Like most Cherry Poppin’ Daddies fans outside the Pacific Northwest region, I first heard the band when their Zoot Suit Riot compilation CD rode the wave of the late ’90s swing revival to immense popularity. And if I’m being perfectly honest, I sort of lost tracks of the group a few after when it was clear they weren’t about to be constrained by the retro-swing sound that so many new fans expected from them.
But with the release of 2013’s Black Teeth, White Thoughts, the Daddies’ first all-swing record since Zoot Suit Riot, I was firmly back in the camp of Daddies fans again. Maybe that makes me a fairweather fan, but I just know what I like to hear.
All this is to say that when the Daddies brought their tour to my area for one of the relatively few times in recent years, and announced that they were going to be doing a show very much in the mold of Jazz Age Cotton Club music, I had to go. So on a frigid night I made my way to the quaint but lovely Sellersville Theater in Pennsylvania to see Steve Perry and company bring the swing.
And let me tell you, the Daddies did not disappoint. The band delivered a highly fun and energetic performance — Perry especially worked his ass off the entire time — as well as a fantastic mix of original songs and timeless American classics. And yes, they absolutely played “Zoot Suit Riot” and it absolutely killed.
Normally I would have been writing down the set list, but to be honest I was just having so much fun, as was most of the decidedly older-skewing crowd, that it never even occurred to me. I can tell you that the band delivered smoking renditions of many songs found on the Zoot Suit Riot CD, including “When I Change Your Mind,” Brown Derby Jump,” “No Mercy for Swine,” and my all-time favorite from the Daddies, “The Ding-Dong Daddy of the D-Car Line.”
And then there were a host of expertly delivered selections from the Great American Songbook such as “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” 42nd Street,” and a beautiful take on Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.” Also played were some rambunctiously bawdy tunes outside the Songbook like Wynonie Harris’s “Bloodshot Eyes” and Louis Jordan’s “Doug the Jitterbug.”
I should note that one of the best aspects of the show was watching all the people dancing just in front of the stage. It took me back to a time when a show like this would’ve been performed in a theater with no seats at all, and even I would be up and swinging.
If you have the chance to see the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies live, find an excuse to do it. And if you can’t do that, pick up one of their last few CDs. Then you’ll know the answer to the question posed by the Ray Davies and the Kinks 50 years ago, “where have all the good times gone?” The answer is that they’re still here if you know where to look.