In the prime years of the 60’s when AM radio ruled, New York City had three stations blasting rock into teen ears. There was WINS, WABC, and way down on the dial, WMCA. WMCA had the least powerful signal, and no superstar DJ. The best known, who died a few days ago, was probably Dan Daniels (December 18, 1934 – June 21, 2016).
Born Vergil Daniel in Texas, “Dandy Dan” worked his way up from a year or so at Houston’s KXYZ to four years at WDGY in Minneapolis, and then in 1961, the big time, WMCA, ending up with the prestigious afternoon “drive time” gig, 4 to 7pm. Some time during his NYC run, “Dan Daniel” turned plural, and became “Dan Daniels.”
The humble Texan said at the time, “A lot of guys west of the Hudson River are good enough to be here in New York. Just the same, many guys have bombed out in major markets, mostly because they thought too highly of themselves. You have to be constantly good, with the insecurity on your back, otherwise you’d get lazy. If deejays had security, as a class, radio would be so dull it would go out of existence. As it is, you have to make your own security by being good…insecurity forces a deejay to diversify, to…become more than a deejay.”
His best known rivals were gravel-voiced hipster Murray The K at WINS, and hyper “Cousin Brucie” at WABC. The Dandy One chose a more natural identity: “A deejay can be excited, use sound effects, voices, whatever. But when you talk to people, you’ve got to relate to them. When you give the time or the weather, anybody can do that, so you do it in your own style…”
Like a number of disc jockeys, Daniels harbored a bit of a dream about becoming another “Big Bopper,” and having a hit record. A problem with that was the suspicions regarding Payola. Another: it’s just very difficult to have a hit record, even if you have personality and even a pretty decent singing voice. In 1968 he discovered an unrecorded oddity from Leiber & Stoller called “Is That All There Is?”
“Dandy Dan” opted to style himself after Sinatra; ring-a-ding with a tongue-in-cheek dash of AM disc jockey cool. The result? Almost a parody of what would become known as a depressing cabaret piece. Obviously a male is not going to be that broken up over not enjoying the circus, or having some twat walk out on him; “Dandy Don” treats these traumas with amused cynicism. And the ultimate fate in life? Death? He may not have snickered quite as horribly as the “Big Bopper,” but he gave it some hearty ha-ha’s!
No wonder Lieber and Stoller didn't want Dan's version to hit the air. Instead, with an arrangement by Randy Newman, and the sophisticated deadpan of Peggy Lee, the song became a sensation.
Two years later, the 70's arrived and AM radio was on the decline. It was longer the time of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, “Monster Mash” or “Purple People Eater” novelties…or “Dandy Dan” and the WMCA “Good Guys.” He moved on to other things.Further up the dial, WINS, where Murray the K had ruled as “The Fifth Beatle,” switched to all-news. FM stereo created a demand for a “serious” style of rock disc jockey, someone who spoke softly and intimately, and played entire sides of albums.
And now there’s Spotify and Pandora and everybody’s their own disc jockey. Almost all the great disc jockeys are either retired or dead. IS THAT ALL THERE IS? It’s your download below.
DAN DANIELS - IS THAT ALL THERE IS??