"Zoot Suit Riot" by Cherry Poppin' Daddies was released off of the band's greatest hits album, Zoot Suit Riot: The Swingin' Hits of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies.

The band originated in Oregon and had been around since 1989, but "Zoot Suit Riot" is the song that helped them break into the mainstream! At times, they went by The Daddies or The Bad Daddies because their name was controversial. Many venues wouldn't book them due to their name.

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The late-1990s saw a bit of a big band and swing music revival. Cherry Poppin Daddies, Brian Setzer, and Lou Bega all took advantage.

"Zoot Suit Riot" was originally released in October of 1997, but it slowly gained momentum and finally peaked at #41 on Billboard Hot 100 in the Summer of 1998. It also charted at #15 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and #16 on the Adult top 40 chart.

There were two music videos for the song. The original (below) seems fine, but when the band started to gain traction, their record label wanted a 'new' music video. The second video went on to become one of MTV's most played of the year. Despite, Cherry Poppin' Daddies being around since the 80s that music video earned them a nomination at the MTV Video Music Awards for 'Best New Artist.' They lost, however, to Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn." (Personally, I like the lead singer's suit in the original video better. Just my two cents.)

"Zoot Suit Riot" is more than a song. The real Zoot Suit Riots took place in LA in June of 1943. Zoot Suits, mostly worn by Mexican American, African AmericanItalian American, and Filipino American youth, were attacked by sailors and servicemen for being seemingly 'unpatriotic'. Rations had been put on fabric during WWII and the Zoot Suits required a lot of fabric. 

It may have also had something to do with the fact that the new Naval base had been put where a large Mexican population had once lived causing tensions in the area.

The sailors and servicemen say the Zoot Suiters started the first fight in the multiple-day riots, but the Zoot Suiters say it was the other way around. It may not be known for sure who started it, but the sailors definitely helped keep it going. According to Wikipedia, "The next day, 200 sailors got a convoy of about 20 taxicabs and headed for East Los Angeles, the center of Mexican-American settlement. The sailors spotted a group of young zoot suiters and assaulted them with clubs. They stripped the boys of the zoot suits and burned the tattered clothes in a pile. They attacked and stripped everyone they came across who were wearing zoot suits. Media coverage of the incidents then started to spread, inducing more people to join in the mayhem."

The lyrics in "Zoot Suit Riot" reflect the real Zoot Suit Riot. For example:

Who's that whisperin' in the trees?
It's two sailors and they're on leave
Pipes and chains and swingin' hands
Who's your daddy? Yes I am
Fat cat came to play
Now you can't run fast enough
You'd best stay away
When the pushers come to shove
Zoot suit riot

 

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