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Mike Daily, Steel Guitar,
George Strait and
The Ace in the Hole Band

by Ken Rudine

George Strait is a talented singer. One of the reasons he has achieved his level of success he has is owed to the H. W. Daily Family. Known as "Pappy," Harold W Daily born in Yoakum, Texas in 1902 was brought to Houston as a child by his mother. H W Daily was 18 when he got a job as an accountant for Southern Pacific Rail Road. He worked there for 13 years and during that time decided to attempt to make a better living with music in Jukeboxes. On a part-time basis he had formed the South Coast Amusement Co. and when Bally offered him local distributorship of their Jukeboxes he accepted it.

Pappy Daily worked hard at distributing Jukeboxes to restaurants, cafes, bars and night clubs. He kept them outfitted with the latest popular records. Then in 1941 when World War II involved America it was more difficult with rationing and shortages but that work continued.

In 1946 after the War, Pappy opened Daily's Record Shop in the Heights on 11th Street. This served several purposes. It gave him another way to sell record inventory he had on hand for his jukeboxes that were being phased out. A radio station KNUZ hosted by Biff Collie promoted weekly remote broadcasts featuring artists currently appearing in town. The public was invited to have contact with singers at Daily's Record Shop. Pappy's sons Bud and Don were in their 20's and were working in the record business. Pappy's response to this opportunity was to open more record stores locally. Following that he opened Big State Distributing in Dallas.

In 1950, the Korean War Draft interfered with all American males that had just graduated from High School. While Don served in the armed forces Erna Ruth King and Don were married. A beautiful young lady, she was a graduate also of Reagan High School. After Don's military service Pappy's sons worked with their dad. Mike Daily, a grandson of Pappy Daily was born in Houston in 1955. In 1958 Pappy sold the Daily Record shop business to his sons Donald (Mike's father) and Bud (H W Daily, Jr.). Mike lived and breathed in a house dominated by music and records 24/7. When Mike Daily and George Strait came together in 1976 their individual life's experiences helped each other leap frog past new comer pot holes on their road to fame.

By 1958 Pappy realized he liked finding new music talent because he was good at developing new talent. He could now step away from the record shop responsibility, which he wanted his two sons to continue. Pappy Daily began functioning as a prototype A and R man by matching up Artist songs and supervising Recording sessions. Now there were basically two businesses operating under the Daily roof. In his new function Pappy needed "Show People" around him from the music business.

Those people included Gabe Tucker, a musician and among other things a front man for Elvis and later Eddy Arnold. Also his wife, Sunshine Tucker had the talent of making strangers comfortable with each other. There was Ted Daffan a song writer who wrote ""Born to Lose"" a timeless hit performed by Ray Charles and he also wrote "Blue Steel Blues" an instrumental written for the steel guitar. Steel Guitar Rag was big at that time.

Mike's influence for playing steel guitar came from the then 1970's southern California country-rock genre of his favorite bands like Poco, the Flying Burrito brothers, the Byrds, Crosby, Stills Nash and Young, Gram Parsons and Asleep at the Wheel. Other well known people then included Hank Williams, George Jones, Hank Locklin, Red Sovine, Herb Remington, Melba Montgomery, Jerry Jerico, Lefty Frizzell and many more. Any of these people could be wandering around the offices where Mike also mingled and observed these stars up close.

When the Astrodome opened in 1965 the Houston Astros began playing MLB there. Pappy Daily and his wife Gladys had several season tickets which many people shared with them. A popular question between innings was why Pappy named his company GLAD Music? It is an acronym from his wife's full name, Gladys Louise Andrews Daily.

Don asked Pappy to help getting a steel guitar for Mike because Mike wanted to learn to play. Pappy asked his friend Shot Jackson, a player he had used on recording sessions to ship Mike a SHO-BUD beginner's steel guitar. Shot and Buddy Emmons owned a company SHO-BUD named for themselves as owners/designers. They manufactured steel guitars that use pedals to shift tone and pitch. The resulting musical effect became known as the NASHVILLE SOUND. Mike began taking lessons from Tommy Christian in 1973. Tommy worked at Brook Mays store near Southwest Freeway at Chimney Rock. Mike credits him specifically with correcting his technique.

College in San Marcos gave Mike and Tommie Foote from Houston a chance to mingle with other musicians and they formed a band. A singer hired their band and called it "Stoney Ridge". He had a regular Sunday night gig at Cheatham St WHarehouse. After about a year and a half the singer lost his gig so he fired the band. Now to keep working the band needed a singer.

The band members and Mike put a notice on the University student center bulletin board. They received a call from a guy looking for a band. He had been in a country band in the Army and was back now to attend school. The band played some songs and he sang great because he was George Strait. Simultaneously, on the same bulletin board George had put up a notice "Needing a band". Their mutual needs brought them together to perform as George Strait and the Ace in the Hole Band.

Mike's dad Don Daily heard and realized George's potential. Don decided to gamble by recording a few records. During the time it took for these recording to work their magic they played the typical honky tonks and private party circuit.

The recording of George and the Ace in the Hole band by "D Records" recordings were George's first studio recordings. However they had little or no bearing on Georges major record label deal. What really helped was Don Daily introduced his friend Erv Woolsey to this singer that a band his son was in had just hired. Erv being an old record business guy had just bought and re-opened a country nightclub in San Marcos. That friendship and timing helped to get the band with George Strait a gig at Erv's club. As Erv heard and saw the young George Strait perform he subsequently helped him get a record deal with MCA. Erv is still George's manager today.

George Strait made several trips to Nashville trying to get a record deal. On his 3rd trip MCA offered a recording deal for 3 singles and if the singles went good an album would follow. There is no proof an agreement made back in the 1960's by Pappy Daily, helped George and the band Mike was in was going places. But is a fact that now in their sixth year together they did go large.

In this agreement Pappy sold his Starday Records interest, created D Records as Texas subsidiary for Mercury. When a D Record began selling in Texas Pappy Daily could lease it to Mercury for national distribution. George's first single UNWOUND went to No. 5 on BillBoard. Although the exact timeline is uncertain reading the Record Companies' History is like trying to sort out a can of worms. Whether Pappy was still working with Mercury during the time of the Ace in the Hole Band and George Strait was never mentioned. The rest is history.

At the Republic of Texas 7th Annual Chilympiad in 1976 George Strait and the Ace in the Hole Band was the main entertainment.

In 1975 Don, 44 and Bud, 47 launched Cactus Records a large retail record store near Westheimer and Shepherd a prized retail location. That began a 20-year sensationally popular record shop operation. That success required the 1978 construction of new offices and warehouse for support to be built on Brinkman St.

George Strait was named the Male Vocalist of the year in 1984. At the age of 32 George was recognized as being on the top of the heap. During the decade of the 80's, George Strait and his singing ability was gaining traction and backed by the Ace in the Hole Band he could confidently concentrate on his singing. He knew they would deliver his backup music. Observers of country music stars know how important the band is to the development and appeal of the singer. Willie Nelson owes his long career in part to Paul English drummer and Mickey Raphael harmonica members of his Family band.

Pappy Daily died at age 85, in 1987. And the next year at the age of 57 Don Daily was diagnosed as having Parkinson's disease. To help reduce the workload on Bud now 61, part of the business was sold off to ETD (East Texas Distributing).

Don and Bud retired in 2006 passing the business to their primary survivors Mike and Wes Daily. In 2010 Harold Westcott ""Bud"" Daily, Jr. died at the age of 82. In 2013 Donald Michael ""Don"" Daily died 2 months from being the age of 82.

The Ace in the Hole band is still (as always) George Strait's traveling Band. George will continue to travel on a reduced tour schedule and produce recording annually on demand. As a lifelong friend and associate of Don Daily and his family I felt it was my obligation to tell the Daily Family Story to illuminate their place in Houston and Texas history.

© Ken Rudine

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