Jay McDaniel: Deejay by night, blues-rock singer on the weekend
By Steve Wildsmith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you like her radio voice, chances are you’ll love it when Jay Mac sings.
Jennifer “Jay Mac” McDaniel, the night-time deejay on WIMZ-FM, grew up with music in her blood. And while she says she got into radio by accident, there’s no doubt that fronting a blues rock band is her destiny.
“When it comes to the band, I’m not looking to try and get a record deal and go on tour; for me, it’s about the love of it,” McDaniel told The Daily Times this week. “I love music, and I love to perform. People ask me, ‘With a voice like that, why are you on the radio?’ Well, it’s a guarantee of money, and I absolutely love my job. I don’t even feel like it’s work, because I enjoy it so much. I tell people I’m spoiled: I get to do what I love for a living, and I get to do what else I love for fun and to make people smile.”
Originally from Garden City, Kansas, McDaniel was a manager at Sear’s when she began deejaying part-time at a local radio station. She ended up getting into the radio business full-time, and when she moved to East Tennessee seven years ago, she bided her time before finding the right station.
“It gets into your blood, and once it’s there, it’s not like anything else,” she said. “I worked for four years in radio in Kansas on a country station in a very conservative area, and I’ve got kind of a bold sense of humor. So the classic rock format of WIMZ fits my personality better. I don’t get in trouble for the things that I say as much as I did on the other station.”
Her brother, a drummer who first came to this area to work in the Pigeon Forge theaters and just came off tour from supporting Aaron Tippin, was the first to leave Kansas; her father, a bass player, followed. McDaniel had a band called Liquid Persuasion back home in Kansas, and once she was established in Knoxville, she started hitting local blues and jam nights at places like Sassy Ann’s.
“I kept meeting all of these wonderful, talented people, and they always said, ‘Hey, let’s start a band,’ or, ‘Do you want to come out and guest sing?’” she said. “That’s what I was doing for a while — guest-singing with different groups and getting a feel for the East Tennessee music scene — and a couple of years ago, I got with a couple of musicians I met and formed Confederate Groove.”
That band lasted roughly a year, but when she got pregnant, she decided to take time out for motherhood. After her daughter turned 1, she put together the Jay McDaniel Band, and she’s been active ever since. Often, she added, she earns comparisons to “a white Aretha Franklin or a young Janis Joplin,” and many times fans will request the Joplin classic “Me and Bobby McGee.”
“My voice fits more of a blues sound, and I knew I wanted to find some musicians who could really play the blues,” she said. “All of these guys play in other bands and juggle quite a bit to play with me, but they’re the best of the best I’ve seen around here. I just plucked them up and said, ‘Come with me.’”