Grand Ole Opry star Mel McDaniel died Thursday (March 31) at his home in Hendersonville, Tenn., following a battle with cancer. He was 68.
Born Sept. 6, 1942, in Checotah, Okla., McDaniel began performing professionally when he was in his early teens. Subsequently, he would work the club circuit in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas. He made his first foray into Nashville in the late 1960s. When nothing came of that effort, he moved to Alaska, where he performed in clubs there for two years.
In 1973, he returned to Nashville and secured a job writing songs and recording demos for Combine Music Publishing. Impressed by McDaniel’s sound, the Grand Ole Opry’s Wilburn Brothers helped him land a recording contract with Capitol Records in 1976. That same year, he charted with the single “Have a Dream on Me.” Over the next four years, he charted a dozen more times, never reaching higher than No. 11.
Then, in 1980, he scored a No. 7 with the song that would become his signature tune, “Louisiana Saturday Night.” After that came the Top 10 hits, “Right in the Palm of Your Hand,” “Take Me to the Country,” “Big Ole Brew” and “I Call It Love.” Finally, in 1985, he went No. 1 with “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On,” a song written by Bob McDill. The next year, he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, where he continued to perform periodically after his recording activity began to flag in the late ’80s.
McDaniel’s other Top 10 hits were “Let It Roll (Let It Rock)” and “Stand Up” (both 1985) and “Real Good Feel Good Song” (1988).
His last Opry appearance took place with the show’s full cast on Sept. 28 when the Grand Ole Opry House reopened after sustaining flood damage in May.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.