The Deedle Deedle Dees
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The Deedle Deedle Dees

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
Band Rock Children's Music

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"Review of Freedom in a Box on Zooglobble"

I don't know if the New York-based band The Deedle Deedle Dees are the most erudite kids' musicians currently recording, but they certainly wear their erudition on their sleeves more proudly than anyone else. One listen to their 2nd album, the recently-released Freedom In A Box (2007), will make that abundantly clear. Here is a random sample of topics covered and phrases used on the album: sampan ("Is that a boat? It's a Chinese boat!"), aphids, the Niebelungenlied, Teddy Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill, and the short arms of a tyrannosaurus rex.

And that's just scratching the surface.

Led by Lloyd Miller and some fellow NYC-area music teachers, the Deedle Deedle Dees are, as you might suspect from the short list above, a little obsessed with history, and it's the history tracks that initially grab your attention, telling the story of Nellie Bly's trip around the world ("Nellie Bly") and of Teddy Roosevelt's transformation ("Teddy Days"). And if you're not familiar with the band, I know what you're thinking -- that sounds really dry. But you'd be wrong, because what makes these songs different from most kids' history songs is the rollicking and earthy musical approach. The could-be-a-hundred-years-old "Nellie Bly" starts out with a "doodley-doo-wah" singalong that instantly lodges in your head while "Henry Box Brown" tells the compelling story of Brown, who mailed himself to freedom in a box, with "This Side Up!" printed on the side (the "This Side Up!" being another great singalong). "Henry Box Brown" is probably the best of the history songs here. Some listeners may find the lyrics overly precious at points, and the other songs succeed to varying degrees depending on how much they're telling stories (I think the country-rock "Aaron Burr," which retells the story of the Burr-Hamilton duel, is pretty awesome, but "Teddy Days" just tries to cram too much in, lyrically). Some listeners may find the lyrics overly precious at points,

Now, the band isn't just obsessed with history, and only about half of the 13 tracks on the 39-minute album are history songs. There are nature songs, for example, including the midtempo folk-poppy "Vegetarian Tyrannosaurus Rex" and "Obedience School," which is just about the most punk kids' song you'll hear all year. There are simpler music/movement songs, too (the very simple "Play Your Hand" or "Drum!"). While the band may mix all the songs together in concert, on the album it doesn't blend perfectly -- it just seems to lurch back and forth. Your thoughts may vary, but I'd've probably ordered the tracks differently.

Musically, however, it's all good, with the band taking a mostly Americana/rock approach, throwing in a few curves along the way (the Beck stylings on "Baldy," for example). The band sounds great together and along with their guests the album has an appealing raggedness. (Except on the completely awesome "Major Deegan," a beautiful, slow paean to New York City's traffic -- that fever dream of a song is not like the rest of the CD, but it's a perfect final song.)

Given the range of topics here, the album is appropriate for kids ages 2 through 12 (parts of some of the history songs will go over the heads of the youngest listeners, but are boogieable enough and with musical hooks enough for those youngsters to enjoy). You can listen to four full tracks at the band's Myspace page or samples of all the tracks at the album's CDBaby page. When you order the CD, you'll also get a coloring book with lyrics. That book, along with the information found at the band's Blogspot page for the album, serve as a great resource not only for teachers using the CDs, but interested families, too.

So here's the deal: if you teach American history in the K-12 system, you need this album. If you're interested in history, you need this album. But if history isn't quite your thing, you still probably need this album, too. Even the songs that don't work out are energetic and fun. It's one of the most ambitious and diverse -- not to mention fun -- kids' CDs of the year. Definitely recommended. - zooglobble.com


"Review of Freedom in a Box on Zooglobble"

I don't know if the New York-based band The Deedle Deedle Dees are the most erudite kids' musicians currently recording, but they certainly wear their erudition on their sleeves more proudly than anyone else. One listen to their 2nd album, the recently-released Freedom In A Box (2007), will make that abundantly clear. Here is a random sample of topics covered and phrases used on the album: sampan ("Is that a boat? It's a Chinese boat!"), aphids, the Niebelungenlied, Teddy Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill, and the short arms of a tyrannosaurus rex.

And that's just scratching the surface.

Led by Lloyd Miller and some fellow NYC-area music teachers, the Deedle Deedle Dees are, as you might suspect from the short list above, a little obsessed with history, and it's the history tracks that initially grab your attention, telling the story of Nellie Bly's trip around the world ("Nellie Bly") and of Teddy Roosevelt's transformation ("Teddy Days"). And if you're not familiar with the band, I know what you're thinking -- that sounds really dry. But you'd be wrong, because what makes these songs different from most kids' history songs is the rollicking and earthy musical approach. The could-be-a-hundred-years-old "Nellie Bly" starts out with a "doodley-doo-wah" singalong that instantly lodges in your head while "Henry Box Brown" tells the compelling story of Brown, who mailed himself to freedom in a box, with "This Side Up!" printed on the side (the "This Side Up!" being another great singalong). "Henry Box Brown" is probably the best of the history songs here. Some listeners may find the lyrics overly precious at points, and the other songs succeed to varying degrees depending on how much they're telling stories (I think the country-rock "Aaron Burr," which retells the story of the Burr-Hamilton duel, is pretty awesome, but "Teddy Days" just tries to cram too much in, lyrically). Some listeners may find the lyrics overly precious at points,

Now, the band isn't just obsessed with history, and only about half of the 13 tracks on the 39-minute album are history songs. There are nature songs, for example, including the midtempo folk-poppy "Vegetarian Tyrannosaurus Rex" and "Obedience School," which is just about the most punk kids' song you'll hear all year. There are simpler music/movement songs, too (the very simple "Play Your Hand" or "Drum!"). While the band may mix all the songs together in concert, on the album it doesn't blend perfectly -- it just seems to lurch back and forth. Your thoughts may vary, but I'd've probably ordered the tracks differently.

Musically, however, it's all good, with the band taking a mostly Americana/rock approach, throwing in a few curves along the way (the Beck stylings on "Baldy," for example). The band sounds great together and along with their guests the album has an appealing raggedness. (Except on the completely awesome "Major Deegan," a beautiful, slow paean to New York City's traffic -- that fever dream of a song is not like the rest of the CD, but it's a perfect final song.)

Given the range of topics here, the album is appropriate for kids ages 2 through 12 (parts of some of the history songs will go over the heads of the youngest listeners, but are boogieable enough and with musical hooks enough for those youngsters to enjoy). You can listen to four full tracks at the band's Myspace page or samples of all the tracks at the album's CDBaby page. When you order the CD, you'll also get a coloring book with lyrics. That book, along with the information found at the band's Blogspot page for the album, serve as a great resource not only for teachers using the CDs, but interested families, too.

So here's the deal: if you teach American history in the K-12 system, you need this album. If you're interested in history, you need this album. But if history isn't quite your thing, you still probably need this album, too. Even the songs that don't work out are energetic and fun. It's one of the most ambitious and diverse -- not to mention fun -- kids' CDs of the year. Definitely recommended. - zooglobble.com


"Esquire article on the Dees"

I Am a Children's Band Roadie
by Matt Marinovich

I’ve always wanted to be a roadie for a rock band. Think of the perks: Heavy drinking, free shows, lots of sightseeing, and countless sexual favors, not to mention cool “all access” laminated passes.
As the years passed, I gradually realized my rock band roadie fantasy would probably never come true, but then Lloyd Miller, lead singer and bassist of The Deedle Deedle Dees said he’d let me roadie for the Brooklyn-based kids’ band.
“When’s the show?” I said, figuring I’d need some time to perfect my microphone cable winding skills.
“Sunday afternoon,” he said.
“Where?”
“Temple Beth Elohim.”
I know what you’re thinking. Kids’ band? Temple? A true roadie would run as soon as he heard those words. Well, a true roadie never says no, my friend. Especially, a guy like me, who has a wife and two kids and no time for a two-week rock road trip across the Midwest. This was the closest I was going to get to being a “road dawg.”
Sunday. 1:00 p.m.
I show up at Lloyd’s house in Carroll Gardens, but Lloyd isn’t there. Then I hear a car horn, and see a red SUV pull up.
“Sorry I’m late,” Lloyd says, getting out of the car. “My daughter had a massive bowel movement in church and I had to help my wife air-dry her pants.”
Leading me into his basement apartment, Lloyd points to a checklist on a piece of paper (Bass amp, acoustic guitar, PA, mailing list, mixing board).
“You can start loading stuff into the car,” he says.
I pick up a P.A. speaker and walk out of the basement. I shove it in the back of the SUV while Lloyd wrestles with his daughter’s car seat.
I’m about to tell him I have two child car seats of my own when I stop myself. I’m a roadie today. Somewhere, not too far away, my kids are running around, but I’m about to get on the road. And, I’m already carrying heavy rock and roll equipment.
“Should I get a cup of coffee for the road?” I say.
“It’s a short trip,” Lloyd says.
1:15 p.m
Lloyd and I are finally on the road. We’re talking about the band, and it turns out, they’re a lot like The Ramones. They all have the same last name, Dee. There’s Booker T. Dee, Innocent Dee, and Otto Van Dee. Lloyd’s stage name is Ulysses S. Dee, after Ulysses S. Grant, who he feels a special affinity for.
“He was a complete failure before he became a general,” he says. “And then he really found himself.”
I wonder to myself who’d I’d be named after if I were a historical figure. I wonder if other rock band roadies have ever wondered this.
Lloyd double parks outside Innocent Dee’s apartment. We’ve driven about an eighth of a mile, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my 1 minute and 48 seconds on the road. No one can take that away from me now.
1:19 p.m.
Innocent Dee, also known as Anand Mukherjee, hops in the SUV. Innocent is the guitarist. Being the roadie, I offer to take the back seat. I ask the band how their last show went.
“It was at a hospital for the criminally insane on Randall’s island,” Lloyd says.
I want to ask Lloyd why a kids’ band would be booked at a hospital for the insane, and wonder if this says something about normal kids. Instead, I sit back and listen to Lloyd tell me about the show at the mental hospital and how they’d had to put their equipment on a conveyor belt before entering the building. Then they’d been escorted to a locked room, deep within other locked rooms. The sign on the door said “The Manhattan Club.” Inside, heavily drugged inmates parted silently before The Deedle Dee Dees, who, it turned out, were not reason they had all shuffled into The Manhattan Club.
“The hot dogs and Snickers,” Lloyd says. “Were the main attraction.”
1:25 p.m.
I walk up to the drummer, Ely Levin’s apartment, with the other Dees. Ely has injured his right ankle after rehearsing a Parliament Funkadelic song all night with his other band, which shows you what funk music can do to white guys. He seems relieved that I’ll be giving him a hand. Outside, I ask him why he’s holding a long wooden pole.
“I thought I’d use it for a cane,” he says.
The road dawg in me wants to grab it and toss it away. Fuck the cane! He can lean on my shoulder if he wants!
“I guess I’m a little injury prone,” Ely says, leaning over to rub his foot. “A few months ago, I tore some cartilage in my sleep.”
“Ouch,” I say.
Lloyd tells us that since Ely is injured, he’ll have to take my place in the SUV. Anand offers to walk the rest of the way with me to Temple Beth Elohim. It isn’t far.
After a few moments of trying to figure out what direction we’re headed, Anand and I start walking. We pass the time by talking about his stage name, Innocent Dee, which he came up with after reading a book about Pope Innocent III. I’m wondering how many other rock musicians are named after popes when I hear the sickening scrape of steel against steel and see a No Parking sign snapping back and forth.
“Is that Lloyd’s car?” I say.
“It is,” Anand says, running across th - Esquire magazine online


"Esquire article on the Dees"

I Am a Children's Band Roadie
by Matt Marinovich

I’ve always wanted to be a roadie for a rock band. Think of the perks: Heavy drinking, free shows, lots of sightseeing, and countless sexual favors, not to mention cool “all access” laminated passes.
As the years passed, I gradually realized my rock band roadie fantasy would probably never come true, but then Lloyd Miller, lead singer and bassist of The Deedle Deedle Dees said he’d let me roadie for the Brooklyn-based kids’ band.
“When’s the show?” I said, figuring I’d need some time to perfect my microphone cable winding skills.
“Sunday afternoon,” he said.
“Where?”
“Temple Beth Elohim.”
I know what you’re thinking. Kids’ band? Temple? A true roadie would run as soon as he heard those words. Well, a true roadie never says no, my friend. Especially, a guy like me, who has a wife and two kids and no time for a two-week rock road trip across the Midwest. This was the closest I was going to get to being a “road dawg.”
Sunday. 1:00 p.m.
I show up at Lloyd’s house in Carroll Gardens, but Lloyd isn’t there. Then I hear a car horn, and see a red SUV pull up.
“Sorry I’m late,” Lloyd says, getting out of the car. “My daughter had a massive bowel movement in church and I had to help my wife air-dry her pants.”
Leading me into his basement apartment, Lloyd points to a checklist on a piece of paper (Bass amp, acoustic guitar, PA, mailing list, mixing board).
“You can start loading stuff into the car,” he says.
I pick up a P.A. speaker and walk out of the basement. I shove it in the back of the SUV while Lloyd wrestles with his daughter’s car seat.
I’m about to tell him I have two child car seats of my own when I stop myself. I’m a roadie today. Somewhere, not too far away, my kids are running around, but I’m about to get on the road. And, I’m already carrying heavy rock and roll equipment.
“Should I get a cup of coffee for the road?” I say.
“It’s a short trip,” Lloyd says.
1:15 p.m
Lloyd and I are finally on the road. We’re talking about the band, and it turns out, they’re a lot like The Ramones. They all have the same last name, Dee. There’s Booker T. Dee, Innocent Dee, and Otto Van Dee. Lloyd’s stage name is Ulysses S. Dee, after Ulysses S. Grant, who he feels a special affinity for.
“He was a complete failure before he became a general,” he says. “And then he really found himself.”
I wonder to myself who’d I’d be named after if I were a historical figure. I wonder if other rock band roadies have ever wondered this.
Lloyd double parks outside Innocent Dee’s apartment. We’ve driven about an eighth of a mile, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my 1 minute and 48 seconds on the road. No one can take that away from me now.
1:19 p.m.
Innocent Dee, also known as Anand Mukherjee, hops in the SUV. Innocent is the guitarist. Being the roadie, I offer to take the back seat. I ask the band how their last show went.
“It was at a hospital for the criminally insane on Randall’s island,” Lloyd says.
I want to ask Lloyd why a kids’ band would be booked at a hospital for the insane, and wonder if this says something about normal kids. Instead, I sit back and listen to Lloyd tell me about the show at the mental hospital and how they’d had to put their equipment on a conveyor belt before entering the building. Then they’d been escorted to a locked room, deep within other locked rooms. The sign on the door said “The Manhattan Club.” Inside, heavily drugged inmates parted silently before The Deedle Dee Dees, who, it turned out, were not reason they had all shuffled into The Manhattan Club.
“The hot dogs and Snickers,” Lloyd says. “Were the main attraction.”
1:25 p.m.
I walk up to the drummer, Ely Levin’s apartment, with the other Dees. Ely has injured his right ankle after rehearsing a Parliament Funkadelic song all night with his other band, which shows you what funk music can do to white guys. He seems relieved that I’ll be giving him a hand. Outside, I ask him why he’s holding a long wooden pole.
“I thought I’d use it for a cane,” he says.
The road dawg in me wants to grab it and toss it away. Fuck the cane! He can lean on my shoulder if he wants!
“I guess I’m a little injury prone,” Ely says, leaning over to rub his foot. “A few months ago, I tore some cartilage in my sleep.”
“Ouch,” I say.
Lloyd tells us that since Ely is injured, he’ll have to take my place in the SUV. Anand offers to walk the rest of the way with me to Temple Beth Elohim. It isn’t far.
After a few moments of trying to figure out what direction we’re headed, Anand and I start walking. We pass the time by talking about his stage name, Innocent Dee, which he came up with after reading a book about Pope Innocent III. I’m wondering how many other rock musicians are named after popes when I hear the sickening scrape of steel against steel and see a No Parking sign snapping back and forth.
“Is that Lloyd’s car?” I say.
“It is,” Anand says, running across th - Esquire magazine online


Discography

Let It Dee - 2004
Freedom in a Box - 2007
American History + Rock-n-Roll = The Deedle Deedle Dees - 2009
Strange Dees, Indeed - 2011
Our song "Ah Ahimsa" is in heavy rotation on Sirius XM Kids Place Live. "Cool Papa Bell" had a good run as champion of WXPN Kids Corner's song showdown. Family programs across the country (Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child in MA most notably) are also playing "The Golem," "a song for Abigail Adams," "Sacagawea," and many other songs from Strange Dees, Indeed. Past radio favorites include "Drum" (another WXPN champ), "Nellie Bly," "Bring 'Em In," "Tub-Tub-Ma-Ma-Ga-Ga," and "Major Deegan."

Photos

Bio

Founded by Brooklyn-based teaching artist / songwriter Lloyd Miller in 2003, the Deedle Deedle Dees use rock-n-roll, country, hip hop, New Orleans piano music, punk, and folk to teach kids about American history, the natural world, social action, and other cool stuff that they might never have thought about before. Revolutionaries and unsung heroes are our favorite topics: Satchel Paige, Nellie Bly, Henry Box Brown, Cesar Chavez, and Abigail Adams are just a few of the fascinating characters who live in our songs. Kids are never expected to sit and listen to the Deedle Deedle Dees at our concerts: they spread their arms and fly around like Amelia Earhart, bounce and tumble in a box like Henry Brown, throw the "hesitation pitch" like Satchel Paige, and march to freedom like Harriet Tubman. The Dees have brought their unique rock-n-roll classroom to many big-time venues like Symphony Space and the Knitting Factory in New York, but also to public schools, libraries, parks, zoos, and other family venues across the country.