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.