Every Hot 100 Number-One Single: “Daddy” (1941) by Sammy Kaye with the Kaye Choir

It’s been a while since I reviewed a song for my Every Number-One Single challenge that predated the Hot 100, so here we are again! Strangely enough, even though I’ve covered thirty-four(!) singles for the challenge thus far – which is amazing, it honestly doesn’t seem like that much – the one that has gotten the most traffic is for “Maria Elena”, a song that comes over fifteen years before the Hot 100 would be born. And it’s not even close! Interestingly enough, “Daddy” is the very next single following “Maria Elena” that would top a sales and/or radioplay chart in the states, so luckily this is a very natural progression.

One of the main reasons why I decided to extend this challenge backwards to include a bunch of these earlier singles is, first and foremost, to familiarize myself with popular music of the pre-rock ‘n’ roll era, a glaring blindspot of mine. Specifically during the American swing era, bandleaders were all the rage, much in the same way that musicians and producers would be praised in this day and age. During the height of the big bang era, Sammy Kaye stood alongside other bandleaders such as Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, and Harry James as one of the most well-renown of the day. In case one may be wondering, “swing and sway” was a slogan coined by Kaye himself and often used by radio announcers before one of his records was spun. You can’t deny, it is catchy.

Between 1941 and 1950, Sammy Kaye and his orchestra (or in this case, the Kaye Choir) achieved five number-one singles, with “Harbor Lights” arguably being his signature tune. Nonetheless, today we’ll be looking at the first of these, which topped the National Best Selling Retail Records chart for eight nonconsecutive weeks. It should be noted that Kaye’s output tends to not fit within the traditional, agreeable realms of jazz or swing, at least in its day. On the contrary, Kaye’s records were often derided by critics for their playfulness and novelty value, which didn’t sit well for more serious big band connoisseurs.

“Daddy” falls totally in line with these expectations. By way of the Kaye Choir’s simple, synchronized delivery, the song tells of a girl named Daisy Mae who demands only the finest of expensive prizes from her handsome beau… and that’s it. That’s the song. Among her wishes are “a diamond ring, bracelets”, “clothes with Paris labels”, “a brand new car, champagne, caviar”… you get the drill. It’s basically an earlier, less sexier version of “Santa Baby”, only told from an outsider’s perspective as opposed to the latter’s first-person perspective. An in case it must be noted, “daddy” is an outdated term of endearment usually between a young heterosexual couple, from the girl to the boy. Of course, the term itself has taken on a whole other meaning nearly 80 years later, but we’ll skip that part.

The most interesting part about this song, honestly, is that initially the joke seems to be missing – it’s not like the singers are condemning this woman for her desire for nice, flashy things. They’re just kind of stating her own requests pretty objectively. At the start of the song before the main melody, they introduce her as “Lazy Daisy Mae” and observe her personality as, “rather sweet and charming, at times alarming”, which could possibly be interpreted as a form of condemnation. But I don’t see it that way; it seems more like a person talking about their friend, in an “oh, she’s pretty wild” kind of way. And I guess that’s the whole joke here: a young woman who dares to step out of the supposed gender roles of her relationship and ask for material objects, as opposed to the standard romantic notions that would appear in a typical love song.

Now, I wouldn’t be so quick as to call this song subversive in any way – after all, it’s just a cute little novelty song. If anything, it’s more interesting to note how what was once probably gut-bustingly funny in the olden days (remember – this went to number-one!) now seems relatively innocuous, tame, and even kind of boring. Still, there’s enough charm in this one to keep me interested for its brief little snippet of time. It’s always nice to branch away from contemporary rock and pop music for a little while, and I’m glad that this song was the one I landed on!

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