Veteran singer Billy Daniels, who opens at Charlie's on Thursday with pianist Ralph Massetti, has given command performances for Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, the duke and duchess of Kent and seven other royal families. "Winston Churchill thought I had 'a fair voice,' " Daniels, 69, says with a laugh.
Born in Jacksonville, Fla., Daniels sang in the school choir, the local glee club and at church before he arrived in New York in 1932. "My dad wanted me to be a lawyer, and I dutifully registered in Columbia University and started working nights as a singing waiter."
Soon after, Daniels dropped out of college and began singing in 52nd Street clubs such as the Onyx, the Famous Door and Mammy's Chicken Koop with a host of other now legendary jazz greats. "Every place that had music had a pot of goulash so that the musicians could eat, and that made it easier for us to hang out and play all night."
After that it was nearly a year of one-nighters across the United States with the Erskine Hawkins band, more New York years in Greenwich Village clubs and then, in Atlantic City in 1942, discovery of the song that brought him fame, "That Old Black Magic."