As Daniels starts the New Orleans standard with his band, The Rhythm Kings, a freshly pressed purple shirt contrasts with a yellow vest, part of his colorful attire at Flo’s Place in Murrells Inlet. A single green and white string of Mardi Gras beads is draped around his neck and frames his silvery goatee. Daniels’ upper lip comes into view between riffs from his trombone’s mouthpiece, revealing a slightly mottled coloration from a lifetime of playing Dixieland jazz on his instrument.
Like the musicians, the audience on this annual celebration wears colors reserved for a Mardi Gras celebration. Purple, greens, and red with oranges flow throughout the crowd as they dance to the music laid down by Daniels and his band. Many wear decorative masks held in place by elastic bands wrapped around faux hair wigs.
Weather has brought most in this crowd together, snowbirds fleeing the chills of northern blizzards and Daniels from the south, chased north by the destructive winds of Hurricane Katrina.
“I was in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina was predicted to hit the next day. So I told my wife, ‘Hey, lets go up to South Carolina to visit my daughter. We could stay there until this whole thing blows over.’ ”
After the storm’s fury made a quick return to the Big Easy impossible, Daniels decided to make his home in South Carolina. The move from New Orleans seemed easy to make since it would give him a chance to reconnect with family.
Daniels was married to Flo Triska, who started the New Orleans-themed restaurant in 1979. Since her death in 2005, the couple’s daughter, Debbie Griffin, has operated the Murrells Inlet landmark.
“So I decided wow, I could start a band here in South Carolina cause New Orleans is probably all wiped out anyway.”
Prior to Katrina, Daniels was working in nightclubs in and around New Orleans. Not on Bourbon Street but in the outside parishes. “I was working pretty steady,” he said.
“It's been really fun having him here,” said Griffin. “I learned about charm from my mom and about being a ham from my father.”