An Early Los Angeles Radio Personality
by: Karen Blessing Little
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO DADDY-O-DAN?
It’s October 5, 2003 and I’m standing in front of the door of a villa just outside of Tecate, Baja California, waiting for it to open so I will be face to face with an old friend whose face I have never seen, but whose voice I still remember so well. For the last hour on the drive from San Diego, I’ve been thinking of how I managed to get to this point after all these years . . .
Way back in the 50's I had a favorite deejay, who went by the name of Daddy-O-Dan. I never knew his real name or anything about him. In those days, I didn’t wonder, I just listened to his show – faithfully, every night. It was a one-hundred-per-cent request program, with kids writing to him asking for advice about their boyfriends and girlfriends. He played the records his listeners asked for, many of which were not on the charts, at least not the pop charts. These were the more obscure songs, many R&B and doo-wop. I would go out hunting for them, usually having to order them from my favorite local record shop, Evelyn’s Records, on Pico Boulevard near Bundy. Each night I looked forward to the moment I could hop into bed, turn out the light and turn on Dan’s show, trying to stay awake as long as I could. I thought Dan would always be around, but one day he was gone and I never knew what happened to him. But, boy, did I miss him . . . and no one ever replaced him in my heart. His show was so personal and I was strongly attached to that voice and music he played. But, time went on and as I grew up, the music wasn’t so important any more. With the English invasion, it had lost its appeal for me, and besides, I was busy getting married and having babies. That period of my life is pretty much a blur. Over the next twenty years, once in awhile I would think about Dan. Something would stir up a memory and I would want to know what ever became of him. But there was no easy way to go about finding someone back then, especially not even having a last name to go on.
Then, in the 90s, I became involved once more with 50s music and started collecting 45s. Over the next few years I met other collectors, went to oldies shows and once again fell in love with the music of my youth. In the late 90s I joined the Doo-Wop Society of Southern California and began going to the shows in Long Beach. Dedicated to presenting original singers, I met people like Arthur Lee Maye and saw groups including the Marcels, Dubs and Chantels, and saw many little-known LA groups which still sounded wonderful, like the Calvanes and Storytellers. I also met a few writers and historians at Doo-Wop Society functions, such as Steve Propes, Billy Vera and Jim Dawson, and always asked if they knew of Dan. They had heard the name but had no information or any idea of whatever became of him.
One day I received an email from Steve Propes, an expert and author of books on 50s groups in LA. He remembered my search and forwarded me an email that he had received from a man also looking for Daddy-O-Dan, by the name of Wayne Volat. I sent Wayne a letter telling him of my similar quest and he then called me. We had a long conversation and he was able to provide some information that we needed to find Dan – now I had a complete name, Daniel Reveles. And, Wayne had a record that Dan had written – “6 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days and an Hour.” I did Internet searches for that name and came up with only one – an author living in Mexico. Since that was the only information I could come up with, I wrote the publisher but never received an answer. So Wayne and I would talk about him, but couldn’t seem to get anywhere. Wayne had a book written by Don Barrett on LA Radio personalities and Dan was missing from the 50s group, which was what sparked Wayne’s search – anger that he wasn’t included in this history. We were both in contact with Don and he seemed somewhat frustrated about having no information on this man. But he said he would include him if we could ever find out anything about him.
Concurrently, in 2000 when we were planning our 40th high school reunion (University High School), Dan’s name would pop up on our class website from time to time as people would write in their memories of people and places. But, as it turned out, I had more information than anyone else did, though a few people had some clear memories of his show. I must have talked about this so much that my husband Bruce finally said that he was going to find him. In searching the Internet, he came up with the same person as I had a few years before, only this time a clue popped up that was to finally lead us to him. Dan had given a commencement address at a college in San Diego a couple of years earlier, so Bruce emailed the college asking for the name of anyone who might have information on him. One of the professors saw his message and forwarded it to a man who turned out to be a close friend of Dan. I’ll never forget the night he called our office. I had gone home and Bruce, as usual, stayed late. He called me and said, “We’ve found Dan.” I stood there, unable to believe what I was hearing and he told me that he had recorded the conversation so I could listen to it the next day. I called this man back and he told me that Dan led a reclusive life on a villa in Tecate, Mexico. He had no mail delivery, no phone, no television and no computer. But he would come up to San Diego from time to time and pick up mail from a post office box. He was happy to provide an address for Dan and so I wrote him a letter, not really expecting to hear back. About two weeks later, I couldn’t believe it when I found a letter from him. It was a wonderfully warm and happy letter, full of surprise that anyone remembered him from a lifetime ago. And here he was inviting us to come for a visit! Not wanting to waste any time, I immediately replied and asked when we could come. He wrote back and we set a date for October 5, two weeks away. I called Wayne and, of course, he and his wife wanted to go with us.
The week before we went, I was surprised at work by a phone call from Dan. I was a little skeptical because Wayne had tried to trick me the first time he called by pretending to be Dan. I wasn’t falling for that again! But this time it was really him. He had made the trip to San Diego to call me and confirm everything. And that voice! Still the same, still beautiful. I just couldn’t wait . . .
Friday night, the four of us stayed in the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego and met some of my old high school friends for dinner. They were excited for us and sent us on our way with great cheer and many margaritas. Saturday morning came and we had a beautiful drive south from San Diego through the hills to Tecate, California, and then over the border into Baja. When I saw the town square in Tecate, it felt like déjà vu. I had read the first of Dan’s books, Enchiladas, Rice, and Beans, a book of short stories about life in Tecate. His descriptions of the town were so vivid that I already had a picture in my mind of what everything looked like. And then we were out of town and on the highway to Ensenada. After a few miles, we found the entrance to Dan’s villa and made a turn onto a winding dirt road. It is an isolated area, in the hills, and very beautiful. We parked at the side of a lovely house and now here we are at the door. My heart is pounding, not knowing what to expect.
After so many years of wondering and searching, the door opened and there he was, a wiry man with beautiful white hair and beard. And that smile . . . welcoming us into his home. We went to the courtyard and he offered us chairs and then delicious salsa, chips and limes and the best tequila shooters I had ever tasted. This was definitely my kind of man! We talked and got to know each other for awhile, then Dan suggested we go into town for lunch and a tour. He took us to a great little taco bar and then we walked around Tecate, while he told us funny and fascinating stories of this place and that place. They reminded me of his book and he tells me the stories are based on real places and characters. We visited the Super Mercado where I purchased a couple of bottles of that great tequila, then returned to his villa. Over coffee and pastries made by the local nuns, we talked about his life so I could bring back facts to be included in Don’s book and any other pieces about early LA radio. I asked him about his third book that he’s been writing for some time, and he wonders if he will finish it. “Perhaps it will be published posthumously,” he says, jokingly. I love the name – Tequila, Lemon, and Salt. I told him that he must finish it, as if that would make an impression, coming from this woman who has barged into his peaceful life.
Dan apologized for his coffee and reminisced about a favorite pot he once had – a white, Corning Ware pot with a blue flower on it. I looked him in the eye and said that I had just such a pot, inherited recently from my mom, who had passed away. Unfortunately, it was presently buried somewhere in a storage area, but I was determined to find it once we returned. It took a few months to find and I had begun to think it may have been sold in the garage sale, but it was finally unearthed and shipped off to Dan last week. I just hope that pot makes coffee as good as Dan remembers! I should be hearing from him soon.
But back to the villa. The five of us talked for hours, us asking him questions for the biography we would write and Dan regaling us with great stories of his life. He’s an extremely intelligent and fascinating person, with many talents, and gave us lots of material to bring back. We took a number of photos, so I’ll have these to always remember him by. Now it’s getting dark and I know it’s time to leave. Dan must be exhausted emotionally, being used to a solitary life and having entertained us most of the day. Physically, he’s in wonderful shape and seems much younger than his age. I don’t want to leave. He gives me a warm, wonderful hug and makes me promise to come back. How could I not?
After returning and working with Wayne and his wife Janet to complete his biography, we submitted it to Don Barrett, who put it in the next issue of LARadio.com. Since then, I’ve heard from a number of people who, like I had, wondered what ever happened to Daddy-O-Dan? Now we know.
This article was written about Daddy-O-Dan and his visit from Karen ...
January 30, 2004) From time to time, a radio fan will ask about a Los Angeles Radio People who somehow slipped through the cracks. When I was asked about “Daddy-O-Dan,” I drew a blank. Karen Little was insistent that she listened to him. I told her I was sorry that I didn’t know him but that I would mention his name in a column at LARadio.com asking for anyone who might remember him. No one responded.
Well, I thought that was the end of it, but Karen was obsessed. Last fall she tracked him down. She and
Wayne Volattraveled to and visited with Daniel Reveles, AKA “Daddy-O-Dan” This is his story as related by Karen and Wayne: Tecate, Mexico
Personal and background information
Daniel Reveles was born in
Los Angeles and grew up in the West Adams District of Los Angeles. His father was born in Zacatecas and his mother in . His father was an artist and worked as an art director at MGM and other studios. Mexico City
Dan always liked to write. When he was in junior high school, he earned extra money by writing love letters for other students for $1 each. He did not complete high school, but obtained his education by going to libraries and museums.
When Dan was approximately age 10, he wanted to attend the after-school Japanese school. The headmaster at the school told him that before he could attend classes, he would have to memorize the Japanese alphabet, which he did so in two days. From ages 10-16, Dan attended the Japanese school.
At age 16, the army wanted him to join the service because he knew Japanese. However, at 16, he was too young.
As a young person growing up in the West Adams District, Dan was influenced by his father’s love for the blues. Dan’s father was addicted to the great symphonies and encouraged him to listen to Mahler and Bruckner among others, but Dan quickly discovered that the old man had a secret love for the blues. Dan walked several miles to do business with Negro merchants and it was there that the blues entered his soul. He also listened to gospel music and started a collection of blues recordings on extinct labels, such as Okeh. He also heard Father Divine preach. Dan stated that blues is “the most genuine music in the world – it comes from the heart.”
As a young man, he worked at the LA Shipbuilding Dry-Dock Company in San Pedro. One day he stowed away on a Russian freighter and got as far as
, where he was put off the ship. Terminal Island
Age 18, he began working at Paramount Pictures as a “script girl.” During that time period, he worked with Bob Hope on The Road to Utopia. He continued working at
until he was drafted. After being drafted, Dan was assigned to the Pentagon because of his expertise in speaking Japanese. When Dan was in the army, he earned extra money by writing love letters for other soldiers, just as he did for fellow students in junior high school. Paramount
In 1952, Dan married Harriett Holmberg from
. Lake Mahopac, New York
Dan got involved with radio by calling KGFJ. He spoke
with station owner Thelma Kirschner, at KGFJ, who
told him that she needed someone for a Spanish-language show. In 1954, Dan started his morning Spanish-language music show. In the morning, he played ranchero music. He also had a late afternoon show. During that show, he played cutting edge music by artists such as Tito Puente,
Celia Cruz, Bobby Copo, and Rene Touzet.
Eventually, Thelma called him because Hunter Hancock was leaving to go to KPOP, formerly KFVD. After Hunter left, Dan took over the 9-11 slot. At the time he was getting started in radio, the term “Daddy-O” was used by many musicians in conversation. Charles Tramell, who had a gospel show, would call to him in the hallway, “Hey, Daddy-O,” so he came up with the handle “Daddy-O-Dan.” People would write letters to Dan, telling him of their problems in their love lives and requesting that he make dedications. At one point, he was receiving 200 letters a day, and he sent a picture to each person who requested a dedication. The music on his show was one hundred percent requests and dedications.
Because of a growing dislike for public life, he began broadcasting from his home, where the station built a studio for him. By the early 1960s, Dan was still broadcasting, but only from his home in
Dan also wrote a song called Six Months, Three Weeks, Two Days and One Hour. The song was based on the many letters that he received from his fans, who often stated how long they had been in a particular relationship. The Rivingtons, under the name of the Sharps, recorded the song. Originally, the record was released on Tag Records, which was Dan’s company. When the record started doing well, Dan leased it to Chess Records.
Dan also did commercials for both radio and television. One commercial was for Rheingold Beer. These commercials were seen on L.A. Channel 2, during the show, Rheingold’s Fandango. He also did an interesting commercial, using the unusual sound of a theremin, for a “feminine hygiene” product. When Dan did the commercials on tv, he had trouble reading the small print. Therefore, someone would hold large plywood panels with the words for the commercial written on it to help Dan see the words. Dan stated that he thought he was doing the commercials from approximately 1958-1959.
In the 1960s, Dan began writing and producing documentaries about other countries; however, he was never on camera himself. The on-air hosts of the documentaries included such well-known actors as Ricardo Montalban, Jose Ferrer, and Vincent Price. Among the destinations visited were
, Guatemala Africa, , and the India Middle East. The productions were part of the “Caravan To … “ series and were sponsored by Airstream Trailers. The programs were nationally syndicated and ran for approximately ten years.
Dan produced a large number of equine and bovine films for the training of young veterinarians. These were produced at a variety of universities throughout the country. At the
he met Dr. James Coffman, Professor of Veterinary Medicine, who assisted with all the films. They remain in close touch today. Universityof Missouri
In 1976, Dan wanted out of the entertainment industry and moved to the little pueblo of Tecate, B.C.,
, to devote all his time to writing. Mexico
Dan and his wife also considered moving to
; however, they finally decided on Greece . They were well known in the town, where they provided a horse-drawn carriage for many weddings and festivities, and also hosted celebrities such as Steve and Jane Allen. Dan speaks several languages, including, Spanish, English, Japanese, Greek, and Italian. Tecate, Mexico
After moving to Tecate, Harriett became known as “Nicol.” In 1989, Harriett passed away. Today, Dan lives in seclusion on the outskirts of Tecate. He is the author of Enchiladas, Rice, and Beans published in 1994 by the Ballantine Division of Random House. It is read at
State University and other schools. He was invited to give the commencement address at Grossmont College, Michigan in 1997. Salsa and Chips was published in 1997, and a story from this book was serialized by KPBS. Dan is currently at work on another volume of short stories, Tequila, Lemon, and Salt. Grossmont College
Dan loves living in Tecate, which he says “opens its arms to people.” (Photos of Dan with Karen Little and