Early steel guitarist and songwriter Theron Eugene (Ted) Daffan was born in Beauregard Parish, Louisiana, on September 21, 1912, the son of Carl and Della Daffan. Ted Daffan pioneered in the electrification of instruments and was an active figure in the Houston-area country-dance-band scene of the 1930s. His most lasting contribution to country music was in songwriting.
The Daffans moved from Louisiana to Houston, where Ted graduated from high school in 1930. Having developed a fascination with electronics at an early age, he opened a repair shop for radios and electric musical instruments. The shop served as a center of experimentation with pickups and amplifiers. Daffan also developed an early interest in Hawaiian guitar and played in a Hawaiian music group called the Blue Islanders that performed on Houston radio station KTRH in 1933.
Drawn to country music mainly through the influence of Milton Brown, in 1934 Daffan joined the Blue Ridge Playboys, an influential group whose membership included two other legendary early honky-tonk figures, Floyd Tillman and Moon Mullican. He also performed with several other Houston-area bands, including the Bar-X Cowboys and Shelly Lee Alley's Alley Cats, before starting his own band, the Texans, in 1940. The Texans leaned more toward honky-tonk than swing.
Daffan is generally credited with writing the first truck-driving song, "Truck Driver's Blues," in 1939; the song became a hit for Cliff Bruner's Texas Wanderers, and its success led to Daffan's Texans being signed by Columbia Records in 1940. Three of the songs he wrote and recorded in the early 1940s became honky-tonk classics: "Worried Mind," "Born to Lose," and "Headin' Down the Wrong Highway." Daffan was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association Hall of Fame as a charter member in 1970. Among the artists who recorded his songs were Ray Charles, who performed versions of "Born to Lose" and "No Letter Today," and Les Paul and Mary Ford, who recorded "I'm a Fool to Care."
Daffan moved to California in 1944 and led a band at the Venice Pier Ballroom for a short time before returning to Texas in 1946. After leading a band in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, he returned to Houston by the early 1950s. Although his recording career slowed after World War II, he continued a successful career as a songwriter and stayed involved in the music business. From 1955 to 1971 he ran his own record label, Daffan Records, which featured releases by Floyd Tillman, Jerry Irby, and Dickie McBride, among others. Daffan moved to Nashville in 1958 to form a music publishing company with Hank Snow but returned in 1961 to Houston, where he formed his own music-publishing business and continued to live until his death on October 6, 1996. He was buried in Forest Park Cemetery in Houston.
Daffan was married to Lela Bell McGuire; they had one daughter, Dorothy Jean. He later married Fannie Lee “Bobbie” Martin; they had no children. Daffan was inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame in 1995. His song "Born to Lose" received a BMI "one million air play" award in 1992.