernard Delfont agency, she made her début in variety at the Chiswick Empire in 1956 and toured the Moss Empires circuit with appearances in London at the Prince of Wales Theatre, the London Palladium, the Royal Festival Hall, the Savoy, Churchill's, the Astor and the Stork Club. She signed a recording contract with Oriole Records and made innumerable television broadcasts, but retired from singing from 1958 until 1966, though she worked frequently with bands in the Southend area.

Although her career was undoubtedly held back by her nervousness, she appeared in many successful stage shows including Evergreen, The Songs of Irving Berlin and, with the trombonist George Chisholm, Swinging Down Memory Lane. She starred in the touring show From Basin Street to Broadway with Terry Lightfoot's band and made a successful 50-week tour with Tony Crombie's band. After recovering from heart surgery in 1988 she worked with Humphrey Lyttelton, who took a hand in reviving her career. She appeared at jazz festivals and worked in Holland with the Dutch Swing College Band.

Among the Americans she appeared with were Billy Eckstine, Al Cohn and Wild Bill Davison. She found an appropriate niche with touring jazz packages, notably the Pizza Express All Stars, and the Best of British Jazz.

She became one of an occasional group with her peers Barbara Jay and Rosemary Squires in the touring Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, and the superlative singing of the three women is heard on a Spotlite album from 1994. The full flower of Maxine Daniels's talent was best captured in her first solo CD, for Humphrey Lyttelton's Calligraph label, recorded in 1995. Here she was accompanied as she so often was by Ted Beament, an outstanding pianist with whom she established a unique rapport.

In 1996 she toured with Barbara Jay and Tina May in Ladies of Jazz and she continued to work with the Ella Fitzgerald package until ill-health forced the end of her career.

Steve Voce

December 1962 was the start of one of the worst winters in living memory. I was a new publican at the Two Puddings, Stratford, London E15, and, not being very wise, I had foolishly sacked my cleaner. I was desperately searching for another one when, during a snowstorm, a young woman knocked on the door and asked for a job.

She was a hopeless cleaner but, during a conversation, she told me that she'd had her own TV programme. At first I thought I'd engaged a crank but soon realised she was telling the truth, so I sacked her as a cleaner and took her on as a singer. Her name was Maxine Daniels.

She was a lovely girl who had a stunning voice, but she was shy and always liked to stand at the back of the stage; nevertheless my customers loved her. She worked for me for about a year, during which time Daniel Farson, who was running the Waterman's Arms, used to beg me to take her over there to guest, which I did quite often. He always said that he enjoyed listening to her more than all the other singers that ever sang at the Waterman's, and that included Judy Garland.

Eddie Johnson