The year was 1931, during the Great Depression, when H.W. “Pappy” Daily who was, at the time, working for the railroad, began a side-business distributing jukeboxes. The storied perception was that entertainment, especially music, thrived in the down times. Pappy, seeking security during this time in America, hoped this perception would prove to be true. Pappy continued working full-time at the railroad, while working part-time in his jukebox distributorship until it grew more successful. In 1933, he left the railroad and opened his store in Houston at 1419 Travis, named South Coast Amusement Company.
Pappy had found his security by writing the Bally Manufacturing Company in Chicago, asking them why Houston had no distributor for coin-operated phonographs. Bally wrote back and said “you do it”. Thus he changed the course of his life, which would lead him through a music career from Houston to Nashville and back again.
Pappy’s jukebox business was booming when WWII arrived and shellac (what vinyl records were made of) rationing began. So Daily gathered as many records as he could. The government said that a dealer had to turn in 2 records to get one. Soon a ban on jukebox manufacturing came along. “That killed the sale of coin operated machines”, said Pappy.
But Pappy managed to stay in business a bit longer. He found a small Los Angeles record manufacturer that would sell records to him. “I bought from them for my machines and for other machines and for other machine dealers” Pappy said. But he was looking around again for a more secure line of work.
He soon found what he was looking for. In 1946 he opened his first record store, Daily’s Record Ranch, a business that had little competition in Houston. Records cost 23 and 45 cents wholesale, depending on the artist, retail for 35 and 75 cents. Bing Crosby retailed for 45 cents and Tommy Dorsey and Kay Kaiser records for 75 cents. Pappy claimed to have brought the first Capitol record in to Texas in 1942.
Gradually more record stores sprung up in Houston and, in 1951, Pappy went into wholesale records. In 1952, Pappy and Jack Starnes founded the Starday Records label and Pappy began building a reputation as an A&R man by matching up artist and songs and supervising recording sessions.
He acquired the name “Pappy” when he started music publishing and recording in the late 40’s. “New singers and writers would come to me, introduce themselves and call me Pappy. I didn’t know why until I learned that my clients referred to me as Pappy when they talked about me, and when they sent newcomers to me the newcomers just thought that was my name.”
The list of notable stars to sign with Starday includes George Jones, Roger Miller, Benny Barnes, and Frankie Miller. Pappy also helped launch the careers of J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Johnny Preston and others.
Pappy “discovered” Roger Miller while staying at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville. “Miller was a bellhop at the hotel and George Jones brought him to my room and had him sing for me,” Pappy recalls. As a result of the audition, Miller soon came to Houston to record for Pappy. “Everyone thought those records were recorded in Nashville, but plenty were done here.”
Pappy always said no one can tell a flop from a hit until the record is out. “There are no experts in this business, just a lot of people who think they are. I was never an expert – other people’s opinions are valuable to me.”
Daily says his only talent was his ears; his ability to listen and see if he thought a record would be a winner. He garnered 37 plaques and trophies on his wall that attest to his success. The winners are old, but still memorable: “She Thinks I Still Care”, “Walk Through This World With Me”, “My Father’s Voice”.
The only hit record he missed was “Rag Mop”. “I was in Beaumont to see a show when a writer came to me and asked me to go listen to a band play that song. My son and Jerry Jericho were with me, and we went to hear the group play.” Pappy listened to “Rag Mop” and said, “that’s not country and I don’t see anything to it. It turned out to be a hit and I sure had passed it up.”
Other apparent flops made good too. “Willie Nelson recorded on my D label in the 1960’s, but he wasn’t a hit. Neither was Roger Miller on my Starday label. Both changed from Country & Western and went on to be stars,” Pappy said. Not everyone is as lucky as Nelson and Miller. “Some people will go 10 or 20 years to make it. It reminds me of someone taking dope. They are addicted and they can’t quit the music business. They’ll go on although they’ll never make it.”
By 1958, Daily had sold his interests in Starday and began producing and managing his own Houston based label, D Records. He hoped this line would serve as a regional subsidiary for Mercury Records, with which he had established a working relationship as George Jones’ producer. The two companies reached an agreement by which, if a D Records recording began selling well in Texas, Daily would lease the record to Mercury for national distribution. During the next twenty years D Records released hundreds of songs, including a few early recordings by Willie Nelson and George Strait. J.P. Richardson “The Big Bopper’s” 1958 recording of “Chantilly Lace” became Daily’s biggest seller. Although the label typically recorded Texas honky-tonk music, it also covered Western Swing, Rockabilly, Tex Mex, Cajun, and Polka music. Pappy recorded his last session in February 1971 in Nashville with four George Jones songs, none of which became hits.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s he remained active by focusing on his publishing company, Glad Music Company, founded in 1958. Glad is still an active company in the 2000s, with rights to such classics as “White Lightnin'”, “She Thinks I Still Care,” “Chantilly Lace,” “Night Life” and “The Party’s Over.”
Several members of the family carried on his musical legacy. In 1958, Pappy sold his record distribution company, H. W. Daily, Inc., to his sons, Bud and Don, who opened the legendary Cactus Music and Video in Houston in 1975 and operated the store until their retirement in 2006.
Pappy Daily died in Houston on December 5, 1987. After his death Bud and Don took over the D Records catalog along with Glad Music Publishing