In his 1950s prime, Billy Daniels combined the baronial lustre of Billy Eckstine, the smooth elegance of Nat Cole and the outsized showmanship of Sammy Davis Jr. Yet while all three of those peers earned legendary status, Daniels is largely forgotten. His recorded output wasn’t voluminous, and not nearly enough of what he did produce has survived into the digital age. Which makes this twofer especially welcome.
When the Stardust hotel and casino opened in 1958, then the largest, most lavish addition to the Vegas Strip, Daniels was signed to a 40-week contract as headliner in the main lounge. A live album seemed a canny move. In fact, At the Stardust was shaped in an L.A. studio. Aside from waves of sloppily added applause, it’s a gem, Daniels fronting the Benny Payne Orchestra—with Payne proving plenty of vocal interplay—as he weaves tender ballads with such rousing crowd-pleasers as “The Birth of the Blues,” “Temptation” and “Ol’ Man River.”