He’s called “The Singing Dragon,” and anyone who uses the 42nd Street subway station knows him by name. This area is a hotbed of activity for singers and musicians in New York, but ask anyone and they will tell you that Danny is the best. He goes by Greece Dan or Danny Small, though neither are his real names. He is a friend to all, and he makes a pretty good living by singing. On a bad day, he brings in around $150. It pays his bills and puts a smile on his face. It’s what he loves to do.


The 72-year-old man crones, pleads and growls his way into the hearts of those who frequent this station. Though his voice is strong, his body is weak. While he sings, he sits due to terrible arthritis that cripples his body. He prefers to choose songs from the old-school. Rhythm-and-blues songs are his specialty. This genre also suits his voice well. Those walking by cannot help but turn their head. The soothing sound of his voice makes feet tap and bodies sway.



Growing Up In Poverty

Born in Hemingway, S.C., he was given the legal name of Mitchell Hughes. Things were good in his life until his father died in 1940. After that tragic event, his mother had a hard time meeting the needs of their family. He recalls in an interview with The New York Times, he was poorer than poor. In fact, things got so bad that he moved to a tin shack with his five siblings. To help his family financially, he worked on farms around Virginia and North Carolina. It was slave labor for white families harvesting sugar cane, rice, cotton, berries, potatoes, and cabbage. Going to school was a luxury, and he didn’t get to do that until after Christmas each year. This was because the crops would all be harvested and sold by then.

His family was strong in the faith. In fact, his mother preached at a little clapboard church in his hometown. It was his mom that taught him how wonderful singing could be. She would make him and his brother sing in the choir. They started out going because they were forced, but it wasn’t too long before mama no longer had to make them go. He found that he loved to sing, and it made him feel good inside. He also loved going to see the pretty girls that joined the choir too.
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