Thursday, September 15, 2005

Da Yoopers reign in U.P.

Who reigns atop the music world in the U. P.? Puff out your chests, that would be Da Yoopers, of course.

They have had a prolific recording career over the past twenty years, although most people still recognize them for their comedy hit, "Second Week of Deer Camp."

The November classic swept local airwaves just prior to the 1986 hunting season. The song, played extensively by WGLQ and other area broadcasters has since earned airings around the region for every deer hunt. (In fact, "Second Week" dominated radio so much that imitators appeared. A Wisconsin group released "Da Turdy Point Buck," which many people still think was Da Yoopers.)

But Da Yoopers didn't start with "Second Week." Their first album release was titled "Yoopanese" and was credited to the Joe Arkansas Band. Sales picked up with the name change beloved by everyone north of the Big Mac bridge. Following years of 51st state talk, the word "Yooper" had some cache. The prefix "Da" added the perfect Finnish tone.

By the time the "Culture Shock," album was recorded and released with their hunting anthem, Da Yoopers' phenomenon was growing. In fact, they also had a Christmas hit in "Rusty Chevrolet."

Demand to see Da Yoopers live meant they became a large concert draw around the Midwest. They routinely sold out shows at county and state fairs in Michigan and Wisconsin, and even toured "snowbird" states such as Texas. Founding member Jim DeCaire fondly remembers seeing Da Yoopers promoted on a billboard in the Lone Star State right under headliner George Jones.

Their fame grew further when Dr. Demento broadcast "Second Week," on his national radio program and included it on his 25th anniversary compact disc collection with the like of Weird Al Yankovic and Spike Jones.

Da Yoopers' success is at once defined and limited by content appealing to residents and visitors to Michigan's superior peninsula. Still, each year residents snap up their product to send to friends and relatives around the world. More than a few copies have been sent to service personnel in Iraq as a brief respite from the duties of war.

Their songs, skits and comedy bits appeal to young and old alike. Although their latest album relied heavily on scatological references, not unlike the Jeff Daniels' movie "Escanaba in Da Moonlight," few people took offense. It appears we are able to laugh at ourselves. Besides, Da Yoopers-- and Jeff Daniels for that matter-- are not trying to document life in the U. P., they are drawing humor from it. And, humor is all about silly exaggerations.

Headquartered in Ishpeming, Da Yoopers include leader Jim DeCaire on drums, keyboardist Lynn Coffey, bassist Jerry Coffey, Jim Bellmore and Dave Collins. Original band member Jim Potila retired.

To date, Da Yoopers have released ten studio albums, plus two hits packages, "For Diehards Only" I & II.

Although Da Yoopers burst onto the scene about the same time as the compact disc, their first few albums were available only on cassette. Now Da Yoopers' product is only available on CD. The best of the early albums have been compiled on the hits packages.

Song subjects have included fishing, bingo, beer guts, diarrhea and other fare not usually covered in song lyrics. In fact, Da Yoopers put considerable effort into crafting witty lyrics and consequently the songs continue to have appeal even after repeated listenings.

According to Lynn Coffey, who works at Da Yoopers Tourist Trap in Ishpeming, the group is putting together a new project which should be out next year. It won't be of great cultural significance, but folks will buy it and enjoy it just like their previous releases, as Da Yoopers' reign continues.

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