The Sultans, Admirals, and Gene McDaniels©2004JCMarion


Gene McDaniels was born in Kansas City, Kansas, in February of 1935. He was interested in music from an early age then living in Omaha, Nebraska, where he studied music at the Omaha Conservatory. During the post war forties he was part of a gospel music quartet called The Heavenly Wanderers and later The Echoes Of Joy. As a teenager he formed a vocal group called The Echoes along with lead singer Will Barnes, James Farmer, Jimmy Mimms, and Richard Beasley. This group never did record, but two years later the same personnel with the exception of Mimms (who was replaced by Wesley Devreaux ) now known as The Sultans, secured a recording contract with Duke Records which had recently relocated to Houston, Texas, from Memphis.

The Sultans first recorded effort for Duke Records was the pop music standard "How Deep Is The Ocean" and "Good Thing Baby" on #125 in April of 1954. The group was backed up on the record by the Johnny Otis orchestra. The Sultans perform at a number of venues in the Midwest including the statewide meeting of the Music Guild of Nebraska in June. In October The Sultans have their second record out for the Duke label. It is comprised of the tunes "I Cried My Heart Out" and "Baby Don't Put Me Down" on #133. At the very end of the year The Sultans give it one more chance with Duke and record the songs "Boppin With The Mambo" and "What Makes Me Feel This Way" on Duke #135. As with the previous two releases for Duke, this one does not sell or gain airplay for the group.

The Sultans in early 1955 decide on a change of name for the group. With the same personnel they are now known as The Admirals. By the end of January they have set up a recording date for one of the giant R & B independents, King Records of Cincinnati, Ohio. late in February King #4772 is released. It features The Admirals on the songs "Oh Yes" and "Left With A Broken Heart". One month later the group has a second recording for King - "Close Your Eyes" and "Give Me Your Love" on #4782. Neither record does anything on the selling front or on airplay for the group. In April the group appears on a record by Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra. The vocal is by Cathy Ryan and The Admirals do the backing vocals on one side of the record - "It's A Sad Sad Feeling". The flip side is an instrumental called "Ow" released on King #4792. That same month the group also does backing vocals behind singer Bubber Johnson on the songs "Ding Dang Doo" and "Drop Me A Line" on #4793. By the end of 1955 The Admirals are no more and Gene McDaniels decides to try and make it as a solo act. However in July of 1957 another Bubber Johnson vocal with backing by The Admirals is released by King on #5068. The session was actually recorded in 1955 with the tunes "A Crazy Afternoon" and "So Much Tonight". That same year an old recording by The Sultans is released on the Duke label of the songs "My Love Is So High" and "If I Could Tell" on #178.

Gene McDaniels after the breakup of The Admirals, worked on his songwriting skills, and soon landed a recording contract with Liberty Records. Starting with "In Times Like These" and "Once Before" on #55231 recorded late in 1959 which was not a success, he worked hard to make it as a single. Finally in April of 1961, a tune called "A Hundred Pounds Of Clay" on Liberty #55308 broke out as a national hit. It sold well and got to the number thhree position on the national pop charts and rode the best sellers list for more than three months and eventually became a million seller. During the summer the following release for Liberty, "A Tear" on #55344, charted briefly. But in October McDaniels came back with another blockbuster - "Tower Of Strength". The dramatic arrangement of the tune helped propel it into national prominence as a top five seller and a solid pop music hit. In early 1962 Gene kept his winning streak going with a tune called "Chip Chip" on #55405. This was a steady top ten seller across the country and made McDaniels one of the big stars of the early nineteen sixties. "Point Of No Return" was another good seller getting into the top twenty across the country for Liberty #55480. Gene McDaniels had one more pop hit for Liberty Records with "Spanish Lace" late in 1962. McDaniels popularity earned him a spot in the 1962 British pop musical film "It's Trad, Dad" which upon its American release was called "Ring-A-Ding Rhythm". McDaniels continued to record for Liberty until 1965 and then switched for a couple of singles for Columbia, but the hits had stopped and he concentrated on writing during a two year stretch in Europe during the late 60s. His most famous song in the 1970s was "Feel Like Making Love" which was a huge hit for Roberta Flack. In later years he continued to write for a wider audience including jazz and movie music.

Gene McDaniels has become a well rounded musician in all phases of the art form, and it all started those many years ago as part of a blend of voices lifted in song as part of a R & B vocal group.

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