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Maxine Daniels (real name Gladys Lynch) was born on November the 2nd 1930 in the area around Stepney's Victoria Docks, where pioneering settlers from Africa and the Caribbean flourished against the odds in the years around the first world war. Struggling against the general curse of unemployment and, in their case, the restricted opportunities open to non-whites, these men put down roots and established families with the help of the women - most, but not all of them, white - who supported and sustained them.
Daniels' parents belonged to this group. She was one of 13 children of a Caribbean seaman and an English mother of mixed race from Canning Town. She came from the same sturdy background that nurtured such entertainers as the dancers Charlie and Josie Woods, as well as her own youngest brother, the singer and entertainer Kenny Lynch. When the second world war broke out, the family was evacuated to Carmarthen; there Gladys sang and took part in an eisteddfod. On returning to London, they settled in Salmons Lane near Commercial Road, and Gladys started work as a pickle bottler and peanut roaster before graduating to a glass factory, sawing wood.
She got her first singing job with a semi-professional band led by a Canning Town grocer and established herself as a local talent. In the early 1950s she worked with Reg Cavell's band in Romford and became involved briefly with the then unknown actor Sean Connery, who was on tour with Anna Neagle in The Glorious Days. Soon after, she married a stoker. She remained in Stepney and was using her married name, Gladys Daniels, when in 1954 she took second place in a competition sponsored by bandleader Ted Heath. She became known in Jazz circles, and guested with the West End band of drummer Hugh Lombard, a fellow Black Londoner, but her first professional break came when she joined the Denny Boyce dance band and changed her first name. After two years she went solo and sang at most of the capital's leading theatres, including the Palladium. She worked in cabaret at London nightclubs, including Churchill's, and recorded a series of popular singles, Coffee Bar Calypso and Why Should I Care? among them, but in 1958 she retired from music and moved to Southend-on-sea, Essex. When she returned to the fray eight years later, it was to emphasise her Jazz credentials. Blessed with what Jazz musicians term 'an infallible ear', she moved into a newly appreciative world, when she sang at the Pizza Express Jazz room in Dean Street and with Humphrey Lyttelton's band. When she joined the "Best of British Jazz" touring package, she was backed by the impeccable musicianship of trumpeter Kenny Baker and trombonist Don Lusher.
In the 1970's she returned to singing as one of the resident singers at the Black Rose Restaurant during the weekend, now called The Harry, in London Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex accompanied by local pianist,Stan Hernshaw, and bass player, Jack Ray. The venue was also host to a regular Monday night meeting of the Musicians Union, where local musicians would meet and perform. Maxine would on occasions attend socially and naturally would be asked to sing.
The performing bug soon returned and she began appearing at local venues with bands such as the 'Jazz Cats' run by bass player, Bill Barden, from Stanford-Leigh-Hope, Essex where Maxine now lived. During this time a local promoter staged some shows featuring Maxine with 'The Best of British Jazz Band', which put the word out that she was back. This resulted in her being contacted by a past colleague, Humphery Lyttelton, and she soon appeared with his band and recorded on his record label 'Calligraph'
The mid 1980's was a busy time for Maxine in Essex she regularly appeared with Essex based drummer, Graeme Culham, and his big band. She recorded That's All on 'Calligraph' featuring trombonist, Roy Williams, with Graeme's trIo which featured Essex musicians, Ted Beament and Frank Donnison. After the tragic loss of her promoter, apart from drumming with her Graeme took on the role of part MD come road manager when required (see picture). Maxine was also a regular guest with Pete Corrigan's Band of Hope at the Queens Theatre, Hornchurch, Essex and with drummer, John Petters, from Harlow, Essex who promotes Jazz weekenders and shows.
In 1993 Maxine was featured in an ITV documentary called 'A13 – The Road To Somewhere'. It was about the lives of three musicians living along the A13 in Essex – Maxine, Latin Jazz percussionist, Snowboy and Billy Bragg. Ill health resulted in a kidney transplant and Maxine began to take it easy with occasional appearances until her death in 2003. Apart from family the funeral was attended by Humphery Lyttelton, Graeme Culham, John Petters, Pete Corrigan, Ted Beament, Tommy Whittle, Barbara Jay who all performed throughout the service. Many more musicians and friends from her years in music were also in attendance.
Close friend and drummer, Graeme Culham - “Being on the road and performing with Maxine gave me the opportunity to get to know her as a person and a friend. Gladys was a very straight forward thinking person, she said it as it was. For example she was often approached by people who said to her “You are Kenny Lynch's Sister”, to which she would reply “No Kenny Lynch is my Brother”. Gladys was proud of her Brothers success but would not suffer fools gladly.
Gladys did not class herself as a Jazz Singer and was uncomfortable with this title, she preferred to be known as a singer of songs. I explained to her on one of our long journeys down the motorway “You have the image and a class of voice that enables you to blend with many genres”. That was her talent. She was a very kind and caring person, a good friend who will be missed not just in Essex”.