Created in the Corridor: "Daddy-O"
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) —
Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, if people thought you were “hip” or “cool” they might call you daddy-o. Generations later that moniker is still being used, reserved for one local musician who is now getting a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Music Association for his cool career Created in the Corridor.
“I’ve been playing gigs since 1963,” recalled Dennis McMurrin who first picked up a guitar when he was nine years old after watching his jazz guitarist grandfather play. “He was just great. He was fantastic. So when I was real little, I’d watch him. But that was my first influence.”
Growing up in Cedar Rapids, McMurrin took guitar lessons for nearly a decade. Claiming he wasn’t that smart he dropped out of high school in 11th grade to pursue his passion for picking full-time. “It never even entered my mind that I couldn’t do it,” said McMurrin. “I mean that’s how dumb I was…and I had no doubts. Never. I never did.”
And he’s never done anything else. McMurrin’s first band with fellow Cedar Rapids native Michael Boddicker—who went on to become a Grammy-winning composer, was called the Plannets. Their very first performance took place at the old Danceland Ballroom where the downtown Cedar Rapids convention center now stands.
Over the years, McMurrin developed a super-funky, soulful style of blues that won the attention of the world-famous Tower of Power. Their horns can be heard on McMurrin’s 1986 self-titled album recorded at Salty Dog Studios in Los Angeles.
Right after that album, McMurrin formed The Demolition Band to take the songs on the road. They’ve since played countless shows throughout the corridor.
Longtime collaborator Dan Johnson, a bassist, is another career musician who first saw McMurrin perform in the late 60s. “Dennis was in a band called ‘The Travel Agency’ and this is before I even was playing. He was doing stuff on the guitar I’d really never seen. Dennis was the first guy that I’m just going, ‘what is he doing on that guitar?’”
That guitar is the same Gibson McMurrin’s been playing since age 11. “I still remember getting it,” McMurrin recalled fondly. He actually still has the bill of sale from 1964.
And while he’s never given the guitar a nickname like B.B. King’s “Lucille,” He does have his own which he said came by chance thirty years ago on the streets of Iowa City. “A carload full of guys, college kids come by and (shouting) ‘Hey, hey great show last night daddy-o!’ That stuck like crazy.”
“The nickname Daddy-O is so apropos to his personality,” said Nick Stika, a member of the Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Music Association’s board of directors who nominated Daddy-O for IRRMA’s Hall of Fame. “Talking to him on the phone was a riot when I got to call him up and tell him he was being inducted. He was excited about it but in that Daddy-O kind of way; ‘Ah, yeah man, that’s cool.’ You know, just the way he presents himself.”
Added Johnson,“The old, poor beatnik musician, it just really embodies him.”
Johnson said McMurrin also embodies style, originality and improvisation—all the elements needed to preserve music as an art form. “As far as the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame goes, there’s this small percentage of guys that are in there that truly, truly deserve to be in there…and Daddy-O is one of ‘em.”
“Just the influence that he’s got with all the musicians around this area,” explained Stika about McMurrin’s qualifications for recognition. “The influence he’s had on everybody to pick up the guitar and go out there and do it.”
“We had a recent gig here at Parlor City with Ron DeWitte,” recalled McMurrin about one of his favorite shows. Terry Lawless showed up. He was on Saturday Night Live the night before, literally he was in New York City. Huge show.”
And Daddy-O says, at 64, he’ll keep doing shows because he still loves it and the phone still rings.
“People keep calling, you know? Come play, so…that’s it.”
There are several other Corridor musicians receiving IRRMA honors this year including Iowa City bands “The Trippers” and “Cabala,” along with Jim Musser for his work in rock journalism and public relations.
You can find more information HERE.