Last year, after the death of local country/western singer Mike O’Daniel, who lost his life in a boating accident at Lake Richland-Chambers, friends and classmates formulated a memorial scholarship fund in his memory.
The first scholarship — awarded through funds generated through concerts — was awarded in May to a graduating senior.
July 29 marks the one-year anniversary of O’Daniel’s death. He was known throughout Johnson and Ellis Counties for his musical talents as well as having been a longtime on-air personality for KBEC 1390.
For several years, long-time friend Kathy McVickers of Cleburne collected photos, recordings and other memorabilia of O’Daniel’s career in music entertainment and radio broadcasting.
“Soon after Mike passed away, I went back through some of my recordings of the band engagements we had played together,” McVickers said. “Then I began looking for recordings of Mike with other bands. As the project progressed, I decided that it might make a good fund-raiser for the scholarship.”
The end result is a set of three CDs of O’Daniel’s music with three different bands: Jesse Mears & Fiddlin’ Fever, Eddie McAlvain and the Get Out of Town Band (also known as The Mavericks) and the FM 740 Band, which includes Steve Thompson of Ennis and Waxahachie native Johnny Todd.
According to McVickers, Todd played with O’Daniel in a band called The HighLifes when they were students at Waxahachie High School, and he also provided the liner notes for volume three of the CD set.
“We also included clips of Mike speaking to the audience. Each of the three volumes has at least 18 songs, and each one has different write-ups and photos on the inside,” she said. “The CDs feature Mike as a vocalist as well his guitar instrumentals. Anyone who was a Mike O’Daniel fan will enjoy the CDs.”
Several months prior to his death, O’Daniel had talked about making a CD, McVickers said.
“He wanted all of his musician friends to record it with him. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to make his CD,” she said. “So after he died, I decided to do the CD for him. It was a way to honor him and to preserve his music and his memory.
“And just as Mike had wished, the recordings were made while he was playing with his friends,” McVickers said.
Produced by Patriot Recording of Burleson, the CDs will sell for $20 each or $50 for the set, with 100 percent of the profits going to the Mike O’Daniel Memorial Scholarship Fund.
In a phone interview, KBEC vice president and general manager Ken Roberts recalled the years he was associated with O’Daniel.
“We started working together in 1986,” Roberts said. “During his first day in the studio, I briefly helped acquaint him with some of the studio controls. Although he was about 15 years older than me, it just seemed that we hit it off from that very first day.
“I’ve talked to many people who said that although they had not personally met Mike, they just felt a sense of knowing him,” he said. “That’s because Mike was totally transparent, and it came across whether he was singing on stage or working in radio. He was very passionate about whatever venue he was working in.”
Earlier this month, McVickers and several of Mike’s classmates took the CDs to the Snyder Western Swing Festival in West Texas, where O’Daniel served as emcee for many years. The group also promoted the scholarship fund in Wichita Falls on June 15, another venue where O’Daniel’s served as emcee.
“Another promotional trip is planned in Ruidoso, N.M., in October where we will display the CDs at the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium,” McVickers said. “We also hope to bring the CDs to Waxahachie to give Mike’s hometown a chance to buy his music soon.”
According to McVickers, all of the recording artists and members of different bands with whom O’Daniel performed were supportive of the CD fund-raising project.
“Everyone that I contacted was so kind and generous. Most of the artists not only totally supported the CD project, but then turned around and bought a CD - that is they bought their own music just to show their support of Mike and the scholarship that has been established in his honor,” she said. “Without the cooperation of the musicians, this project would never have been possible. Mike would be pleased to know that his music was being used to provide scholarship money for some deserving student.”
Roberts notes that the CDs are not studio recordings but are live performances by the beloved singer.
“I’m glad because they will really be true demonstrations of his personality,” he said. “They will be such a great way to remember Mike.”