Obituary: Joe Daniels

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The Independent Online
Joe Daniels, drummer, bandleader: born Zeerust, Transvaal 9 March 1909; married; died Northwood, Middlesex 2 July 1993.

THERE IS no room for humbug in the world of jazz, and the music of Joe Daniels and His Hotshots was always regarded as humbug by the beady- eyed and unmerciful jazz fan. Most of his music over the years was corny because it was carefully aimed so that it could be fully appreciated by the most intellectually challenged listener to music.

But, despite their flamboyance and lack of moment, the records by Joe Daniels and His Hot Shots which were so popular in Britain and the United States during the Thirties did provide a vital prop to jazz in those years. Daniels operated in a field dominated by the dance bands, and his band and that of the trumpeter Nat Gonella were the only groups which consistently played improvised jazz as opposed to the heavily scored 'commercial' music of the larger orchestras.

Such was his popularity over the pre-war and wartime years that Daniels was generally regarded as tEhe finest drum virtuoso in Britain. He was a good drummer who developed a flashy side to his playing for which he coined the woTHER write errorrd 'Drumnastics'. The tag stuck and was always associated with his music. As far as jazz listeners were concerned, his spectacular drumming interfered with the playing of the other musicians. A drummer who is able to suborn himself to the needs of the band in which he plays and to work quietly is a rarity.

Born in the Transvaal, Daniels was brought to London by his parents when he was two and took up drums there when he was 11. That same year he played jobs in Frascati's Restaurant. He took to the drums naturally, being uninfluenced by other players. 'I just had a pair of sticks when I began, and I played on my mother's saucepans and things like that. I always remember my mother saying to me, 'Don't listen to anything, but get your own style,' and that's what I did.'

As a teenager he played for Al Kaplan's band in the London clubs, most often at Moody's in Tottenham Court Road. He worked in revue and toured the dance-hall circuit. He led his first band for Kaplan at the Glasgow Palais when he was 16 and was one of the first musicians to play 'the boats' when he worked on the RMS Majestic. In later years Ronnie Scott and others were to follow him playing in the bands which worked on the liners sailing between Southampton and New York.

During a residency at the Belfast Palais, Daniels spotted a man waving agitatedly at him from behind a glass panel in the hall. It was only then that Daniels discovered that his band had been broadcasting regularly from the hall each night and that the agitated gentleman was a technician trying to tell him that they needed him to fill an extra half-hour. It was the beginning of a fruitful broadcasting career.

In 1930 Daniels worked with Billy Mason's band at the Cafe de Paris. 'The Prince of Wales used to come down there very often and he used to play my drums.' This was nothing new, for the Prince had once taken over from Daniels in 1922 when both were sailing on the Majestic.

After work with the trumpeter Max Goldberg and the bandleader Fred Elizalde during the Twenties, Daniels joined Harry Roy in 1931 and stayed with him for six years. Daniels formed his Hot Shots whilst he was still with Roy and began a long series of records for Parlophone where the recording manager, Oscar Price, asked him for 'any titles so long as they've got some drums on them'. Daniels obliged with a vengeance. He turned down the chance of royalty payments in favour of a pounds 10 fee. He regretted that when the records were later issued in Russia, Japan, China and the US. The Hot Shots continued until 1951 (Daniels served in the RAF where he ran a quintet during the war), touring dance halls and music halls.

When they disbanded, Daniels immediately formed a band to play more orthodox jazz, being rewarded with an instant booking at the legendary 1951 Festival Hall jazz concert where he joined Humphrey Lyttelton, Mick Mulligan, Freddy Randall and other band leaders who played for the then Princess Elizabeth. Princess Elizabeth, obscurely known in those days as 'Corky' by the jazz fraternity, attended the concert for 50 minutes. She had been supposed to be there for only 25 but presumably got carried away.

The later band was quite good and included some good improvising soloists but had only modest success until its demise in 1959. Because of Daniels' show business connections the band was scorned as 'Archer Street jazz' by the fans. (Archer Street was the centre for professional musicians who, unlike real jazz musicians, were actually well paid for their music.) The dignity of the true jazz lover was perhaps offended when Daniels recorded in 1955 as Washboard Joe and the Scrubbers. Eventually Daniels returned to the show business side of the music and led a regular band at one of Butlin's Holiday Camps.

He continued to play until three years ago when one of his last jobs was at the Savoy Hotel.

(Photograph omitted)

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