They may not be full-time professional musicians by trade, but you can't tell that judging from their performances. Big Caddy Daddy are a five-piece party rock band that has been rocking Fort Wayne and the surrounding area for the past nine years. All of the members have day jobs; Big Caddy Daddy is something they do for fun, and so far they've been very successful, playing around 70-80 gigs a year.
The five-piece - vocalist Meranda Garman; Todd Bishop on guitars and vocals; Doug Lude on guitars, saxophone and vocals; bassist Alan Mony; and Gary Wright on drums and vocals - plays everything from AC/DC to Don Henley, Bon Jovi and Pink, even venturing into Dylan territory with their cover of "Like a Rolling Stone."
"We're basically focused on guitar-based rock," says Bishop, "but we have a big variety. We have keyboards and ... a girl singer, so we're able to do just about anything. And that's what we focus on. We like to think of ourselves as a party band."
When the band first started out nine years ago, its constitution and modus operandi were much different. They were known as Stick Figures then, and they started out as a three-piece acoustic group. Soon they found they wanted to do more, so they added a couple of members and electrified, intending to play oldies to what Bishop calls "the American Legion crowd." The name Big Caddy Daddy was initially chosen because band members felt it would play well with that audience.
"There used to be a restaurant here in Auburn called the Auburn House, and they had a bunch of automobile memorabilia all over the walls and they had a Cadillac advertisement and it said "Big Caddy Daddy on it. And I said, 'Hey that's it!'" says Bishop. "And then we find out a year later that there's a band in Indianapolis called Big Daddy Caddy ... but we were already sold into it and had a year under our belt with it. We could have done the smart thing and done a little investigation, but that's what it is."
Yes, you read correctly, there is another band that also calls itself a party band just a short drive down I-69 in Indianapolis. They are Big Daddy Caddy; the Fort Wayne band is Big Caddy Daddy. Fortunately, there has been no animosity between the two bands and few problems resulting from the similarity.
"The farther south we get when we play, [people say] 'Oh, we were gonna come see you we saw you were in Indy,' and then you gotta explain yourself," says Bishop. "People see that name in a town that they were in and think it's you."
Mistaken identities aside, the band plays high-energy shows and prides itself on developing that critical connection with its audiences.
"It is 100 percent high energy. Meranda is quite the show person. She is very interactive with the crowd," says Bishop. "You see a lot of bands ... where it's just song after song and no personal connection between the crowd and the band. We like to talk, we like to interact with our audience, make a joke, have some fun, and hopefully they go home and say man that was fun!"
Their hard work and rapport with their audience have paid off, not just with the number of gigs they play, but also with some opportunities they've had to open for some of their heroes, including Molly Hatchet, Jefferson Starship and the Little River Band.
"Those were great shows. You had little nobodies like us being able to open up for someone that we looked up to musically, and we got to meet them and find out, oh man, these guys are actually pretty cool," Bishop says.
The band hit a roadbump just four months ago when long-time bassist Gary Babineau decided to amicably exit the band. After getting remarried, he no longer had the time to participate in Big Caddy Daddy.
"Gary was our original bass player. He was with us for eight years. He had gotten remarried, and he just needed to dedicate the time there," says Bishop. "Trying to replace the chemistry that we had with him for eight years, and then trying to have that new guy learn eight years of material in a month or two, it's very hard. In fact, we're still going through the re-learning thing with our new bassist right now."
So far, they've never done any studio recording or writing originals, at least not together. Why bother when you've met all of your goals with your gig?
"Honestly, [we do it for] the love of the music," says Bishop. "It's the thrill of a good night on stage, with people cheering, that makes you want to do it again and again and again, you know? That may sound corny but it is what it is. You love sharing the music that you love, and when you get it in return, with the people going nuts and having fun, that's a good life right there."