The Rays: An Early Influence of Kool

"Daddy Cool" on Cameo

I’ve always claimed that the strongest and earliest influence in my musical life was my 1956 encounter with Rockabilly, and it was.  However where were other, non-Rockabilly influences that had a strong affect on me.  Really early on were Hank Williams, Hank Snow, and Woody Guthrie, but in 1959-1960 no group had a greater influence on me than a Blues/Doo Wop group called the Rays and their hit, “Daddy Cool,”

The Rays were originally a Chess group, but “Daddy Cool” was originally released on XYZ Records and then picked up by Cameo Records. “Daddy Cool” was the B-side of their 1957 single hit, “Silhouettes which became a #3 hit on the Billboard Pop singles chart (Wikipedia).

But, with all this said, “Daddy Cool” was a super big hit with me.  My other favorite single out of that year was “Party Doll”  by Buddy Knox  I sang both of them loud, long and often.  Both songs spoke to

Buddy Knox in a Rare Clip of "Party Doll"

something deep inside of me and made me feel things that my ordinary, dull, square-parent-controlled, teenage life never quite did.  These songs made me feel real, important, tough, and truly Kool!  However, it was “Daddy Cool” that was on the jukebox in the old Student Union at Los Gatos High School in my freshman year.  And it was “Daddy Cool” I punched up every time I got in there (I learned that if I slugged it just right, it would play for free!).  My song, “Dance Floor of Time” is really about me during that tme, you know.  I wore Levis, with a 3/8″ white belt with two opposing buckles, a DA, shirt or jacket collar turned up, and I wore black shoes with buckle-clips for fasteners, AND I had steel cleats on my heels plus two more on the each side and one on each of the toes of my shoes, cruised with guys that drove ’56 Chevys and ’50 Fords on 1st and 2nd Streets in San Jose, grabbed burgers at John’s Drive In–I was kool!  And “Daddy Cool” truly reinforced that notion.  That was the year I learned about, the important stuff of life, girls, drag racing, girls, reefer, girls, Pall Malls, girls, and dynamite (I won’t expand on this one!)–I was sixteen.

If I were to write about my”Halcyon Days, ” these would be them.  I was in a couple of fights, I ran from the cops, I was in a gang fight, I carried a forever unused condom in my wallet, brass knuckles in my hip pocket, but above all, I was kool and “Daddy Cool” was my anthem.

Disturbing as it may seem to you, I still hum both “Daddy Cool,” and “Party Doll” to myself at odd moments—not because I am in some way trying to recapture my sense of sixteen-year-old-koolness (I honestly don’t believe I have ever lost it), but because both of those songs, AND my sense of kool, are going to be with me until I get to “Rockabilly Heaven, with Carl and Eddie and the crowd…”


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