Big Ray and the Kool Kats sprang to musical life in 1996. Ray Caddell, longtime professional musician and veteran of tours and performances with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Gladys Knight to The Temptations was driving down the road listening to the University of Virgina college radio station and heard a tune from a band with a different, horn driven sound that somehow seemed to combine rock, Motown and Big Band music. He called the station, found out the band’s name, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, got a copy of the cd from the station and wore it out on his car’s cd player.
Ray’s current project at that time, The Ray Caddell Swing Orchestra, was working sometimes a couple times a month playing traditional big band swing music with some of the best musicians in town. Rehearsals were sometimes more fun than the gigs, playing through the great repertoire of the 30’s and 40’s, but there really wasn’t a lot of work for a traditional big band, and challenges like stage size and budgets made it difficult to work as much as he liked. After many years of 6 nights a week, a few nights here and there just wasn’t the same.
Ray handpicked the first 8 members, rebranded the band as Big Ray and the Kool Kats, had a rehearsal or 2, recorded a demo and almost immediately the band found itself with almost more work than it could handle. 8 guys traveling around, throwing the equipment into Ray’s conversion band and playing everything from outdoor concerts to nightclubs to fraternity parties, each all the while holding down full time day gigs.
The hard thing started to fade after a few years, the musical focus expanded, the band size grew with the addition of Sinatra Stylist Dan Barrale and female vocalist Dee Dee Bellson (the daughter of superstars Pearl Bailey and Louis Bellson), and the work continued to roll in. Later years added more female vocalists, a few natural personnel changes, but the band kept it’s focus on great players and singers, exceptional customer service and work continued to flow in.
High profile gigs from Cabo San Lucas to The Kennedy Center Gala, Bellagio Las Vegas to Nantucket, and all up and down the Eastern Seaboard followed along with “fly dates” to Denver, Chicago, Montana, Florida, Boston, Charleston and beyond. The bands reputation grew, aided by multiple NYE appearances at The Greenbrier, The Homestead and other fine resorts.
A 2013-2014 retooling of some positions in the band caused by some retirements of original members produced the younger, hipper lineup today, yet still anchored by horn players from the original orchestra, a thumping rhythm section with a decidedly youthful groove, and 5 dynamic vocalists still including the Sinatra Stylist, a Motown specialist, and 3 beautiful and talented female vocalists.
Big Ray and the Kool Kats plays the very best music from many eras and genre, including the most popular dance hits of today.
Hiring Big Ray and the Kool Kats as our band was one of the best decisions we made for our wedding day! Big Ray was so helpful throughout the planning process, and made some suggestions about the event that I am SO thankful for – my wedding wouldn’t have been the same without him. He handled the music selection with some basic information about what we liked, played music that appealed to everyone in the audience, from teens to my peers to my older relatives, and added some nice touches involving the audience to engage the entire crowd. They played all night long without a break, including the ceremony and cocktail hour!! We had some amazing compliments from friends and family about our wedding, and every single person mentioned how fun and talented the band was! I recommend them over and over again!!
I hired Big Ray & the Kool Kats to perform at my fundraising Gala in Washington DC last night and they were amazing! I had multiple guests come up to me during the performance and comment on how great of a band we had. They read the crowd and played music that really got people up and dancing after the dinner… on a Tuesday night! I will certainly work with them again and recommend Big Ray & the Kool Kats to anyone!
Big Ray and the Kool Kats are literally the best band ever! I work in the wedding industry which made my wedding planning process more difficult than I had expected. My family and I saw them play at Maryland Live Casino along with some other bands about 9 months before my wedding. I was sold after they played just one song, and then Big Ray himself came up to meet my family and I and that was definitely the icing on the cake. From beginning to end, the process of working with this band was amazing. Not only is the band so wonderful, but Big Ray is truly one of the best people I have ever met. He is so sincere, genuine and loves what he does. During the night he constantly checked in with me to make sure I was happy, and that meant so much to me. Everyone who was at my wedding keeps talking about how amazing the band was. Look no further, book Big Ray, just do it!