Daddy Cool Original

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A Daddy Cool Original Doo-Wop Ditty

In 1957, songwriters Bob Crewe and Frank Slay penned a doo-wop ditty by the name of “Daddy Cool”. The Rays released the “Daddy Cool” original version that same year. Then in 1971, two Australian bands covered the song – Drummond (Adelaide band Allison Gros who later became Mississippi) and Daddy Cool from Melbourne. This post focuses on Daddy Cool’s version. Please note: Boney M’s 1976 hit of the same name is a completely different song. We don’t discuss it here.

Doo-wop consists of vocal harmonies with little of no instrumental accompaniment. The lead vocalist sings simple lyrics with an engaging melody over background vocals of often-nonsensical syllables. A sub-genre of rhythm and blues, doo-wop emerged in the 1940s and was mostly sung by African-American youth from large US cities.

The Rays

The Rays were a doo-wop group from New York City. They formed in 1955 and were active until the early 1960s. They Rays were lead singer Harold Miller, tenors Walter Ford and David Jones, and baritone Harry James. All were born in Brooklyn, New York except Ford who was from Kentucky. The Rays’ biggest hit was “Silhouettes” which reached number 3 on the 1957 Billboard Hot 100.

“Daddy Cool”, released on Cameo Records, was on the B-side of the “Silhouettes” single. The sound is pure doo-wop and the vibe is fun. You’ll be immediately transported back to the 1950s, complete with belting piano and sax.

Other Daddies Cool

Several cover versions of “Daddy Cool” were made. The first was by Canadian doo-wop band, the Diamonds, in the same year as the Rays’ release. Their version reached number 10. Other cover versions include:

  • 1958: New Jersey band the Bonnevilles, with Wayne Tevlin on lead vocals
  • 1977: UK doo-wop revival band Darts
  • 1989: Berkley pop-punk band Sweet Baby

In Australia, Drummond’s version of “Daddy Cool” went to number 1 on the 1971 singles charts for seven weeks and eight weeks on top of the Go-Set National Top 40. Ironically, the song displaced Daddy Cool’s “Eagle Rock” from the Australian charts.

Drummond Version

Festival Records used Drummond as a pseudonym to record novelty songs by a number of Australian bands. Drummond’s chipmunk-style recording of “Daddy Cool” was the work of soft-rock band Allison Gros, consisting of Graeham Goble, Russ Johnson and John Mower. In 19781, the band moved to Melbourne, changed their name to Mississippi, rotated through musicians, and eventually evolved into the Little River Band.

I’m not a fan of novelty songs. I liked them when I was a kid though. The chipmunk lead vocal in Drummond’s “Daddy Cool” was just the sort of thing I once enjoyed, but now can’t stand. The backup vocals and piano are good though, and are full of that original doo-wop sound. The song gets more rocking towards its finale, complete with guitars and a scream.

Melbourne’s Own Daddy Cool

While it’s often thought that the band Daddy Cool were named after the Rays’ song, that’s actually not the case. Vocalist and guitarist Ross Wilson stated that he named the band before he heard the song – he simply put two hip words together and came up with Daddy Cool. Only later did he become aware of the song and incorporate it into the band’s set.

Daddy Cool formed in Melbourne in 1970 and consisted of Wilson, Ian Winters on guitar, Gary Young and Wayne Duncan (both from the Rondells) on drums and bass respectively, and Terry Noone on sax and piano. They played theatrical doo-wop covers, such as the Rays’ “Daddy Cool”, and rock ‘n’ roll originals mostly written by Wilson. Daddy Cool quickly became a notorious live music fixture. Concert-goers would form spontaneous conga lines and swarm the stage. Daddy Cool even got themselves banned from the Melbourne Town Hall when the audience rioted.

As well as soaring into the local charts, playing sell-out shows, including a memorable Sunbury appearance, Daddy Cool toured the US three times.

Daddy Cool was closer to a real-life Ruben & the Jets, with touches of unique, down-under British looniness (weird headgear and propeller beanies) and a highly animated presentation that shook up the Australian concert scene.”

Bruce Eder

Daddy Who?

Over two and a half days in January 1971, Daddy Cool recorded their debut album Daddy Who? Daddy Cool, released in July that year. The album included a studio version of “Daddy Cool”.

Daddy Who? Daddy Cool was enormously successful. It was the first Australian album to reach number 1 nationally and it remained in position for seven weeks, smashing all previous sales records. Released on Robie Porter’s Smarmac label, the album went gold within a month, selling an unprecedented 60,000 copies over its initial release. Daddy Who? Daddy Cool went on to become the first Australian LP to sell over 100,000 copies. It remained the highest-selling Australian album in Australia until 1975, when it was was broken by Skyhooks’ Living in the 70s, which was produced by Wilson.

Legacy

In 1972, Daddy Cool broke up. There were at the peak of their success, but thought their popularity affected their music. They reformed a few times, with various band members. In August 2006, Daddy Cool were inducted into the Australia Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame. In November 2014, the original band reformed for the final time when Daddy Cool was inducted into the Music Victoria Awards Hall of Fame.

Wilson went on to produce albums for Skyhooks, Jo Jo Zep and other artists. He also performed as a founding member of Mondo Rock and as a solo artist. Hannaford, Duncan and Young all played for various other Australian bands. Both Hannaford and Duncan sadly passed away during that dreaded year of beloved musician deaths, 2016.

Daddy Cool’s most popular hit, “Eagle Rock” is re-released every few years and manages to chart once each decade or so in Australia.

Their version of “Daddy Cool” is a similar arrangement to the Rays original with slightly more theatrical vocals. There’s also a rocking guitar solo towards the end instead of piano and sax.

Maybe at the end of the day, all Daddy Cools are cool.

References
Apple Music Preview - Daddy Cool
Daddy Cool bass player Wayne Duncan dead, aged 72
Last.fm - Daddy Cool
New book documents when Daddy Cool were red hot
Wikipedia - Daddy Cool band
Wikipedia - Daddy Cool song
Wikipedia - Daddy Who? Daddy Cool
Wikipedia - doo-wop
Wikipedia - Mississippi band
Wikipedia - The Rays
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