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Members include ChrisAzorr (1989-96), keyboards;Adrian Baxter (1989-96), saxophone; Brooks Brown ( 1989-95), saxophone; Tim Donohue (joined, 1996), drums; Ian Early (joined, 1996), saxophone; Sean Flannery (joined, 1996), saxophone; Dana Heitman, trumpet; Dustin Lanker (joined 1996), keyboards; Jason Moss, guitar; Sean Oldham (1995-96), drums;Steve Perry, vocals and guitar; and Daniel Schmid, bass; Rex Trimm (1995-96), saxophone; Brian West (1989-95), drums. Addresses: Record company--Mojo/MCA Records, 70 Universal City Plaza, 3rd Floor, Universal City, CA 91608.
Several years before the resurgence of swing music in the late 1990s, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies combined their jazz, punk, and ska influences into a sound that became the forefront of the new trend. With such a unique sound, especially in the grunge scene of the Northwest, the group resorted to recording their music on their own label, Stone Age Bachelor Pad Records. They released three albums on their own before signing a major label deal with Mojo/MCA Records. The wide distribution resulted in a surge of popularity, riding the wave of the growing swing trend. They stood out from many of the other `90s swing bands with their prominent punk influence and cerebral lyrics.
Cherry Poppin' Daddies started out in 1989 after singer/guitarist Steve Perry decided to quit his chemistry studies at the University of Oregon. Perry had played and performed in punk bands until that time and refused to participate in the grunge scene that was developing in the Northwest. "My mother had bought me The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz," Perry told Chris Morris in Billboard. "I got it for my birthday early in life, and I listened to it all the time.... Around the late `80s, I had the idea `hey, what if I fused [punk and swing]? What would that sound like? Cause I didn't want to do what everybody else was doing."
Perry found a group of musicians in Eugene, Oregon that shared his interest in jazz, swing, and punk. The group started with Perry, Brian West on drums, Brooks Brown on alto and baritone saxophone, Adrian Baxter on tenor sax, Dana Heitman on trumpet, Chris Azorr on keyboards, Jason Moss on guitar, and Daniel Schmid on bass. They originally performed their shows wearing casual clothes, like a rock band. Since they had a horn section, they usually ended up playing clubs with ska bands around Eugene. "Part of my idea of not wearing suits was to contemporize swing," Perry told Spin's Erik Himmelsbach, "but I don't think people were getting what we were trying to do.... It sounds really lame, but when we started to wear suits, people got it."
The band began to develop a following around Oregon, and decided to form their own record label to release their material. Their debut album, Ferociously Stoned, was released in 1990 on Space Age Bachelor Pad Records. Some of the songs on the album included serious lyrics with social commentary, including "Drunk Daddy." "I wanted it to be real `90s," Steve Perry told Winda Benedetti in the Spokesman Review. "I wanted to put the energy of punk rock and the lyricism of the `60s bands into swing."
Ferociously Stoned also included other notable tracks such as "Cherry Poppin' Daddy Strut" and "Dr. Bones." Even with their self-released debut, they began to develop limited recognition for their new, unusual style. No one could quite find a category for their sound. Brad Jones wrote in the Denver Westword, "The Daddies mix everything from jazz and metal to be-bop and ska into their funky, horn-drenched sound. Yet below Stoned's festive surface, there runs an underlying current of corruption and mayhem." The Cherry Poppin' Daddies continued to perform throughout the country over the next four years. In 1994, they released their next effort Rapid City Muscle Car, again on their own label. Perry continued his lyrical intensity with songs such as "Bobby Kennedy" and "The Search."
Although they had some frustration with their limited distribution, the band refused to give up their artistic freedom to a major record label. "It's sort of like to have what it takes means you have to surrender," Perry explained to Bill Locey in the Los Angeles Times. "They [record companies] seem to want one of the Seven Cliches of Rock, but this is unnatural for an artist. With our own label, Space Age Bachelor Pad, we get to express ourselves. We're poor, but happy, and we want to keep doing our own thing."
Towards the mid 1990s, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies began to undergo some lineup changes. West, Brown, Baxter, and Azorr all left the group between 1995 and 1996. Sean Oldham replaced West, but was soon replaced by drummer Tim Donohue. Saxophonist Rex Trimm took Brown's place. He also left the band and was replaced by Ian Early on baritone and alto sax. Sean Flannery took over the tenor sax after Baxter's departure. And finally, Dustin Lanker replaced Azorr on keyboards.
Amidst all the personnel changes, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies recorded and released Kids on the Street in 1996. This time, they managed to get some national recognition by reaching the top of Rolling Stone's Alternative Chart. The album had sold 25,000 copies as soon as it hit the streets. They also began to get better exposure by touring the United States three times and opening for bands like the Reel Big Fish and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
Around this same time, Mojo Records President Jay Rifkin approached Steve Perry about signing the Cherry Poppin' Daddies to a record deal. The group negotiated a contract and had a deal by the end of 1996. The following year, they released their biggest hit album, Zoot Suit Riot. The LP included a mixture of tracks from their first three albums, plus four new songs. Within the year, it reached platinum sales and a spot on Billboard's Top 20.
The Cherry Poppin' Daddies had definitely brought their music to a far-reaching public by 1998. In April of that year, they went on tour with Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, and that summer, they played on the Vans Warped tour. By that fall, they were nominated for Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards. They also recorded a cover of Harry Belofonte's song "Jump in Line" for the 1998 film BASEketball.
Although they were at the forefront of the trend, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies had reservations about their place in the popularity of modern swing. "We're not a retro thing," Perry said in the group's record company biography. "Swing has to be reinvented. Use the lyricism of the 1960s, use punk-rock energy, use the stuff that can't be denied and create a new thing."
Perry also expressed his fears about the direction of the swing-style genre and how it might affect the future of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and other bands in the same category. "It's really more about the swing dancers and not about the bands," Perry said to Randy Cordova in the Arizona Republic. "It doesn't matter what they're dancing to, as long as they can dance. I think that will kill the scene for sure. It will be just like disco." The Cherry Poppin' Daddies had no plans to stop swinging, irrespective of the scene's fate. They played their own style of music before it was popular, and they planned to keep on doing it as long as someone would listen--and maybe even dance.
by Sonya Shelton
Cherry Poppin' Daddies's Career
Band formed in Eugene, Oregon, 1989; created Space Age Bachelor Pad Records and released Ferociously Stoned, 1990; Rapid City Muscle Car,1994; Kids on the Street, 1996; signed contract with Mojo/MCA Records, 1995; released Zoot Suit Riot, 1997.
- Selected discography
- Ferociously Stoned , Space Age Bachelor Pad Records, 1990.
- Rapid City Muscle Car , Space Age Bachelor Pad Records, 1994.
- Kids on the Street , Space Age Bachelor Pad Records, 1996.
- Zoot Suit Riot , Mojo Records, 1997.
- Arizona Republic , November 6, 1997.
- Billboard, March 21, 1998.
- Collegian (Kansas State University), October 17, 1997.
- Denver Westword , September 14, 1994.
- Idaho Statesman , October 24, 1997.
- Los Angeles Times , July 20, 1995.
- Oregon Daily Emerald , March 14, 1997.
- San Francisco Weekly , August 6, 1997.
- Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), April 17, 1997; July 24, 1997; October 24, 1997.
- Tampa Tribune , September 13, 1997.
- http://www.musicblvd.com (September 8, 1998).
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