Cherry Lee and The Daddy Katz Kruze-In for Rockabilly Resurrection
By Gary Spencer
There are many styles of music being purveyed by local musicians, everything from hip hop to harsh noise. And seemingly for years, music of a greater vintage such as classic country and rockabilly has been nowhere to be seen or heard … until 2011 … when a group of seasoned Dayton veterans decided to fill this musical void by forming the band The Daddy Katz. The fledgling ensemble — featuring Bill Winger on bass, Skyp Krantz on drums, Kevin Schirmer on rhythm guitar and Steve Hook on lead guitar and vocals — was soon joined by Cassandra Barker, who also runs the Cherry Lee Salon on Linden Avenue, on lead vocals, at which point the band was christened Cherry Lee and the Daddy Katz.
“The Name came from two of our Shops – Cherry Lee’s is Cassandra’s Hair salon, and Daddy Katz is my shop, and the two names just seemed to work together,” explains bassist Bill Winger.
Daddy Katz is a store on Kettering Boulevard that specializes in vintage-themed clothing, home accessories, artwork and the like. Winger was inspired by the culture that surrounded him a decade or so ago, so opened his own store dedicated to retro music and beach culture back home in Dayton.
“I was living in Cocoa Beach Florida, really digging on the scene that was going on there — artists, tiki carvers, surfing and music, and I wanted to do something that had the same vibe, but knew I could do it better in Dayton, Ohio, believe it or not!” exclaims Winger. “I have had people from New York and California remark how they didn’t expect to see a shop like mine in Dayton … they tell me that this type of shop in only found in big cities. You need to come out and experience it for yourself!”
Much like the decidedly retro vibe of Winger’s shop, Cherry Lee and the Daddy Katz are dedicated to the cause of bringing back decidedly retro music based out of classic rock and roll, country and rockabilly from the 1950s. According to Winger, the band prides itself on choice cover tunes to get crowds movin’.
“We noticed that Dayton has a severe lack of Rock-A-Billy/Roots rock’n roll,” says Winger. “We love old country and rockabilly — Wanda Jackson, Patsy Cline, Gene Vincent, Johnny Cash…”
It is this love of all things old school that led Winger to not only open up his own vintage store in Dayton, but then to form a band that not only sounds like they might have played in the 50’s (dig the old school fat-bodied ‘50s era Gretsch guitar and stand up bass as seen in their YouTube videos), but also looks the part as well — vocalist Cassandra Barker’s hairdo and cowgirl outfit in particular scream rockabilly! As a whole, Cherry Lee and the Daddy Katz just seems like the logical extensions of the shared passions of all those involved.
“We all come from different musical backgrounds, but have a common love for the music we play.” Winger continues, “We like the higher energy female music, but also like to pull out [slower] songs, like Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” a song I never thought I would be playing but the fans love it! People really love the music we’re playing and the fan base is growing very quickly.”
The band members also share a common interest in 1950s automobile culture, which has led to the conception of a weekly “Kruze-In” that takes place on Thursday evenings at the Daddy Katz storefront. The “Kruze-In” welcomes vintage car, hot rod, scooter and motorcycle enthusiasts to bring their classic rides to show off at these events, and to simply enjoy the sights and sounds that go along with it. From late March to late October, Bill Winger likes to keep the engines revving and the grill a-cookin’. The next “Kruze-In” will also start featuring live music to go along with the festivities, beginning this coming Thursday with a live performance by – guess who? – Cherry Lee and the Daddy Katz.
“First Thursday is always a live music night, and we have some of the best bands in town,” boasts Winger.
As for the future of Cherry Lee and the Daddy Katz, the band plans to keep up their classic roots rock crusade with live gigs in and around the Dayton area. But the band also has their sights set on recording a CD and touring as well.
“Right now we’re just playing gigs in and around town, but have plans on recording and working on a southern tour in January,” says Winger. “It’s warm in the south in January, and we have some connections in Tennessee and Florida.”
All in all, Winger considers Cherry Lee and the Daddy Katz to be an integral extension of not just music, but of all the various elements combined which their music, their business endeavors and their fans represent.
“The band loves Retro and Vintage items, Hot Rods and roots music, [and] Cassandra’s hair salon specializes in hair styles, from the ‘50s,” says Winger. “Daddy Katz sells the vintage and retro, and the band plays it. Most all of our fans are our customers, so with the names being the same, it helps us all the way around.”
(Cherry Lee and the Daddy Katz perform at the Daddy Katz Kruze-In this coming Thursday, April 5 at 6p.m. Daddy Katz is located at 3250 Kettering Blvd. Music starts at 7p.m. and there is no cover. For more information please visit daddykatz.com.)
Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at Gary Spencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.