The Cherry Poppin' Daddies are an American rock band formed in Eugene, Oregon in 1988 by Steve Perry (lead vocals/guitar). While the band has gone through numerous personnel changes, only Perry, Dan Schmid (bass) and Dana Heitman (trumpet) remain from the original incarnation, with Perry and Heitman being the only two constant members throughout the band's twenty year history.
Conceived as a counter against the rising grunge movement of the Northwest, the Daddies played an unconventional lyric-driven mixture of punk rock, swing music, funk and ska, among other styles, attracting a local cult following for their raunchy and frequently controversial performance art-like live shows, which often brought about bans and organized protest. Their subsequent multi-genre studio albums found the band expanding their sound to encompass a variety of genres, notably country, psychedelia, alternative rock, Latin music and glam rock.
After earning critical praise and awards as a local act and for their 1990 debut Ferociously Stoned, the group began extensive national touring in 1993, finding initial success within the third wave ska circuit. Though their self-produced, ska-influenced third album Kids on the Street (1996) made its way onto Rolling Stone's Alternative Charts, the Daddies didn't break into the mainstream until 1998, as one of the leading forces behind the swing revival movement. Their major-label all-swing compilation album Zoot Suit Riot (1997) spent over a year on the Billboard 200, eventually attaining double-platinum status, while the album's eponymous single received heavy airplay on MTV and KROQ, becoming the Daddies' first - and only - Top 40 single.
By 2000, despite prominent media coverage and the release of their fourth album Soul Caddy, the Daddies' mainstream popularity had declined with that of neo-swing. Following a brief disbandment, the band regrouped in 2002 to continue touring and recording, independently releasing their fifth and most recent studio album, Susquehanna, in early 2008.
The Daddies in 1990, a promotional shot for Ferociously Stoned.
The genesis of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies was a meeting between singer/songwriter Steve Perry and Dan Schmid at the University of Oregon in the late 1980s. Perry, a native of Binghamton, New York, had relocated to the Northwest in the early 1980s to enroll in the University of Oregon, where he eventually befriended Schmid, a fellow student and punk rock enthusiast. Although neither had any prior musical experience, the two decided to drop out of college together and focus on playing music. They formed the jangle pop band St. Huck and the rock band The Jazz Greats before assembling what would eventually become the Daddies in November 1988. As the grunge movement began to blossom throughout the Northwest, Perry's disillusionment over the state of the local music scene inspired him to set out and create a punk rock band that was more genre-bending and experimental. Said Perry:
Music kind of took a downward spiral...just kind of got really stagnant. So I think that guys who were into music just wanted to do something that no one else was, just kind of lash out or just express themselves...it was our way of saying, "Screw you". I think our music was really a correction to what their viewpoint was. I don't like irony and a lot of that alternative stuff was just fake.
At the time, Perry had recently discovered jazz and swing music, and, after recruiting a horn section and a jazz-trained keyboardist, he began to integrate the genres into his band's repertoire of rock- and funk-influenced punk. He called the songs composed in this style a "contemporary hybrid": modernizing swing by blending it with punk rock energy and 1960s-style lyricism.
With their first show rapidly approaching and without a band name, the group began debating what to call themselves, pitching such suggestions as Big Yank, Mr. Wiggles and The Iron Men of Leisure before reluctantly deciding upon the intentionally provocative "Cherry Poppin' Daddies". The name, borrowed from a line in a race record the members had heard, was intended to be edgy in the same ilk as the Butthole Surfers, yet also reflected the band's jazz side as an homage to the risqu? of the Dixieland recordings that had inspired them.
Early years and controversies (1988-92)
"Flovilla Thatch vs. the Virile Garbageman"
Sample of "Flovilla Thatch vs. the Virile Garbageman" from Ferociously Stoned (1990), showcasing the strong funk influence, prominent brass and blatant sexual innuendos that were predominant in the Daddies' early work.
Sporting a horn section, a penchant for stage theatrics, and inciting their audiences to dance, the Daddies proved to be at odds with the then-current state of the Northwest music scene, enough so that they were originally shunned by fellow local punk and alternative bands alike. In an array of flashy Funkadelic-inspired costumes or drag get-ups, and on occasion simply appearing half-nude, the Daddies became perhaps most notorious for their over-the-top performance art-like stage shows. A typical Daddies concert would usually feature gyrating, scantily-clad female go-go dancers, phallic stage props and pornographic videos projected alongside the band. Perry - who was performing under the stage name "MC Large Drink" in an attempt to distance himself from the Journey frontman of the same name - often engaged in such stunts as performing while tied to a giant crucifix, simulated sexual acts, the re-enactment of various Biblical and literary stories with crude and offensive props, and slathering himself in chocolate wearing only a diaper. One notable element of the Daddies' stage show was the "Dildorado", a drivable, modified ride-on lawnmower built to resemble an erect penis that simulated ejaculation by shooting salvos of liquid soap and other objects from its tip.
Almost immediately, the Daddies' presence generated local controversy, with their live shows being branded as "pornographic", as well as accusations of sexism and misogyny based on their band name and lyrics. The group frequently received hate mail and death threats from angry community members and the band's concerts were often the sites of organized protests, boycotts and even a bomb threat. On one occasion, Perry claimed, an irate citizen threw a cup of hot coffee in his face as he was walking down the street.
Despite the public hostility, the Daddies still managed to attract an audience, and the group played extensively throughout the early 1990s, often selling out shows in the Eugene and Portland area. Initially, the band refused to change their name, citing artistic freedom, but after local venues refused to book them due to the negative publicity that naturally accompanied them ? which included a temporary ban from the W.O.W. Hall, one of Eugene's top venues ? the Daddies caved into community pressure, taking to performing under such pseudonyms as simply "The Daddies", "The Bad Daddies" and other variations on the name, though retaining their full title while traveling abroad. As the band progressed in their career, the controversy surrounding their name eventually waned, and they returned to using their full title in their hometown, though some minor protest surfaced once more during the band's mainstream success in the late 1990s.
In 1989, the Daddies recorded their first demo, a cassette entitled Four From On High featuring four tracks of funk and swing. After this sold reasonably well and won the approval of legendary DJ Al "Jazzbo" Collins, the band recorded their self-produced debut Ferociously Stoned in 1990, releasing it on independent label Sub Par Records (and subsequently re-released on the band's own label, Space Age Bachelor Pad Records). With its heavy emphasis on bass and brass, Ferociously Stoned was mostly a showcase of the band's funk rock influences, though it also dabbled in multi-genre territory, touching upon swing, hot jazz, hard rock, punk and even disco and R&B. The album immediately became an underground hit in Eugene, remaining for over a year on The Rocket's Northwest Top Twenty List and helping the Daddies win the Portland Music Association's Crystal Award for "Outstanding New Band" in 1991. Ferociously Stoned was re-released on CD in 1994, with the four tracks from Four From on High appended.
National touring and rising popularity (1993-96)
Jason Moss and Steve Perry on stage in Santa Ana, California, 2007.
Sample of "Irish Whiskey", from Kids on the Street (1996), featuring the guitar-driven hard rock sound the band adopted during this era.
By 1993, following a number of personnel changes including the addition of guitarist Jason Moss, the Daddies had transitioned into a full-time band and began touring nationally, playing upwards of 200 shows a year and performing at such music festivals as Austin's SXSW and New York's CMJ. They developed a particular following in California, where they became a staple of the Bay Area's burgeoning third wave ska scene, frequently acting as touring support for such ska artists as Skankin' Pickle, Let's Go Bowling, Fishbone and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. In 1994, SF Weekly voted the Daddies as one of the best unsigned bands in the Bay Area.
The Daddies' second album, Rapid City Muscle Car, was released independently via Space Age Bachelor Pad Records in 1994. A halfway point between their punk rock roots and the more accessible recordings to follow, Rapid City Muscle Car was an attempt by the band to create an experimental concept album, in that each track was the direct musical opposite of the last yet all tied together lyrically.
During the mid-90s the Daddies became a prominent independent act; 1996 alone saw the band embark on six cross-country tours. That year also saw the release of the Daddies' third self-produced album, Kids on the Street. Reflecting their newfound place within the ska scene, Kids was a drastic departure from the band's previous albums, drifting from their usual mix of genres and instead featuring a predominant focus on guitar-driven and horn-inflected alternative rock and power pop, with additional touches of ska, country, grunge, southern rock and jazz. Kids on the Street wound up being the band's most successful release up to that point: finding distribution with indie label Caroline Records, the album remained on The Rocket's Retail Sales Top Twenty for over seven months, eventually working its way onto Rolling Stone's Alternative Charts.
Despite the indie success of Kids on the Street, this era proved most difficult for the Daddies, as their constant touring schedule was becoming a burden on the band members' personal lives. The group went through heavy personnel changes at this time, recording Kids with three different drummers (including ex-Mr. Bungle member Hans Wagner), and experiencing ten line-up changes in 1997 alone. These included the departure of original keyboardist Chris Azorr and co-founder Schmid, leaving only Perry and trumpeter Dana Heitman as the sole remains of the original line-up. The constant touring was also becoming a financial strain on the band; during this time, Perry said the Daddies were ultimately left with one of two options: either get signed or break up.
Zoot Suit Riot and mainstream exposure (1997-99)
Although third wave ska and ska punk had broken through into the mainstream by early 1997, the Daddies had begun attracting a larger audience for their swing material, enough so that concert-goers would frequently approach their merchandise booth and ask which of the band's albums had the most swing songs on them. Seeing an opportunity, yet lacking the financing to record a whole new album, the Daddies' manager convinced them to compile all of the straight swing and jazz tracks from their first three releases onto one CD, using their available funds to record and include four new songs. The result, Zoot Suit Riot: The Swingin' Hits of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, again released on Space Age Bachelor Pad, became an unexpectedly hot seller, reportedly selling as many as 4,000 copies a week as the band went on tour. Finding a newer fanbase with their swing music, the Daddies underwent a shift in image as they began tailoring their sets more towards their swing fans and adopted a new appearance in the way of retro suits, a decision made after suit-clad Mighty Mighty Bosstones frontman Dicky Barrett teased the group for their shabby onstage appearance.
During a national tour with Reel Big Fish, Mojo Records (who was then label to Reel Big Fish) approached the Daddies about initiating a recording contract. Wishing to have wider distribution with their newest album, the band agreed, and signed a three-record deal. Zoot Suit Riot was reissued by Mojo and given mainstream distribution in July 1997. After impressive album sales and a few months of rotation on college radio, Mojo released "Zoot Suit Riot" as a single in early 1998 and started fishing it around to modern rock stations, much to the reluctance of the Daddies themselves, who could not see the song faring particularly well on mainstream radio and were worried that they would lose money off its promotion.
"Zoot Suit Riot"
Sample of "Zoot Suit Riot" from Zoot Suit Riot (1997), the Daddies' most recognized song and one of the biggest hit singles from the swing revival movement.
By mid-1998, "Zoot Suit Riot" and its accompanying music video served as one of the kickstarts that transitioned the third wave ska craze into the swing revival, a movement that had been bubbling since the mid-1990s, spearheaded by such groups as Royal Crown Revue and the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Although the album was met with mixed to negative critical response, heavy rotation of "Zoot Suit Riot" on both KROQ and MTV eventually made the single into a genuine hit, and the album rose to number one on Billboard's Top Heatseekers, peaking at number 17 on the Billboard 200 and ultimately spending a total of 53 weeks on the charts, achieving platinum status in 1998 and double-platinum in 2000. The music video for "Zoot Suit Riot" was nominated for a MTV Video Music Award and the Daddies were prominently featured in the mainstream media, performing on such television programs as The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The View and Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve 1998. "Zoot Suit Riot" was even the subject of a parody song by "Weird Al" Yankovic.
The Daddies toured constantly throughout 1998 and 1999, both nationally and internationally, as they accompanied such bands as the Bosstones, No Doubt, Ozomatli, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and The Specials, as well as featuring on the 1998 Warped Tour with Rancid and Bad Religion. By this time, the group's touring conditions had greatly improved, thus enticing Dan Schmid - who had originally left the band due to health concerns - to return as the Daddies' bassist.
Though the Daddies were mostly enthusiastic about the modern revival of swing and dance music at this time, they were openly critical about the direction the genre was taking in comparison to the earlier ska revival. In interviews they singled out neo-swing's primarily nostalgia-heavy slant, calling most bands' retro-revisionist attitudes and sound an artistic straitjacket. Additionally, they criticized the media's treatment of the revival, claiming that the labels and press failed to recognize the major neo-swing bands as individual entities, instead lumping them all together as if "all swing bands sound the same". The Daddies also found difficulty in separating themselves from their newly-acquired "swing band" image, though they claimed to have often felt pressured to maintain it due to audience expectations, sometimes even to the point of encountering audience hostility at their live shows when they would deviate from playing swing material.
By the end of the century, the popularity of the swing revival had started to decline; as such, the Daddies' mainstream presence, along with that of the majority of swing revival artists, began to fizzle out as Zoot Suit Riot slowly slid off the charts. With their touring schedule coming to a close, the Daddies took the opportunity to start working on their next studio album.
Soul Caddy and hiatus (2000-05)
In 2000, the Daddies returned to the studio and recorded their fourth album, Soul Caddy. Another loose concept album, Soul Caddy was a return to the band's standard multi-genre format, encompassing soul, psychedelic rock, ska, hard rock, swing, funk and jazz. The album's leading single was "Diamond Light Boogie", a T.Rex-influenced glitter rock number which was produced by Tony Visconti and featured guest vocalist Mark Volman of 1960s pop group The Turtles.
"Diamond Light Boogie"
Sample of "Diamond Light Boogie", the leading single off Soul Caddy (2000). A throwback to glam rock, it was produced by Tony Visconti, known for his work with T.Rex and David Bowie.
Despite letting the Daddies have total creative control over Soul Caddy, Mojo's response to the record was marginal at best. Claiming that it was not like "the Cherry Poppin' Daddies people know and love", the label did little to promote either the album or the single, at one point releasing the latter without the band's name on it. With virtually no major marketing behind it, Soul Caddy was released in October 2000.
Soul Caddy met with mixed reviews, one of the more prominent criticisms being the album's lack of swing tracks. A number of reviews, including one from The Boston Globe, even chastised the band for "abandoning" their jump blues "roots", while some criticized the Daddies' entire aesthetic?UGO's Hip Online stated bluntly, "covering five or six genres on one album is just insane". Despite some moderate critical praise, Soul Caddy failed to achieve the chart success and commercial attention of its predecessor, and, added to the folding of Mojo Records in early 2001 when it was sold to Zomba/BMG, the Daddies were sent into an extended period of inactivity, effectively disbanding for over a year. The band officially regrouped in February 2002, then took to sporadically performing single "greatest hits" shows throughout the country at various festivals, casinos and state fairs, though never fully undergoing a complete tour.
During this time, Perry re-enrolled at the University of Oregon, graduating in 2004 with a B.S. in molecular biology, and formed a side project with fellow Daddy Jason Moss, the glam rock outfit White Hot Odyssey. Schmid and keyboardist Dustin Lanker focused on their own side project, the baroque pop/powerpop act The Visible Men, releasing two albums and touring extensively. Schmid also toured with Black Francis in 2007, recording on his album Bluefinger, drummer Tim Donahue briefly toured with Yngwie Malmsteen on his 2001 European "War to End All Wars" tour and Perry contributed vocals to the song "Ola" off Beenie Man's Grammy Award-winning album Art and Life.
Return and Susquehanna (2006-present)
Perry performing in Eugene in 2008.
In 2006, the Daddies' music re-emerged into the public eye when their songs "Zoot Suit Riot" and "The Ding-Dong Daddy of the D-Car Line" were featured on the competitive dancing shows So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars, respectively (the latter program continued to use Daddies songs well into 2009). That year, the Daddies got back into gear, performing shows more frequently and spending a year and a half writing new material. In September 2007, Perry officially announced on the band's website that the Daddies were planning on recording a new studio album.
Their sixth album, Susquehanna, was quietly released via download on the band's website in February 2008, receiving a CD release through Space Age Bachelor Pad the following June, though both were available only through the band's website and at concerts. Susquehanna again followed the format of a multi-genre concept album: featuring a predominantly Latin-inspired sound, the album delved into flamenco, bossa nova, Latin rock, reggae and soca, while staying close to the band's roots of swing, ska and rock. Reviews of the album were again mixed; though no major media publications provided reviews, independent internet publications such as The Celebrity Cafe and PopMatters either praised the band for their mix of genres or criticized it as inconsistent.
In support of Susquehanna, the Daddies embarked on a full-length US tour in mid-2008, followed by a two month-long tour of Europe, their first visit to the continent since 1998.
In mid-2009, the Daddies signed a deal with Rock Ridge Music for the national release of two albums, a re-issue of Susquehanna and the band's second compilation album, Skaboy JFK: The Skankin' Hits of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, a collection of the band's previous ska songs along with several newly recorded tracks. Both records were released on September 29, 2009.
Musical style and influences
Perry and Schmid have cited 1980s punk rock and hardcore as being most influential on the Daddies style, particularly experimental groups such as the Meat Puppets, The Damned and the Butthole Surfers, as well as Elvis Costello, The Kinks and Oingo Boingo. Both men have frequently named the Wipers' 1983 album Over the Edge as their favorite record.
Since their inception, Steve Perry has acted as the sole songwriter and principal composer of the Daddies music, as well as overseeing all artistic aspects of the group, from the production to the album artwork. According to Jason Moss in regard to the band's songwriting process, Perry usually creates the chord progressions and melodies for the songs on his guitar, and sometimes offers suggestions for drum beats, bass lines and specific guitar riffs, which are built upon by the other band members until arriving at a finished product. In contrast to bands such as Mr. Bungle, who created cross-genre fusions, the Daddies play each musical style separately on their albums; for instance, an album will have a swing song, a funk song, a rock song, etcetera. According to Perry, the collocation of genres creates a varied, unique listening experience, but is mostly an artistic choice, serving as a musical backdrop to his lyrics, used to personify the type of character being sung about or to emphasize the moods reflected in a song.
Swing-wise, the Daddies have cited Fletcher Henderson, Jimmie Lunceford, Louis Prima, and Duke Ellington as their primary influences, though they do not play the style of straight swing that was common in either traditional swing or neo-swing, driving their rhythm section in more of a punk/rock style with hornlines on top, not wholly compositionally dissimilar to third wave ska. This is most evident in the band's early swing songs, which were predominantly composed in minor keys, fast tempos and occasionally utilized heavy distortion, ska rhythms, elements of Dixieland and rock, and dissonant tones.
Perry has named lyricists such as Randy Newman, Ray Davies, Elvis Costello, groups like Steely Dan and authors Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac as influential on his songwriting, significantly in the use of narrative. The majority of Perry's songs are socio-realistic narratives, frequently about or told through the eyes of undesirable and/or sympathetic characters, sometimes with an unreliable narrator, and often employ irony and twists of humor.
Each of the Daddies' studio albums are crafted as a concept album, with its songs tied together by either a common lyrical theme or format. For instance, the majority of songs on Soul Caddy frequently reference themes of isolation and social disconnection, while each track on Susquehanna are narratives in which the characters in the songs reflect on a moment of loss from their past. In writing an album, Perry describes each song as characteristic of a short story, that the album becomes a musical novel of sorts, its chapters all leading up to the final song(s): as Perry puts it, the moment of grace, clarity and closure.
A common motif in the Daddies' music (particularly in their swing songs) is to juxtapose dark subject matter against peppy, upbeat music. According to Perry, the choice to use serious lyrics in a genre uncharacteristic of such content lends more punch to the message.
Steve Perry (MC Large Drink) - lead vocals/rhythm guitar (formation - present)
Dan Schmid (Dang Oulette) - bass (formation - 1997, 1998 - present)
Dana Heitman - trumpet (formation - present)
Jason Moss - lead guitar (1992 - present)
Dustin Lanker - keyboards (1997 - 1998, 2000 - present)
Joe Manis - alto saxophone (2006 - present)
Kevin Congleton - drums (2008 - present)
Jesse Cloninger - tenor saxophone (2008 - present)
Chris Azorr - keyboards (formation - 1997)
Tim Arnold - drums (formation - 1990)
Adrian P. Baxter - tenor saxophone (1993 - 1996)
"CrackerJack" Brooks Brown - alto saxophone (formation - 1994)
Darren Cassidy - bass (1997 - 2000)
Nalya Cominos - bass (1997)
Tim Donahue - drums (1997 - 2008)
Ian Early - alto saxophone (1997 - 2006)
Sean Flannery - tenor saxophone (1996 - 2008)
John Fohl - guitar (1990 - 1992)
Adam Glogauer - drums (1996)
Johnny Goetchius - keyboards (1999 - 2000)
James Gossard - guitar (formation - 1990)
Sean Oldham - drums (1996)
Jason Palmer - drums (1996)
James Phillips - tenor saxophone (formation - 1993)
Rex Trimm - alto saxophone (1996 - 1997)
Hans Wagner - drums (1996 - 1997)
Brian West - drums (1990 - 1996)
All Cherry Poppin Daddies lyrics
- Answering Machine
- Bleeding Ceremony
- Bobby Kennedy
- Brown Derby Jump
- Butch The Gay Santa Claus
- Cherry Poppin' Daddy Strut
- Come Back To Me
- Cosa Nostra
- Diabolic Tastemaker
- Ding Dong Daddy Of The D-car Line
- Dirty Mutha Fuzz
- Don Quixote
- Dr. Bones
- Drunk Daddy
- End Of The Night
- Flovilla Thatch Vs. The Virile Garbageman
- Flower Fight With Morrissey
- God Is A Spider
- Grand Mal
- Hazel, South Dakota
- Here Comes The Snake
- Impossible Dream
- Inertia Rhapsody
- Irish Whiskey
- Johanna Of The Spirits
- Jump In The Line
- Jump In The Line (Shake Shake Senora)
- Kids On The Street
- Lovers Understand
- Luther Lane
- Master And Slave
- Midas In Reverse
- Mister White Keys
- Mom Was No Fat Broad
- Mr. White Keys
- My Mistake
- No Mercy For Swine
- Pink Elephant
- Saddest Thing I Know
- Say It To My Face
- Shake Your Lovemaker
- Silver Tongued Devil
- Skyline Drive
- So Long, Toots
- Sockable Face Club
- Soul Cadillac
All lyrics are property of their respective owners and are strictly for non-commercial use only.