September 16, 2014

Leroy Daniels

   Wilbert LeRoy Daniel, professionally known as Leroy Daniels, was born on November 28, 1928, in Oklahoma. Popular, funny and usually the center of attention, Leroy had a natural charisma that drew people to him, so he decided his fortunes lied in the entertainment industry. After serving in the Air Force during World War II, Leroy moved to California. While working at the Los Angeles train station, a songwriter named Harry Stone noticed the rhythmic technique Leroy used to shine shoes. His unique slapping beat inspired Stone to write Chattanoogie Shoe-Shine Boy, a song that soon became a bonafide hit for country musician Red Foley.

   A natural comedian, Leroy started performing on the Chitlin Circuit in the 1940s and 50s through the eastern, southern, and upper mid-west areas of the United States. After some success, he tried to get the attention of Hollywood, but only received small, usually uncredited parts, the most notable being his performance as a shoeshine boy who dances with Fred Astaire in The Bandwagon (1953).

   Somewhat disappointed in his lack of success in Hollywood, Leroy returned to the Chitlin Circuit in the 1960s. Shortly thereafter, he met Ernest "Skillet" Mayhand, and the two started a successful run as the comedy duo "Leroy and Skillet". Leroy and Skillet were signed by LaFF Records and made several very popular, very risque albums, mostly comprised of recorded-live performances of their stage routines. They appeared together in the comedy Handle with Care (1964) and other low budget films until the 1970s, when they were asked to be guests on the television series Sanford and Son. The two blended in so well with the cast - Redd Foxx, Slappy White, and LaWanda Page were all longtime friends of Skillet and Leroy - that they became semi-regulars on the show. Leroy's newfound exposure earned him a few more acting roles in Petey Wheatstraw (1977), Disco Godfather (1979) and a few other minor blaxploitation flicks.

   Feeling his age and having saved his money, Leroy decided to retire from show business after his final film role in the revenge B-movie Avenging Angel (1985). He spent his remaining days visiting and reminiscing with his friends, and often set up shop at the local watering hole where he entertained the customers with his stories. Leroy died in Los Angeles on December 11, 1993, and buried in San Antonio.

29° 28.608, -098° 25.349

Section 25
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
San Antonio

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