Born Daniel M. Wolfe, 18 November 1928, Stephenville, Texas
Danny Wolfe was a singer, pianist and musical entrepreneur, but by far his most important legacy is as a songwriter. During the second half of the 50's he wrote some really good rock 'n' roll songs. Wolfe came from a wealthy background. His family ran the Wolfe Nurseries in Stephenville, Texas, said to be the largest seed business in the South. After performing his daytime duties in the family business, Danny would often devote his leisure hours to music. Beginning in early 1955 until late 1957, Wolfe, who couldn't read or write music and could only play "three finger chords" on the piano, would spend two, sometimes three evenings a week with his newfound friend Bobby Fair (a prolific music reader/writer and pianist) at the spinet piano in the small living room in Danny's home. In this way Bobby could assist Danny in developing song ideas into actual songs. Bobby Fair actually wrote the music to be submitted for copyright, but he never received any credit.
By 1957 Wolfe had incorporated his own publishing company, Golden West Melodies, Inc. He had ambitions to perform in public as well, but he was overweight and lacked the rockabilly image. Gene Vincent recorded three of Danny's songs early in his career : "Gonna Back Up Baby", "Double Talkin' Baby" and "Pretty, Pretty Baby". During the summer of 1957, Wolfe met 17-year old rockabilly Huelyn Duvall, also from Stephenville, and Danny tried to make a star out of him. He persuaded Joe Johnson at the fledgling Challenge label to sign Duvall. This resulted in a first recording session on September 27, 1957, in Nashville, with accompaniment by such top session men as Grady Martin, Floyd Cramer and Buddy Harman. Duvall recorded three Danny Wolfe compositions, "Pucker Paint", "Comin' Or Goin'" (the A-side of his first single), "Teen Queen" (co-written with Johnny Duncan), as well as the Dave Burgess composition "Boom Boom Baby". Wolfe wrote many other songs for Huelyn, including the fantastic "Three Months To Kill". Curiously, it was the other side of this great rocker, "Little Boy Blue" (not written by Wolfe), that became Duvall's only chart entry (# 88), one year after it was released in June 1958. Further, Huelyn made many demos of Danny's compositions, which were sent to various record companies. Examples of these demos are "Life Begins At Four O'Clock" (recorded by Bobby Milano), "Modern Romance" (recorded by Sanford Clark), and "Susie's House" (recorded by John D. Loudermilk). Wolfe continued to manage and accompany Duvall for several years.
Meanwhile, Wolfe had been signed as a vocalist by Dot Records. His first single for the label, "Once With You"/ "Pretty Blue Jean Baby" was undistinguished, but the next single, "Let's Flat Git It" (Dot 15667), was a decent rocker, which got a favourable review in Billboard. Danny then decided to record his own song "Pucker Paint" (Dot 15715, March 1958), which had already been recorded (but not yet released) by Huelyn Duvall. Wolfe had no further releases after these three singles, through three unissued tracks have since appeared on three different compilations. In 1958, Wolfe built his own recording studio. Wolfe's biggest success as a songwriter - in commercial terms anyway - was not a rock 'n' roll song, but a ballad for a fellow Dot artist. "Sugar Moon" by Pat Boone went to # 5 on the Billboard charts in mid-1958. Danny Wolfe was also instrumental in the career of Tooter Boatman, another Texas rocker, who died tragically in a road accident in 1964. The Collector CD "Rockin' Tooter Boatman" contains 25 tracks, eleven of which were written by Wolfe, including Tooter's best known number, "The Will Of Love". After splitting up with Bobby Fair in late 1957, Wolfe never wrote another song again. All his songs were Wolfe-Fair collaborations, a fact which Wolfe always managed to keep hidden.
Danny Wolfe died of cancer in August 1996, at the age of 67. Wolfe's two best rockers, "Let's Flat Git It" and "Pucker Paint" are available on both "Dot Rock "n' Roll" (Ace 592) and "That'll Flat Git It, Vol. 5 : Dot Records" (Bear Family BCD 15711). Most of the information collected here comes from the liner notes for these two compilations (by Rob Finnis and Bill Millar respectively), complemented by Johnny Vallis's article on Huelyn Duvall for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame website.
Further reading : Dave Penny, Let's flat git it! The Danny Wolfe story. In : Now Dig This, issue 355 (October 2012), page 4-6.
CD : Danny Wolfe & Friends (El Toro, 2012). 33 tracks. -> CLICK
Acknowledgements : Bill Millar, Dave Penny, Bobby Fair.
Dik, Revised March 2013
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