The Delta-area treasure of talent runs deep – especially in music. From Blues to Rock and Gospel, Sunflower County has produced some of the nation’s best.
Though many don’t get the national recognition they deserve, their skills, talents and abilities rival those who dominate the music world internationally. One of those is an Inverness native and Cleveland resident – Danny Abraham. Or as his friends and family know him, “Danny Boy.” The musical prodigy’s beginnings came from a simple necessity – his parents needed him to be entertained while they set up for Sunday School. Every Sunday morning, Dannie and Grace Abraham would arrive early at Inverness First United Methodist Church to set things up. Their first-born son, Danny was about six and with no babysitter had to find ways to entertain himself.
He discovered a piano. The rest is Delta music history. From churches to blues and rock and roll and venues all across the USA. Abraham’s pre-Sunday School time self-taught piano lessons guided him to more proper training that would eventually put him on stage with some of the world’s greatest entertainers. But it was always the church’s foundation that was set early in his music career that kept him grounded and humble all while pursuing excellence.
With many high points in his “side job,” the second-generation clothier’s music career hit a rousing crescendo recently with a Christian album. Danny Boy traveled to Nashville using some of the industry’s greatest musicians and producers to help craft the project.
“Every song really, truly has a story,” Abraham said. “I’m in an element that there’s no way I’m supposed to be in.”
The album was sparked in 2019, when one of Danny Boy’s songs, “Hallelujah Amen” was featured on a Christian telecast where millions of folks around the world got to experience his songwriting skills. The song touched thousands and Abraham has been getting calls and emails from folks letting him know just how special the song has become.
Before his national Christian hit song there were decades of practice and even more performances from junior high to high school to college and beyond. He is especially grateful to his late mother, Grace, who put quite a few miles on the family sedan to help Danny Boy pursue his talent.
“Mother made sure that I and then (youngest son) Steven, were taken care of musically,” Danny Boy said. “She would take me to Greenwood, Greenville, Jackson, numerous times to Memphis and Dallas just to have a one-on-one session with a real fine piano player.”
The oldest Abraham son didn’t come from a rigorous musical background.
“Mother took piano and could play one song, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus,’ and dad sounded great singing in the shower. When I preach now at churches and people ask me to play, I play ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ for my mother and ‘It is Well with My Soul’ because that’s my dad’s favorite song.”
He started playing the piano in church at 14 years of age and then the organ at 15.
“All in all, I was still taking piano but I was playing at home and I taught myself. What you learn at an early age is when you go to a peer’s home and they have a piano and they ask you to play, they don’t want to hear Bach or Beethoven or Chopin. They want to hear what’s on the radio. They wanted to hear the stuff they listened to, so I taught myself how to play by ear. It came very easy for me. I could listen to something and pretty much play it like I heard it on the radio.
Much to his conservative piano teacher’s disdain, Danny Boy began to add in some “licks” to standardized hymns.
“I realized that the chord structures of what I was playing on the radio mirrored the songs in the hymnbooks. What a Friend We Have in Jesus is only three chords,” he said. “I taught myself how to recognize that on sheet music and by ear and that made it easy to teach Steven (eight years younger). It was great having a brother who was into that. My other younger brother Michael was into HAM radios and talking to Russia and Czechoslovakia and everywhere else in the world and we were over here playing piano.”
Another “piano lesson” he learned early benefitted him in his life greatly.
“I always had something going on in my life musically at an early age. And I realized that if I didn’t, I would be a very frustrated individual,” he said. “That went with me through my life and once I got to Indianola Academy, the greatest influence was (the late) Grace Young. She was amazing and taught me more vocal pedagogies.”
As part of the Indianola Academy Madrigals and choir, Danny Boy anchored the band with his voice and piano work. His talents led to music scholarship offers from Ole Miss, Millsaps and Belhaven College. He became a Pre-Med Rebel. Early on, a friend said there were tryouts for “The Group” – a madrigal type unit.
“One of my buddies said it’s a really good performing group and you’ll play with all kind of celebrities and there were a lot of pretty girls in it. And they kind of interested me,” he said. “I tried out as a freshman and made it. One of our first shows was with Bob Hope and then Jerry Clower. We were a recruiting group for Ole Miss.”
His music, though, took time away from his studies and his dad told him he needed to come home and work on his grades a bit.
“I missed pretty much 50 percent of my labs because we were performing two or three out of every seven days. We were highly visible and our clothes were handmade by a tailor,” he said.
At the end of his first Rebel semester, his dad gave him a call.
“He said, ‘I sent you to school on an unlimited budget and you have exceeded that. Come home,’” Danny Boy said. “I got home dad sat me down and said, ‘look, I know this music is a strong influence in your life but you have to get an education. You can go to Moorhead or you can go to Delta State but you’re going to be close enough for me to watch.’”
He chose Moorhead and time spent at MDJC did the trick academically. His music abilities continued to flourish under the late Joe Abrams.
“I made it into a group called the TJ’s or Trojanaires and again, we were a recruiting tool but I had a straight 4.0 and stayed there a year.”
From there he attended Delta State University and kept his GPA climbing all while becoming busier and busier musically as part of Renaissance, the DSU singing group.
“There was a guy named Gene Ayers and I would venture to say that by far besides my parents that he was the strongest influence in music on my life,” he said. “When I walked in and met him, he said, ‘ok, what do you do.’ I said I play piano and sing and he said, ‘well, sit down and do that.’”
Danny was taken aback by the request and noted he didn’t do that and Ayers was astounded to learn this fact. Abraham noted that he would sing when he played guitar or bass but on piano, he normally just accompanied a singer.
“He said we have tryouts tonight and I want you to play two songs and sing from the piano (it was already 3:00 p.m.) I thought he had absolutely lost his mind but I picked two songs, Kris Kristofferson’s’ If You Could See Me Now and a song I wrote called Flower Lady.” (Ron Bolen had written the lyrics but didn’t have any music and gave them to Danny while in high school).
Needless to say, his first time to sing and play was more than enough to meet the need to be part of Renaissance.
“That was such a large influence on my life. We performed overseas. We did the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast. We performed with Lee Greenwood and for the Queen of England. I was in that group for three years. And back then Gene and I would pride ourselves on sounding exactly like the record.”
The week Danny graduated, three stores burned in downtown Cleveland. His father had begun his clothing and dry goods store in Inverness in 1953 before moving to Indianola after the 1971 tornado. The elder Dannie saw an opportunity for his oldest son to cement his work and family future by opening his own men’s clothing store in 1979 - a store that anchors downtown Cleveland still today.
“My dad said it was a chance of a lifetime and you might want to look at this,” Danny Boy said. “I opened up Abraham’s but continued to play and I was the bandleader for Billy Williams and The Platters when they did a few shows here. I met Steve Azar and played piano for him when he was 15 years old in Greenville.”
He also played for parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs and such. Even while running his own clothing business (Abraham’s), getting married (Betsy) and having kids (Reed, Bart and Spence) and eventually becoming a grandfather, Danny Boy joined local legendary music groups such as The Krackerjacks, Jose and the Hot Tamales, Delta Rain, Fantasy, Rhapsody, Billy Marquis, Duff Dorrough and many others.
Even though he started playing piano at the age of six, his song Hallelujah Amen has its foundation in a decision he made in 2017 to enter Lay Service School for the United Methodist Church.
“A lay servant is someone who augments or helps fill in for a local preacher – whatever is needed,” he said.
Part of his training as a lay pastor was to write sermons. He tried but soon found himself writing songs instead. He soon got a call to preach in 2018 in Glendora and tried to put it off but prayer and sleepless nights soon put him behind the pulpit.
“I called him back and said I’ve tried and tried and tried to turn this down but I can’t,” he said. “I will do it. I went from self-taught pianist to self-taught preacher.”
What he didn’t know is that the church had been without music for more than two decades. After his opening prayer, Danny Boy did what he does best – he sat down at the piano and began to play and sing.
The congregation began crying which led to Abraham shedding tears of worship joy as well. He would help out the church for another five months when the song “Hallelujah Amen” came to him.
“I woke up singing the chorus to Hallelujah Amen. I realized it was a gift from God. I tell other people that God doesn’t go after saints, he goes after sinners when He needs or wants something,” Abraham said. “I was so glad He chose me to give it to.”
He recorded it all but didn’t know what to actually do with the inspirational hymn.
His wife, Betsy, suggested sending it to a Christian TV program while watching it one day eating breakfast.
“It was Son Life Broadcasting Network and Brian Haney was on TV singing,” he said. “Betsy looked at me and said, ‘why don’t you send Hallelujah, Amen to them?’”
Danny Boy looked at his wife “like she had lost her mind.” But she persuaded him to send in his song but he admitted he had no idea of how to do so. She said, “Danny Abraham, you may be crazy but you’re not stupid. You figure it out.”
He got past his doubts and listened to her and sent them the song through email. Less than month later, it was performed on the broadcast to millions.
“They told me it was heard in 50 states and 52 countries and in approximately 100 million homes and viewed about 25 million times.”
He cried some more. Then when posted on social media, stories of how the song was touching and ministering to people flooded his feeds and his phone.
“It’s a song that God wanted out for many people. We just don’t know where this thing will end. God dropped it in my lap and I’m still shell-shocked and constantly amazed.”
That song set the stage and production for Danny Boy to pursue writing and producing a full album of Christian music.
He was contacted by multiple Grammy Award-winning musician, Gordon Mote who noted, “Danny has a unique voice – unlike any other in Nashville.”
Surrounded by talent that backs up and produces artists such as Garth Brooks and many others, Danny worked with a drummer who played with TOTO, a guitarist that played with Blake Shelton and Rascal Flatts, Garth Brooks’ background vocalist and a sound engineer that had worked with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Alicia Keys. His producer, Gordon Mote is a Gold Dove and Grammy Award winner.
“He is so much fun to work with and an awesome friend,” Danny said. “I’m in an element that there’s no way I’m supposed to be in. This guy named Gordon Mote head my song and he tracked me down. He called me and said, ‘Can you come to Nashville?’”
Gordon was born blind and is a world renown pianist and they became instant friends.
“Why am I here?” Danny asked him in his office. Mote answered him with, “I heard something when I heard your song. You have something that most people don’t. You have a style of playing the piano and your voice. There’s only one Dr. John, there’s only one Michael McDonald. There’s only one Danny Abraham. You have a voice that really is totally different.”
Abraham’s studio band knocked out the music in two days in the recording studio before adding his vocals. Mote who worked in studio with Lynard Skynard on their biggest hits, added some of those licks to Abraham’s songs.
“When somebody chooses you – he plays and produces James Taylor, Larry Gatlin, Lauren Daigle, Blake Shelton and anybody that’s everybody – we became such great friends,” Abraham said.
The album can be found across all music platforms online and CDs can be purchased in many Delta area locations.
“I am very grateful to all that have purchased my new album, Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me. All social media platforms have it for download, as well as streaming. I have CDs for sale at Abraham’s-Cleveland and Indianola, Cotton Row Books and The Delta Christian,” Danny said. “If you would like to have it shipped to you, please call my cell at (662) 719-9500. I can take your debit or credit card, over the phone. Let me know if you’d like it signed. I pray you receive a blessing from listening. Thank you all, so much.”
A Delta-area music legend from Sunflower County, Inverness’ own and Dannie and Grace’s oldest son, Danny Abraham.