The town of Salinas is located two hours south of San Francisco in Monterey Country, an area colloquially known as America’s Salad Bowl, thanks to its rich soil. In the 1950s, the region was also the fertile fiefdom of “Lord Luther” McDaniels, a unique personage who rose from leader of respected vocal group the 4 Deuces to assume the mantle of Bay Area rock royalty. Luther started at the top with ‘W-P-L-J’, but true to his self-effacing demeanour, the man was never hung up on the what-ifs of becoming a record star, and for most of his fifteen years as an entertainer, remained resolutely focused on just that: entertainment.
If Lord Luther was one of the scenes most colourful characters in the 50s and early 60s, he was also amongst its most colourblind, boasting integrated bands and audiences that blended white, black and Hispanic into a happy, thrilled throng. As the writer and lead singer on the Deuces’ bluesy vocal group classic ‘W-P-L-J’, Luther was already known on the local chitlin’ circuit, but it was as a solo artist with a rabble rousing, tremendously exciting stage show that the Lord came into his “comfort zone”. Promoting his own revues on the Monterey Peninsula, Luther was an unpretentious rock’n’roll pioneer, one that many local musicians still reminisce about fondly.
Lord Luther’s vintage catalogue covers a decade’s worth of singles, that stretch from the doo wop of the Deuces to his own unique blend of R&B and rock’n’roll, on highly regarded records like ‘Teenage Creature’, ‘A Thinkin’ Man’s Girl’, ‘Just One More Chance’ and ‘Tremble’. All of these and a host of unissued vintage sides are featured on “I Am The Lord!”, covering the artists collectable recordings for the Music City, Frantic and Gedinsons labels between 1955 and 1964. It’s a crude and crazy rockin’ pot-pourri that is a must for fans of black rock’n’roll. Most importantly, this is the first time his legendary ‘W-P-L-J’ has been officially reissued, with the master tape sound quality that vocal group aficionados have hitherto only been able to dream about.
With continued interest in the Deuces, the Lord has recently returned to the stage, wowing audiences at East Coast doo wop/oldies shows, most of whom know little of the legend of Luther the entertainer, beyond ‘W-P-L-J’. Produced with the singer’s full co-operation with an extensively annotated and illustrated booklet, “I Am The Lord!” thus pays tribute to this fascinating artist, whose vintage recordings capture some of the pioneering excitement of rock’n’roll’s greatest era.
Note: Luther’s $500 Northern rarity ‘My Mistake’ will be featured on an upcoming Kent Records collection, and further sides by the 4 Deuces are slated for Ace’s Music City vocal group series.
By Alec Palao