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"When we first started playing with our first drummer," says Jamie Almond, vocalist/bassist for the Trip Daddys, "he had a Cadillac with no heat and no radio. I ended up buying it from him, because it was a Cadillac. It was a big hoopty and I loved it, but before I got the heat fixed we used to have to take a blanket and just cover up to go to gigs. That was probably the lowest point for us."
While plenty of bands have rough stories about starting out, not many of those stories stretch back ten years. But Almond, along with vocalist/guitarist Craig Straubinger, has been rocking slicked-back hair, denim and psychobilly freakouts in the Daddys for a full decade. Sitting over Pabst bottles (natch) with them and current drummer Joe Meyer (who was in seventh grade ten years ago), it's easy to see that Almond and Straubinger have worked together a long time: They talk in tandem, lobbing details back and forth. They are 34 and 33, respectively, but they've been enmeshed in the local music scene for a full third of their lives, and they've seen a lot of changes.
"There are a lot more bars that cater to the underground rock scene," says Almond. "Like Lemmons, Frederick's play more loud stuff now, things that sprung off from the Way Out Club."
"More places to play original music," Straubinger agrees. "And it's easier to get into them. When we were starting out as a band, if you weren't friends with one of the bands that were already playing or somehow weren't connected, people wouldn't even listen to your tape. It just seems easier for new bands to get gigs now."
"Back then the Seattle-wannabe types were hanging on but dying out," Almond puts in. "There are better bands now: Shame Club, Billy Coma, LoFreq, the Sex Robots, the Pubes -- I think it's cool right now."
"I think in '92, '93, bands were all more cutthroat," Straubinger finishes.
The Daddys (the misspelling was inspired by a marquee in Soulard) have gone from the lows of bundling in a broke-down Caddy to the highs of opening for Brian Setzer at the House of Blues in Chicago, a show both cite as a favorite. "He's a guitar hero of mine," Straubinger says, "and he sold the place out, and everybody showed up early. That doesn't always happen -- sometimes you open for someone big and the crowd trickles in while you're playing. It was a night we could do no wrong."
"Most merchandise we ever sold was that night," Almond adds. "They didn't know we were local yokels. They thought we were on tour with them."
"A nice taste of what it could be like," Straubinger volleys.
Not that the Daddys spend a lot of time wishing for the rock & roll lifestyle. "As long as you're having fun, it's legit," says Almond. "Because there's two reasons to do it: Either you're going to be a big rock star, or it's fun."
Straubinger: "We're mostly fun."
"If it wasn't fun, we wouldn't do it," Almond goes on. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, we're having a blast. Some people bum out if they don't become big rock stars. If you still get the feeling from when you're a kid with your tennis racquet jamming to AC/DC, it's great."
And that's the Daddys' secret to staying together for a decade?
That and "try not to break up," Almond says.
"It's dumb luck to be around for ten years," Straubinger maintains. "A lot of bands break up, change the name, add a couple of new members and start all over again. If the core songwriters stay in the band, don't change the name."
Staying true to this rule, the Daddys have cycled through a Spinal Tap-esque six drummers over their ten years. They found Meyer, who's been with them for about a year and a half, while he was pounding for the short-lived but well-remembered punk band ResistAll. He remembers first seeing the Daddys at a Hi-Pointe show about five years ago. "They were just putting on a show -- Craig putting the guitar behind his head for a solo. It was pretty wild," the drummer says.
"Onstage is no place to look bored," says Straubinger.
The Daddys will take their incendiary live show to their spiritual home, the Way Out Club, this Saturday night, where they'll capture their tenth birthday party on a DVD to be released late this summer. With openers the 7 Shot Screamers and the Unmutuals, the Daddys hope to record "a good representation of the Way Out Saturday night, a south-side night," says Straubinger. The Daddys thank Bob Putnam and Sherri "Danger" Lucas of the Way Out, along with Lisa Andris at the Hi-Pointe, for giving them their start in the city as the band they wanted to be.
"The Way Out was the first place that gave us a chance to be ourselves," Almond says. "When we first started out, we had a bunch of blues covers, rockabilly songs, a few originals. And the only place we could get a gig was Soulard, because they liked the blues and rockabilly. So we played there. But they hated originals, and they hated the volume."