Monday, February 15, 2016


I met Sam Daniels at The Abacus supper club on Shakespeare Road in Dollard des Ormeaux, a suburb of Montreal, Quebec. My husband, Cliff Carter, was the resident pianist there when Sam Daniels came in with his brother, Aaron. Daniels told me that the owner of a piano shop on Sherbrooke Street had told him about this very talented gentleman who was playing at The Abacus, and he just had to come to hear him because he was a pianist too.

It  was the early 1980's shortly after RCA and CTV's Thrill of a Lifetime had produced Cliff's record album, MR. NOSTALGIA, CLIFF CARTER. Sam Daniels invited us to his home on the South Shore and that was how our "friendship" began.

Every Christmas, the Daniels would invite us to their soiree where Sam would play his white baby grand piano and his wife, Thelma, would serve a scrumptious Caribbean dinner. The evenings with just a few of the Daniels' friends were very cordial. Thelma was a gracious host. While the guests listened to Sam Daniels talk about himself and play his piano, Thelma was usually in the kitchen.

Sam Daniels was a self-made man. A man of colour who rose to a high office in the banking industry in Montreal. He was a smart dresser who could play piano in time with a metronome. He marveled aloud at Cliff's talent. Cliff could play and sing thousands of songs without reading music. He could play any musical piece he heard, standards, jazz, the classics or something completely new.

Sam treated Cliff as his trophy, someone he had "discovered". He was so proud to show off Cliff to his company. At the same time, he resented Cliff and he showed it by teasing Cliff in front of his guests. Even in my presence, he would dangle his keys in front of Cliff's face and imply that women were offering Cliff their sexual favours. 

Cliff was always a gentleman and always inclined to avoid conflict, so he played along and let it pass. Cliff could be very tough in a serious confrontation - with gangsters in the clubs, for example - but he preferred peace, always peace. When there was trouble with landlords, it was always I who had to deal with them. Cliff preferred not to make an issue of Sam's rude suggestions.

After Cliff died I ran into Sam Daniels somewhere. He telephoned his wife to let her know he had met me and he invited me to supper at his home. It was 1994. We were at the table with Thelma and his son, Syd, when Sam started. I had cancer. I was pale and bald and I was wearing a wig. Sam started making rude remarks about my wig. Then he blamed me for having cancer, saying I could have prevented it. Then he started making rude comments about Cliff. 

I was still in mourning. I could not tolerate another moment of it. I called him on it and I rose from the table. Sam Daniels ordered me to leave his house.

Thelma had been in love with Sam since they were young. She was the perfect obedient wife and a caring mother, a good cook and homemaker and totally devoted to Sam Daniels. She saw me to the door with tears in her eyes and wished me well. She never disobeyed Sam Daniels. I never saw Thelma Daniels again and I still miss her.

Sam Daniels was a self-made man. He was proud of his high position at the bank. He was proud of his house and his family. He was proud of his white baby grand piano. He was proud to throw little soirees for a select few. He was proud that Cliff Carter attended his soirees. But Cliff's talent was unbearable to Sam Daniels, the self-made man. He told his guests that he could not understand why people would make such a fuss over Cliff but they ignored him when he played. It tormented him even after Cliff had died. 


Phyllis Carter said...


Phyllis Carter said...

Sam Daniels accused me of getting cancer due to some fault of my own. I never smoked or drank and I always went for medical check-ups.