Although Cherry Poppin' Daddies became a popular act during the swing revival of the late 1990s, the eight-piece band formed one decade prior in Eugene, OR. Vocalist Steve Perry (aka MC Large Drink, a nickname intended to distance Perry from the famous Journey frontman) and bassist Dan Schmid initially crossed paths at the University of Oregon, and a shared interest in punk music convinced the students to leave school and pursue a band. After playing together in the Jazz Greats and St. Huck, the duo shifted gears in 1989 by forming Cherry Poppin' Daddies, a unique band whose lineup gradually encompassed guitarist Jason Moss, drummer Tim Donahue, trumpeter Dana Heitman, saxophonists Sean Flannery and Ian Early, and keyboard player Dustin Lanker. The musicians' dedication to ska, swing, jazz, and jump blues made them oddities in the Northwest, where grunge had already begun its reign. Nonetheless, Cherry Poppin' Daddies enjoyed a brief surge of success several years later, when the popularity of "Zoot Suit Riot" helped launch a nationwide swing music revival.
Once formed, it didn't take long for the Cherry Poppin' Daddies to attract attention in the Northwest. Their performances were riddled with theatrics, phallic props, and lavish costumes, making them the recipients of much curiosity and a fair amount of backlash. Moreover, the music mixed elements of swing and jazz with punky rock & roll, while a horn section populated the group's eight-person lineup. The resulting sound was both energetic and unconventional, but America was in the midst of its love affair with grunge, and Cherry Poppin' Daddies' earliest records -- 1990's Ferociously Stoned and 1994's Rapid City Muscle Car -- proved to be little more than cult favorites.
By the mid-'90s, the country's fascination with formerly neglected musical styles (including easy listening, lounge, and swing) had increased the band's prominence, along with similar groups like Squirrel Nut Zippers and Royal Crown Revue. The band's third album, Kids on the Street, benefited from such increased interest, and its popularity earned Cherry Poppin' Daddies a distribution deal with Caroline Records. Lacking the money to record a new album, the band chose instead to cater to America's slowly-building swing craze by compiling the most swing-oriented tracks from their back catalog. The result was 1997's Zoot Suit Riot, a compilation that also featured four new tracks. One such track was the titular "Zoot Suit Riot," which became a surprise Top 40 hit in 1998 and helped pave the way for such revivalist bands as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Brian Setzer Orchestra. The album had sold more than two million copies by 2000, but the swing craze had already begun to fizzle out, resulting in poor sales for the follow-up effort, Soul Caddy.
As touring opportunities dried up, the band took a temporary hiatus. Lanker and Schmid turned their attention to a side project, Visible Men, while Perry returned to the University of Oregon to receive an undergraduate degree. Cherry Poppin' Daddies began touring again in 2002, although activity was limited to sporadic shows until 2008, when the release of the Latin-flavored Susquehanna prompted the group to launch their first full-length tour in years. ~ Andrew Leahey & John Bush, Rovi