Cherry Poppin' Daddies check out other options

Any time a band attains some level of success and then trades it in for a low profile, folks assume that there's a lurid explanation.

'No VH1 ('Behind the Music') story here,' says Steve Perry, leader of Eugene's Cherry Poppin' Daddies.

The Daddies had a respectable spot of good fortune in 1998. Their compilation album, 'Zoot Suit Riot,' went platinum, the title track was a hit, and the band toured their brass off. They dropped in on Jay Leno and were profiled in Spin, Rolling Stone and any newspaper with an arts section. Swing music and retro chic were riding high.

Inevitably, swingers turned their attention to other distractions, and the Daddies got thrown out with the cultural bath water. When their record label didn't bother to publicize their subsequent (and more stylistically diverse) record, Perry and his fellow hepcats decided to 'de-escalate' their touring and recording for a year or so.

'We spent a lot of time and energy recording the follow-up album ('Soul Caddy,' in 2000),' Perry explains. 'It was really draining, we got burned out, and the label (Mojo Records) didn't push the record.'

Perry, 38, now is back in Eugene, where he's enrolled as a biology student at the University of Oregon. He spent last year living in New York City.

'I'm getting my degree. I want to make my mom happy,' he confesses.

So far, Perry has enjoyed his hiatus from the stage. 'I'm getting old, and I want to do other things while I can still walk upright. I want to travel to different cities and see things other than their bars,' he says. 'For the last several years, I haven't really done anything for myself; the band has always come first.

'Still, it's good for me to hang out with these guys. I'm kind of a social retard, and traveling with the band and meeting people is good for me. I do miss that part of it.'

As for the future of the band, Perry is dubious that it ever will ramp it up to the full-time, crazed touring and recording schedule that it maintained for more than 10 years. Yet he's not willing to call it quits, either, and is looking at his time off to renew his enthusiasm and recharge his creative juices.

'If there's interest and we all feel good about it, we'll play some more,' he says. 'We're playing some shows right now to see if we still like it and to see if people still want to come and see us.'

And what did he learn from his time in the national spotlight four years ago?

'It's not as much fun as you might think,' Perry says soberly.

Pass the mike

Mike Johnson is blessed with one of those names that allow him healthy anonymity despite an impressive musical rŽsumŽ. The former Grants Pass and Eugene resident is stumping on behalf of his fourth album, 'What Would You Do?' (Up Records), which, like its predecessors, is another collection of leisurely paced late-night quandaries.

Johnson has been a collaborator with former Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan since 1990, when the latter released his first solo record, 'The Winding Sheet,' on Sub Pop Records. He also has served as bassist in Dinosaur Jr. and (for a short time) the esteemed Queens of the Stone Age.

Longtime regional rockhounds will recall Johnson from Eugene's seminal punk band, Snakepit, in the latter part of the '80s, a rather chaotic assemblage that also spawned Bikini Kill guitarist Billy Karren and one-time Melvins bass player Joe Preston. And whom did Johnson replace in Snakepit? A fellow named Steve Perry, who a few years later would get rhythm with the Cherry Poppin' Daddies.

Johnson has fused all his disparate influences deftly on his new record, stirring up a pot of chilly observations about the darkness on the other side of his bed. On songs such as 'Remember' and 'Come Back Again,' he wields his bottom-of-the-well voice to wax weepy on loss and the inevitability of being alone. Leonard Cohen, Scott Walker and Lee Hazelwood are three names that come to mind when sorting through Johnson's disc of dusky tunes.

Mike Johnson plays at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at Blackbird, 3728 N.E. Sandy Blvd., 503-282-9949, $8.

Pop and a slice

Portland's Paisley Pop record label is celebrating its first year in show business with a soiree that will feature three bands from its stable: Girls Say Yes, Crack City Rockers and the Quags. Label honcho Jim Huie promises big things in the year to come, including releases from noted North Carolina pop combo the Windbreakers, as well as solo stuff from that band's principal songwriters, Tim Lee and Bobby Sutliff.

Huie also is planning on albums from the Foolkillers (former members of True West), Missy Roback, the Broken Hearts and the Sunbirds, a band from the middle '80s that boasted Cole Marquis of 28th Day as well as local recording studio boss Larry Crane.

Paisley Pop celebration is at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at Mississippi Pizza Pub, 3552 N. Mississippi, 503-288-3231, free.

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