No excuse is too flimsy to justify talking about seriously terrible music. The excuse I’m using is Father’s Day—Hallmark’s bequest to the neckwear industry—and the relevant but God-awful piece of music is a lounge standard of the Mad Men era called “Daddy.” In the sizable canon of popular songs involving father figures in troubling, offensive ways, “Daddy” is surely the most icky.
The tune was written by Bobby Troup, the virtuoso of V-8 machismo, best known for composing “Route 66,” as well as a specimen of pop misogyny that almost matches “Daddy,” called “Girl Talk.” “Daddy,” originally a big-band number recorded by lite swing fluffmeisters like Glenn Miller and Sammy Kaye, became closely associated with Julie London, the slinking, smoky-voiced temptress of the four-martini set, after London divorced TV producer Jack Webb and married Troup. London, in her popular prime in the late 1950’s and early ’60’s, was a lovely and talented, if limited, singer, who developed a sexpot persona that was essentially a straight female drag act—an act without the irony, the intelligence, of drag. What she did could be defended as proto-feminist, as a representation of sexual empowerment or some such; but I’m not sure if that was London’s intent, and it certainly wasn’t her effect on the women in my family. My big sister Barbara, who was fifteen years old on the night we watched London sing “Daddy” on The Jack Benny Program, could not stay in the room when London was on TV.
A decade after the Jack Benny show, London ended up co-starring with Troup on the ’70’s medical-adventure series Emergency!, produced by London’s ex-husband Webb. London portrayed a sexy nurse, and Troup played a sexy doctor, and each week, they tended to sexy new patients in trouble. It was a ’70’s porn movie set-up, with no sex—at least none on camera. “Daddy”’s woozy mingling of incestuous pedophilia and material hunger was gone, and for that, the audience for ’70’s television should have been grateful. My sister refused to watch Emergency! with me, because London was in it. She would take me in her room, and we would listen to Laura Nyro records, while my father watched the show alone.