Page 5 of 6
Lovern's wife, Jamie Ledbetter, says, "I think it helped us bond as a family. I could take our daughter Zoey to Ken's shows. And she wants to be a performer herself. They are very connected because of the music."
"I play violin, drums, and I sing a little," 9-year-old Zoey says. "Dad has some drums in the garage, and I learned on them." She recalls getting onstage to dance the robot for "Hey, Mr. Robot" — "My dad did that dance, and I copied him" — and reports that she has written an as-yet-unreleased Halloween dance song with her father.
Her favorite Doo-Dads song is "Dinosaur Party," which Matt and Lendy Kesler's daughter, 11-year-old Audrey, also cites as one of her favorite moments with the band. (Another budding musician, Audrey sings and plays clarinet.) "That was Emmy, Eli, Ethan, Zoey, Cara, Jake and me, and we had, like, these two song lyrics to sing, and then we made a big dinosaur roar," Audrey says. "We had a lot of fun recording with the band." Sharing the album with Escovedo, the kid singers were dubbed the Doo-Drops.
These close interactions between grown-ups and their children are particularly meaningful to Niewald. In 2006, as the band was cementing its place on the scene, he went through a divorce.
"The band was painted [in court] as a 'hobby' that took my time away from my kids," he says. "It ultimately affected how often we could play. Though this was not court-ordered, it was 'watched.' This was easily the most difficult time in my life, and the band was an absolute lifeline."
"That was rough for the band for a while," Ledbetter says. "But now it seems that they're having a resurgence of energy."
Lendy Kesler sees the lifelines extending in multiple directions. "Even as the kids are getting older, they still love getting together. They go to different schools, have different interests, are different ages, but they still have a lot of fun together. I know this sounds cheesy, but we're all kind of an extended family."
When the Doo-Dads were little ones themselves, the culture's generational divide made a slogan like the band's "Kid Cool Rock" impossible. The variety of music that the four men draw upon tells that story. Gose, for example, remembers the School of Rock-like moment when he decided to play drums.
"When I started playing basketball in sixth grade, my coach used to have a secret practice place, and he'd pick us up from school on Fridays in a big red-and-white van with a hole in the tailpipe and bean bags for backseats. One Friday, he picked us up, held a cassette tape in his hand and said, 'This is New York punk rock!' and proceeded to play the Ramones. We all went crazy — 12 sixth-grade boys. I thought I'd never be able to play drums as fast as Tommy."
"My earliest memories of kids' music are things like the Partridge Family and the Osmonds," Niewald says, "but things like 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' and 'Yellow Submarine' were kids' songs."
"I loved the Monkees," Kesler adds.
"I had [the Royal Guardsmen's novelty song] 'Snoopy vs. the Red Baron' " Gose says. "Is that kids' music?"
"I remember stealing my brother's and sister's records with all kinds of stuff — Beatles and Stones," Kesler says. "And my sister was way into soul music — the Spinners and the Tops and the O'Jays and the Commodores. The first concert I went to without my parents was Stevie Wonder, right before Songs in the Key of Life."
"My sister had that record," Lovern says, "and we played it to death, in Pittsburg, Kansas."