Clarinetist Ray Daniel

When I moved to Chicago in the fall of 1958 the city was alive with traditional jazz. Art Hodes was at Helsings when he wasn't on the road; Danny Alvin (with Floyd O'Brien, tb) had his own club (Basin Street) on North Western just south of Evanston, Franz Jackson featured Bob Schoffner (tpt) and Albert Wynn (tb) with his all stars at the Red Arrow in Stickney; Bob Scobey's band with Clancy Hayes was working the territory but eventually moved to Chicago for his last years.

But the most accessible club for a car-less newcomer to Chicago was nestled under the Bryn Mawr L station, the 11-11 Club where George Brunis was very much in charge. Nap Trottier, tp; Ray Daniel, clt; Andy Johnson, p; Joe Johnson, b; and then a real character, Hey Hey Humphrey on drums completed the package. (I recently learned that Hey Hey slept on the pool tables at the Green Mill.) Brunis had learned a lot about showmanship during his dozen years with Ted Lewis and his naturally effervescent (I never saw him when he efferwascent) personality combined with the musicianship of the entire group had kept the 1111 Club crowded even on weeknights for years.

The clarinetist had recently come to the band from Danny Alvin's (with whom he had recorded an album for Stephany, later reissued by Jazzology).

Ray Daniel was born in Omaha, NE on June 27, 1930, moved to the Logan Square area of Chicago at age 5 and later took music lessons at Schurz High School.

The October 17th,'55 Down Beat notes him in Jimmy Ille's band at the Whip, 4361 Elston in company with Marty Nichols., tb; Sy Nelson, b; Buddy Smith, dms., a gig apparantly taken over by Nicholas the following year, with Ille replaced by Bobby Ballard. Eddie Paul and Johnny Martinelli filled out the new unit.

By January 27,'57 Ray was in a unit led by St .Louis trombonist Sid Dawson with Mel Grant, piano. Later in the year a similar Dawson band included guitarist Marty Grosz at The Tropics.

The following year was the stay with Alvin and there's a photo of Ray at Basin Steet with Wild Bill Davison sitting in. The Brunis job followed the next year and lasted until the 11-11 closed, c.1960-61, then an apparently short-lived job with Brunis at Dixieland Lane in Skokie.

The Cafe Continental was in a large basement at Walton and Oak and featured two rooms with Manny Garcia's Latin band (Paul Serrano, tp; Bunky Green, alto) in one room and a trad band in the other. When Scobey went on tour, Art Hodes took the gig over with Bobby Ballard, tp; Doug Finke, tb; Ray, cl; Earl Murphy, b; Buddy Smith, dms; Barbara Dane and/or Clancy Hayes sang. Ballard was an exceptionally melodious Berrigan-like trumpeter whose only recording was in an Art Hodes band accompanying Clancy Hayes on the Audio Fidelity label. Ray is probably also on the album.

In early 1962, Ray worked at the Velvet Swing, a pseudo-speakeasy on East Oak Street with a small bar in front as well as a peephole'd door where you had to say "Joe sent me" to gain admittance to the main room, where an excellent band was led by Nap Trottier's trumpet. Andy Johnson was the pianist and I think Burt Johnson (no relation) played trombone. There was, of course, a banjo to instill the 20's atmosphere and the waitresses were appropriately attired.

Aside from a job at the Big Horn in the 70's recalled by Wayne Jones in a Smokey Stover band, Ray Daniel dropped our of sight. You'd be in a conversation with fans or musicians and the question "Where's Ray playing?" would come up - but no answer.

As you may know, I'll travel reasonable distances to look at good-sized record collections for JRM purchase. One day a call came from Marie Daniel and the mystery was solved.

Ray apparently never much cared for inner-city Chicago (and mob ownership of some of the clubs couldn't have been much fun.) so he worked a series of trio lounge jobs in the suburbs. He met Marie Fountaine who was the grand-daughter of a lady from whom he rented an apartment. They married June 19, 1967 and moved to Wonder Lake, near Lake Geneva. He left the undependable world of jazz for steady work at the phone company, playing occasional local jobs (tho there was a hotel job in Canada, perhaps on a vacation.)

Record collections can tell you about a person. Ray's bespoke a broad interest in all kinds of music. Well, he played with Alvin, Brunis, Hodes, Davison, O'Brien, Clancy Hayes -- lots of memories.

Ray had died October 21, 1997 of complications due to emphysema.

Return to Obituaries & Remembrances