Rocking the Billy

Cherry Lee & The Hot Rod Hounds rev up the Trolley

By Mike Ritchie

Cherry Lee and The Hotrod Hounds will have been around for a half-decade next October with Cassandra Barker, Skyp Krantz, Kevin Schirmer, Casey Ott and Brian Hoeflich waving the rockabilly flag in Dayton and surrounding areas. They like genres that teeter or mirror their own, almost tiptoeing into psychobilly. They listen to everything from AC/DC to Rev Horton Heat to the old-school greats while keeping an ear open to anything new or different that catches their attention. They’ve entered 2016 with gigs booked, a new record to record and several new states to debut in.

The name came from vocalist Cassandra Barker’s former salon Cherry Lee and the Daddy Katz.

“We sat down and starting spinning off names, Cherry Lee and the ‘whatever’ trying to figure out something and came up with Cherry Lee and the Hot Rod Hounds, which in retrospect is a mouthful,” Barker quips. “Sometimes it’s Cherry Lee and the HRH. It’s been misprinted and misunderstood as Cherry Lee and the Hot Dogs, Jerry Lee and the Hotrods and Cherry Lee and the Hotrod Deville’s.”

The music comes from rockabilly and early blues. “It’s always meant to be that, we have some tunes that we call the rockers,” Barker says. Their influences include Carl Perkins, Johnny cash, Wanda Jackson, The Blasters with Ronnie Dawson being the silent, unspoken hero.”

In terms of heavy songs there’s “I Hate You,” where Barker belts out a metal worthy scream and is their “almost psychobilly” tune. The guys from The Loveless gave their stamp of approval on first listen. “The guys from Architects of Doom, they loved us,” Barker says with a smile.

When someone asks, “what’s rockabilly?” they say Johnny Cash and The Reverend Horton Heat. Rockabilly started small with people in a certain area so everything came from Johnny Cash, Elvis and Little Richard, among others.

“Most people love it but don’t know what the hell it is,” Barker says.

At some shows the audience called it Billy rock. A couple of senior ladies showed up once asking ‘are you gonna have that Billy music coming up?’ Barker graciously assured them that all the Billy’s would be there.

“You don’t see as much of a scene in Dayton, but in other cities punk rock and rockabilly definitely mix up more,” upright bass player Hoeflich says. “We kinda get to hold the torch in a way and just do it. If someone goes out they’re not gonna see what we do very often.”

They have a record in the making.

“Five years as a band and we’re working on our first recording,” Barker says. “We just want to make sure when it was time to do it the right way. It’s a new adventure. We anticipate having it done by the beginning-mid part of summer.”

“It’s either going to be [called] Record Machine or Octabilly Rocktopus,” Barker says. “Or possibly Yet to be Named,” Hoeflich jokes. “[There will be] nine songs, and a couple that we’re messing with, we’ll see what happens,” Barker says.

They’ve played the gamut of local venues, everywhere from Downtown Dayton to elsewhere including biker bars, state fairs and rallies. Their norm is a three set night, so they’ve been around mostly similar company, but they love the diversified experience of a mixed bill.

“We like a mixed bill because it brings things that someone didn’t come to here,” Barker says. “If you’re playing someplace with a hippie jam band and we’re playing and some DJ’s are spinning—not that it happens, but if it did—then you have kids from any age. They’re all forced to hear things they’re not there to hear and maybe they magically fall in love with one of those things.”

They try to stay as road-friendly as possible with multiple projects keeping them busy.

They want to go to specific venues in specific states and they’re not shy about saying which ones.

“All of them,” Barker insists. “Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Florida—we’ve heard that Florida is the wave for rockabilly bands. The folks eat it up.” Casino gigs and the west coast are also on their pro-longed to do list.

Each member is in the band for the right reasons, sharing a mutual love and passion for the music and art form. Their first three gigs of 2016 went to recording costs. The band is very appreciative of their fans and local backers waiting for new music.

They plan on 2016 being a great year of accomplishment with out-of-state shows and continuous momentum. Keeping a balance is crucial, making the best of what you have.

“We can play off each other and it’s really fun,” Barker says. “It feels good to have that positive forward motion. We don’t ever not have a good time. We’re happy with the lineup right now and the chemistry. We’re not just having fun on stage, we’re having fun off stage. There’s no ego, there’s an equal amount of love for the rock.”

Cherry Lee and The Hot Rod Hounds play at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 23 at Trolley Stop, 530 E. Fifth St. in Dayton. For more information, please visit trolleystopdayton.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Ritchie at MikeRitchie@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Ritchie at MikeRitchie@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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