Obituary: Ted Daffan

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The Independent Online
In 1970, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the evolution of the country song, Theron Eugene "Ted" Daffan was elected a charter member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Several of his songs became milestones: "Truck Drivers Blues", which was a hit for Cliff Bruner and his Texas Wanderers in 1939, is usually cited as the first trucking song, whilst "Worried Mind", co-written with the future Governor of Louisiana Jimmie Davis, was an important record in the career of the singing cowboy, Roy Rogers.

Perhaps his most enduring number, however, has been "Born To Lose". A bleak study of the country boy coming to terms with life in the city, Daffan hit upon its title during a game of poker with his accordion player and published it using the pseudonym Frankie Brown. His own version, produced by Columbia's British-born A&R man "Uncle" Art Satherley and featuring a smooth steel guitar from Daffan and the baritone of Leon Scago, was a Stateside hit in 1944. It has since been covered numerous times, notably by Ray Charles on his landmark album Modern Sounds In Country & Western (1962).

Although born in Louisiana, Ted Daffan was raised in Houston. As a youngster, he took up the steel guitar and played in a Hawaiian band named the Blue Islanders whilst pursuing a day job in electronics.

By 1934, he was performing with Leon "Pappy" Selph's Blue Ridge Playboys; a band whose personnel also at various times included Floyd Tilman, Aubrey "Moon" Mullican, Bob Dunn and Cliff Bruner, later acknowledged as the principal architects of honky tonk.

A year later, Daffan joined the Bar-X Cowboys and then formed his own band, the Texans. He signed to the Columbia label and began enjoying hits. In addition to versions of "Born To Lose" and "Worried Mind" he also scored with "No Letter Today" (1944) and "Headin' Down the Wrong Highway" (1945).

Relocating to California, Daffan and the Texans became mainstays at the Venice Pier ballroom before returning to Texas in 1946 and continuing to record for Columbia until 1951.

Although he continued to perform, Daffan concentrated increasingly on his songwriting: furnishing both Faron Young ("I've Got Five Dollars and It's Saturday Night") and Hank Snow ("Tangled Mind") with sizeable hits in 1956 and 1957 respectively.

In the years leading up to his retirement, Daffan became heavily involved in the publishing company he ran in partnership with Snow, and with his own record label.

Paul Wadey

Theron Eugene Daffan (Ted Daffan), musician and songwriter: born Beauregarde, Louisiana 21 September 1912; married; died Houston, Texas 6 October 1996.