Big Ray: He and his Kats go nationwide

Ray Caddell, owner of Charlottesville's Century 21 Real Estate Office, leads a double life. Most days, he's the "hard-working nice guy" of the realty world.

But sometimes, when called on, Caddell and 11 other similarly minded souls break out of their daily routines and come together as Big Ray and the Kool Kats.

Though not quite superheroes, Big Ray and the Kool Kats do draw a crowd. Their recent advance sellout of Fluvanna's 275-seat Carysbrook Performing Arts Center, was the first of its kind there, and the nationally known group has performed for crowds as large as the 20,000+ who recently attended Musikfest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Caddell, the group's trumpet player, bandleader, and manager, describes the 1999 band as an offshoot of his other musical project, The Ray Caddell Swing Orchestra, a traditional 17-piece big band that's been together for nearly a decade.

Caddell feels no shame in leading a cover band.

"We play a little bit of everything, with a firm emphasis on swing," he says. "We cover music from 1920 or so into the 1970s."

Big Ray and the Kool Kats' sizable repertoire includes recent swing hits such as "Go Daddy O," and "Zoot Suit Riot," Motown classics such as "Rescue Me, " and big band standards like "Stardust."

"We play different kinds of music, but the common thread is great tunes with great arrangements that people want to hear and/or dance to," he says.

The group largely performs for corporate events and charity galas as well as some big outdoor events such as Charlottesville's own Fridays After 5, and Friday Cheers in Richmond. "Most of our events," Caddell says, "are in the 500-1000 person size."

Caddell's wife, Terry, runs Century 21 Ray Caddell and Associates with him, and that as well as the fact that he's self-employed and has "some great agents and staff that work for me," provides him with the flexibility he needs for his musical life.

Big Ray and the Kool Kats' next high profile performance is The Kennedy Center Gala on April 27 with Michael Feinstein, Patti Lupone, and The National Symphony. So if you need something to liven up spring in anticipation of a swingin' summer, make plans to head up 29North at the end of the month.