The year is 1970. A bunch of Australian journeymen who have played in bands called the Pink Finks, the Party Machine, and Sons of the Vegetal Mother form a band and name themselves after an American doo-wop hit they like. They become a popular act around Melbourne. Within a few weeks of getting a record deal in 1971, their first single becomes a smash for the ages. And then things really get interesting.
Daddy Cool is not exactly Australia’s answer to Sha Na Na, although they were enthusiastic revivalists who made their name playing 50s and early 60s music. Inspired by a couple of unusual phrases he saw in a newspaper article about the blues, guitarist Ross Wilson wrote an original song called “Eagle Rock.” It became the band’s first single in mid-1971, and eventually one of the biggest in the history of the Australian charts. At the same time, the band’s debut album, Daddy Who? Daddy Cool became the largest-selling album in Australian history up to that point.
(“Eagle Rock” supposedly inspired Elton John and Bernie Taupin to write “Crocodile Rock.” In a photo on Elton’s album Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player, Taupin is seen wearing a button that says “Daddy who?”)
After the success of “Eagle Rock,” Daddy Cool next tried to take its Australian success to America, getting a major marketing push from Reprise Records and touring almost continuously throughout 1972, opening for Fleetwood Mac and Deep Purple. It didn’t work, and by the end of that year, Daddy Cool was finished. (The fact that their second album was titled Sex, Dope and Rock ‘n’ Roll probably didn’t help matters any.) But “Eagle Rock” remained part of the fabric of Australian life. It ranks #2 on the Australian music industry’s 2001 listing of best Australian songs of all time, and its enduring popularity has led Daddy Cool to reunite a couple of times.
Daddy Cool had named itself after “Daddy Cool” by the doo-wop group the Rays. So it was only natural for the band to record that song sooner or later. But before Daddy Cool could turn it into a hit, somebody else beat them to it. A folk group called Allison Gros recorded a version of it with a speeded-up, Chipmunks-style vocal and released it under the name Drummond. “Daddy Cool” blasted up the charts in the depths of the Australian winter in 1971 and eventually claimed the #1 spot—knocking “Eagle Rock” from the summit after a record-setting 10-week run. Between the two of them, “Eagle Rock” and “Daddy Cool” held the #1 spot in Oz for 17 weeks.
And then things really get interesting. Allison Gros/Drummond changed its name in 1972 to Mississippi, and remained together for several years after that. On a trip to the UK in 1975, they signed up an Australian guitarist looking for a gig back home. The story goes that one day, traveling between gigs in Australia, the band members saw a highway sign and decided, on the spur of the moment, to change the name of their band. Mississippi was history, and the Little River Band was born. Graham Goble had been in Allison Gros from the beginning; Beeb Birtles and Derek Pellicci had joined in 1972 when it was called Mississippi; Glenn Shorrock was the expatriate guitarist; he had been in a group called the Twilights.
Just as you can never hear “Mony Mony” anymore without the obscene chant that goes with it, a tradition has grown up around “Eagle Rock.” Since the mid-80s, whenever it’s played in public, young Australian males will unbuckle their belts and dance to it with their pants around their ankles. Nobody knows why.