Lenny McDaniel's high school experiences weren't quite like those of the average teenager. Sure, a lot of teens aim to play in a band, and many of them even succeed, at least on the local circuit. But knowing how to strum both bass and guitar while growing up in New Orleans, a city whose nightlife doesn't get warmed up without some sort of music pumping through the atmosphere --usually jazz or R&B -- gave a teenaged McDaniel a heady advantage. He found himself playing backup for local talent that included such R&B vocalists as Ernie K-Doe and Aaron Neville. McDaniel ended up leading a few different groups in the area during the '70s, often contributing vocals as well as playing and writing songs. One of the first bands he recorded with was the Last Nikel, but the group's release on the label Mainstream did not fare well and sales did not meet expectations. McDaniel, sometimes disappointed by his role as a leader, decided to strike out on his own.
The singer/songwriter, who could also play piano and guitar, started working with manager Bill Johnson. Johnson, whose client list included Gino Vannelli, took his new recruit to Los Angeles in pursuit of more opportunities toward the end of the '70s. Unfortunately, McDaniel was left to fend for himself when Johnson had to return to Louisiana. He networked with musicians, played out, and soon found steady work in the studios, playing for such artists as Dwight Yoakam, John Mayall, and Jackson Browne. He also found work performing voice-overs in advertisements and soundtracks and during the late '80s joined Stephen Stills on tour. Despite his success, McDaniel wanted more, including the opportunity to sing his own compositions. With his own funds, he laid down a number of tracks for which he played all of the instruments except one -- the drums. He returned to Crescent City with his recordings and started working with Steve Valentino, a producer, who worked as a solo artist with McDaniel on his first album, Bad for Me.
McDaniel made the most of his return to New Orleans, frequently playing gigs and recording. Carlo Ditta, another New Orleans producer, started working with McDaniel when he was recording his sophomore album, Worth the Price. Ditta requested that he play on an album being recorded by a blues vocalist who was a fellow native of New Orleans, Marva Wright. Thanks to his appearance on Wright's release, he came to the attention of Phillip LeBras, an executive in France's recording industry. This contact led to the release of Worth the Price on a Virgin Record's subsidiary, Skybranch/Virgin. McDaniel's video for the song "Rosa" did extremely well in France, and he embarked on tours of the country and made appearances at a number of festivals. McDaniel then struck out on his own to produce his next release, Tired Angels. The title track was voted Song of the Year by readers of Offbeat magazine. McDaniel went on to tour with fellow Louisianan Tab Benoit. He self-produced his next effort, The Blues Side.