The Four Deuces Remembered©2005JCMarion


The vocal group known as The Four Deuces was formed in the town of Salinas, California (the one time lettuce capitol of the world) in the mid fifties. The lead singer named Luther McDaniel got together with a group of army buddies from Fort Ord. After concentrating on some gospel songs, the group decided to turn to straight rhythm & blues. McDaniel had been working on a tune called "WPLJ" which was about a favorite beverage of some of the guys. The concoction of White Port and Lemon Juice was popular with the guys and was a personal favorite in the area. By now the quartet was looking for a possible record deal and they were told to try the Berkely-San Francisco area. They came in contact with Ray Dobard who operated Music City Records. They soon got into the recording studio with the Johnny Hartman combo and after many takes, a good version of McDaniel's tune "W-P-L-J" was cut along with a strange flip side called "Here Lies My Love" as by "Mr. Undertaker" on Music City # 790. The record soon blasted out of West in February of 1956 and got big play on radio stations across the country. Besides the home territory of San Francisco Bay area, the record was especially strong in Philadelphia. The group began to make appearances on the West Coast and had planned a trip East but that was soon put on hold.

The Four Deuces capitalizing on their success recorded a commercial for Italian Swiss Colony, a famous wine producer using the white port of the tune to sell that company's product. The song wa severywhere on radio from the original record to the radio commercials touting the wine. later in the year the Four Deuces were back in the Music City recording studio and in late August Music City released "Down It Went" and "The Goose Is Gone" on # 796. This time the like positioned "Down It Went" did not become a big success. The Four Deuces soon broke up as the army buddies went their seperate ways and followed their own personal dreams. There was one more recording by the group, although there is some question as to the authenticity of the group as the originals. The record was on Everest Records and featured the songs "Yellow Shoes" and "Pretty Polly" on # 19311 released in 1959.

Luther McDaniel continued to record into the nineteen sixties for independent labels in California and later on for Imperial Records and his own label called Lusan. None of the recordings had much success and McDaniel left the music business and in later years reportedly owned his own night spot in Salinas. He and his group may have been a one hit wonder, but that one hit was a memorable one complete with a top rock radio station in New York changing its call letters to WPLJ. And of course there was always that classic cover version by Frank Zappa. "W-P-L-J" is one of the signature tunes of that bygone era in the nineteen fifties when the R & B vocal group was the voice of a generation.

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