That old black magic

I had never heard of Billy Daniels until this shellac disc – battered and scratched and with a crack running through it – came into my life. I was unsure whether it would even play, as the crack runs almost through to the label, but it worked okay. There is a noise, but no worse than a moderate scratch. And what a voice travels up the needle.

3075-a-sideDaniels was a genuine star in the 1950s. He was the first person to have a hit with “That Old Black Magic” – I have heard perhaps a dozen versions, but never his. He was the first African American to host a mainstream variety show on television in the United States. He worked the cabaret circuit, and was an early attraction on the Las Vegas casino show scene. It is said that he had mafia connections, which helped him get ahead. Probably true – how else to get a gig in Vegas? – but if so he was in good company.

What matters is that Billy Daniels could sing. On this disc he waxes between the casual and the impassioned, and he shifts style and tempo, and somehow this delivery lifts the (frankly lame) Tin Pan Alley lyrics of the song. It acquires an emotional power which it doesn’t really deserve. On this track, Daniels anticipates Tom Jones, even Elvis, and, like that old black magic, sends shivers down your spine.

  • Artist: Billy Daniels
  • Title: The Game of Love / I Still get a Thrill Thinking of You
  • Track: A side, “The Game of Love”
  • Format: 10” shellac disc, 78rpm
  • Label: Esquire Mercury, A-1106
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1951

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs. Mention this code “MSD519” to receive a free 7” disc of your choice (up to the value of $5.00) with any purchase.

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