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Cherry Poppin' Daddies
 
Cherry Poppin' Daddies

spacer For the last thirty years, American popular culture has had a fondness for nostalgia. As with all things created primarily by marketers, these instances of cultural re-discovery have been very predictable. In the 70's, we glamorized the 50's; in the 80's we idealized the 60's; and in the 90's we've returned to the 70's and all it's insane trappings. This twenty year cycle is perfectly timed to give older Americans an easy grasp on their youth. But with our cultural dog so constantly chasing it's tail, it's easy to get dizzy. Has anyone stopped to notice, for example, that part of the 90's voyage back to the 70's includes re-runs of "Happy Days" - thus, nostalgia for nostalgia?

Cherry Poppin' DaddiesspacerspacerIt's not clear how long this has been going on. Certainly, every generation recalls its "good old days." But was popular culture in the 50's idealizing the 30's? Well, Prohibition and Depression may not be worth nostalgia. June Cleaver never said to her hubby, "Gosh, didn't we have fun after Uncle Tommy lost his shirt, jumped out the window, and left Dad all the gin in the tub?" But here at the end of the 90's, one piece of nostalgia older than Watergate jokes has surprisingly broken through all the disco retreads shaking their saggy groove things. Under those same mirror balls, Swing has returned.

It started slowly, in the early 90's, with bands like Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Royal Crown Revue taking the stage in small clubs. Then, in the last couple of years, Swing broke out, with the move "Swingers" (1997) delving into Swing's fringe culture and introducing Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Last year, The Gap made pants fun again with an ad featuring Louis Prima's "Jump, Jive, An' Wail," performed by Brian Setzer (who, in the late 70's brought back 50's rock-a-billy as the frontman for the Stray Cats) and his Orchestra. Many more people saw the ad than the movie, and Swing was back in the popular culture, being played even on so-called "modern rock" radio stations.

Most of the Swing bands who brought the resurgence about play original material, and one of the foremost is Cherry Poppin' Daddies, who performed on AMC in "AMC Swings!" Born in the early 60's, Daddies leader Steve Perry grew up listening to Duke Ellington, Jimmy Luntsford, and Fletcher Henderson, loving Swing because "it was dance music that wasn't like disco. It had a rockin' edge to it." That edge came from the fact that "Swing was early rhythm and blues, which is essentially what rock came out of. So it was familiar and yet something that no one else was doing."

Though they love their Zoot Suits, Cherry Poppin' Daddies is not meant to be a nostalgia show for the Geritol set. They bring a very modern sensibility to their music, play covers only rarely, and attract a young audience. "It started out with young people liking us, and they'd bring the record home and their parents would say, 'Well, that's not too bad, actually.'" Swing clubs have been opening like crazy and after years of free-style dancing, people are learning the syncopated, sometimes complicated steps of Swing dances.

 

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