The Beatles made children’s music; they just didn’t call it that. Many of the classics of punk and new wave were not-so-secretly made for young people. Youth are the most discerning audience and maybe the most important — they carry the future with them, after all. The very best musicians have always been those whose music can be appreciated by kids and grownups, too. The Roughhousers call themselves a “kid band for adults,” and their brand of cheeky, irreverent, ‘verbed-out, rockabilly-inflected country-pop is perfectly designed to delight all the people at the party, no matter how long they’ve been rocking. Children will love the sweet singing, while older listeners will understand the words’ deeper significance. Unless it’s the other way around?
And though The Roughhousers are a freshly-minted band — and “Princess Mike” is their debut single and video — they’re hardly newcomers to show business. Millions of people grew up alongside Grey DeLisle, even if they didn’t know it. She’s the most prolific voice actress in the history of American animation, and she’s lent her Grammy-winning voice to more than two thousand characters, including Daphne on Scooby-Doo and Martin Prince on The Simpsons, plus prominent roles on Danny Phantom, Puffy AmiYumi, The Fairly OddParents, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and so many more. She knows how to tell a story and sell an attitude and perspective, and every syllable she sings carries personality.
Grey DeLisle is a natural match for guitarist and producer Eddie Clendening, who starred as Elvis Presley in the Broadway musical The Million Dollar Quartet and whose lengthy list of collaborators includes Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Dale Hawkins, James Burton, and other rock and roll originators. They’ve enlisted contributions from members of The Old 97’s, the Ecco-Fonics, X and The Knitters, and Big Sandy and the Fly Rite Boys. These are artists accustomed to generating the dreamy, effortless sound of alt-country and the bite of classic early-rock 45s. Together, they’ve made sure their twang is in place.
And since DeLisle is involved in the project, you know The Roughhousers are funny. “Princess Mike” is a song about a genial grownup who has transcended the limitations of gender and who spreads glitter and good cheer wherever he goes. In the clip, DeLisle and Clendening play it for laughs, conjuring the playful spirit of the title character in a house that looks like it was imported straight from the staid 1950s. A strategically placed giant teddy bear reinforces the sense of fun. But there’s a serious message here, too — one about radical acceptance, self-expression, and the transcendent power of kindness and care. That’s something every kid ought to learn about. Every grownup, too.