Way Out Wednesday: Big Daddy, “What Really Happened to the Band of ’59?”
I’ve written previously about the novelty group Big Daddy. In case you’ve slept since then, here’s the concept for the band:
While on a USO tour of Southeast Asia in 1959, Big Daddy was captured by Communist forces and held captive until the mid ’80s, at which time they were rescued by CIA forces and subsequently returned to the United States. While being held at Camp David for de-briefing, they were given sheet music of contemporary hit songs so that they could re-build their repertoire and get back to the only work they knew…making music. Of course, not having heard the evolution of rock music during the quarter century they spent imprisoned in the jungles of Laos, they arranged and performed these songs the only way they knew how…in the classic styles of the 1950s.
Sometimes the song will be in the style of another song or artist, and sometimes not. That’s really all there is to it, but it’s amazing how well the conceit works. Here are a few examples from their first album.
We start with the Barry Manilow classic “I Write the Songs” (which, by the way, was one of the few songs he didn’t write) done in a style reminiscent of the Danny and the Juniors song “At the Hop.” It definitely perks the tune up!
Next we have what is probably my favorite song on the album: the Rick James song “Super Freak” re-imagined as (I kid you not) an Everly Brothers ballad. It’s sort of tender and creepy at the same time.
Here the group takes the song “Ebony and Ivory” and performs it as a hard-driving Little Richard rocker. (Considering all the members of the band are white, I guess the singer is representing both ebony and ivory!)
Sometimes Big Daddy takes a song and (while still staying with the fifties concept) makes it rather nice, as in this case, where they do the Survivor song “Eye of the Tiger” as done by a group of guys singing on a street corner, complete with traffic noise. Devoid of instruments, the harmonies shine.
If you want to hear more of this album, you can find it here. I thought these guys were great, and I’ll probably be featuring more of Big Daddy’s albums in the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately, they’re all out of print except for the album Cutting Their Own Groove, which you can find here. See you next time. Happy New Year!