- McDaniels' spirituality can be traced back to the relationship he had with his father, a Church of God and Christ minister who died in 1991. "My dad came from a sharecropper family," McDaniels says. "He was self-educated and put himself through high school after he became a minister. He didn't believe in poverty -- he didn't believe in the concept -- so he always found a way for us to live well. He was an amazing guy."
His father also introduced him to music, in the form of hymns and gospel. "My dad says that from the time I was two I was singing," he says. "Music is not something I chose; it chose me."
At age eleven, McDaniels formed his own R&B group, The Sultans (later the Echoes of Joy). "Being with my guys was a lot of fun, but I was at a point in my life where I had to figure out what I was going to do," he says.
As a solo artist, he scored several regional hits in the early '60s, but singing jazz became his calling. He did Sarah Vaughan impressions at a nightclub to make ends meet. ("She was my heart," he says. "I wanted to sing like her so much.") McDaniels worked with Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, the Count Basie Band and numerous other jazz players. He later would be best known for writing "Compared to What" for Eddie Harris and Les McCann and Roberta Flack's hit "Feel Like Makin' Love."
Now living in Pittery Point, Maine, in a sort of self-imposed exile, McDaniels still writes, but he's concentrating on screenplays instead of music. He would like to record again, but he can't land a deal. "The industry loves young, dumb kids," he says. "There's nothing wrong with that. I was a young, dumb kid. When I was young and dumb they exploited me and stole millions of dollars from me. That's the way the industry works." -