When Bluffton musician Jevon Daly writes a song, any topic is subject to his sense of humor. Some of the songs might seem a bit out there, and that’s OK with him.
“If you’re playing a song called ‘Pelican Bomb Squad’ and pelicans fly over you, all the tourists laugh,” Daly said. “I like off the wall and ridiculous, and I’ve always been drawn to comedians. I like to make people laugh.”
Speaking of comedians, Daly recently opened for Paul Reiser at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. After a rehearsal, the two shared an unexpected musical moment, when Reiser began to play familiar tunes on a piano in the next room, and Daly ran into the room and sang “Takin’ It to the Streets” with him.
Beyond “Pelican Bomb Squad,” Daly’s songs range from the silliness of “I Have Sand in My Pants” to “Kiss My Daughter,” and “Pet Rescue” for the Palmetto Animal League.
On a more serious note, he sings about local wildlife in “Mama Loggerhead, Queen of the Coastal Empire” and “Sharks are Our Homies.” And he covers the social side of local life in “Drunk on Daufuskie.”
When one plays in seven or more bands at numerous venues, one writes for and plays to the audiences. It sounds like a heavy schedule, but it’s a routine Daly has kept since he was in high school.
“I’m not your typical musician,” he said. “People ask me what I do for a living. They have no idea that we play 300 gigs a year, and they just can’t fathom that we’re working almost every day, like all year round.”
Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, he and his parents and two siblings moved to the Lowcountry when he was 11. Another sibling was born on Hilton Head Island after their move.
Daly attended Hilton Head High School and played in the marching band but admits he did not apply himself in school.
“I definitely didn’t know how to study. I had full time jobs from the time I was in 10th grade. I bought myself a couple cars. I’ve always worked. I told somebody the other day that I was making about the same money I make now – I just work 1,000 times more,” he said. “I can remember bussing tables at the Crazy Crab and making $150 when I was 16 years old.”
As a kid, his favorite things were playing air guitar, girls, surfing and skateboarding, punk rock music and Eddie Van Halen.
His father, Mike, worked for the post office and retired just a few years ago, finishing his career on Hilton Head Island. His late mother, Marilyn, was a waitress. Both parents were musicians, Mike on strings and Marilyn on vocals. Many compared her voice and style to the iconic Stevie Nicks.
In the late 1980s, “They were in a local band called The Techniques. I grew up in a household that was full of music and arguing,” Daly said. “I remember my parents were both strong, opinionated people. My mother was full-blown Italian from North Philly. It was also fun. But I think that when you play in a band with your siblings and your parents, people always say that’s so cool. I say it’s cool when you get the first hour out of the way.”
Daly just finished a 20-year stint in Silicone Sister, the hair metal band where the members wear lipstick, wigs and makeup. He also plays in a Grateful Dead band, has played every kind of music in a wedding band, and plays fiddle in the Lowcountry Boil bluegrass band with his father.
“I think we are more respectful of the band members than each other but away from the band we’re best buddies,” said Daly. “I mean, could you imagine working with your father? But if I need advice, I call my dad. If I got something going on in my life, I call my dad.”
Daly has twice sold out at The Roasting Room in Bluffton above Corner Perk, and he wrote “It’s a May River Thang” to play at Captain Woody’s. But his most popular performances – for the slightly younger set, that is – are his summer shows at Coligny Center Stage.
“My favorite kind of gig is just this kid’s show. It’s all my songs. And it’s interactive,” he said. He gets children up on stage with him and lets them chat with him and sing.
“I demand more than the average bear from the audience. I do a children’s show. I’ve written a lot of funny songs like ‘I Saw Your Hiney in the Moonlight’ and ‘A Seagull Stole My Sandwich.’ And the songs are all kind of springboards for the absurd, weird and funny,” he said.
When asked if he would do anything else, he gave an emphatic “No.”
“I just got lucky. I taught music at a music store on the island for 24 years. I taught myself violin while I was there, how to play the mandolin, and I learned bass lines and guitar stuff, because I had to teach it slow,” he said. “I think that was my problem in school – I never slowed down and everything was going too fast for me in school. I was just keyed up all the time.”
With years of performing under his belt, Daly has learned valuable lessons along the way for himself and anyone who thinks they want to go on stage as a professional musician.
“They better start lifting weights at an early age, and they better start recording themselves at an early age. You need to go see as many performers as you can: theatre productions, ballet, watch some synchronized swimming, watch comedians flop on stage. You have to be ready to be laughed at and not in a good way,” said Daly. “You have to be ready to take criticism.”
A musician must also have strength and stamina, for hauling equipment, standing for long periods at a time, projecting energy and engaging the audience.
“I started running at age 40. I’ve always been active, but you can’t be a drunk,” Daly advises. “You can’t overdo anything. And I show up on time.”
To that end, he hearkens back to the meals his mother prepared years ago.
“We lived in the Virgin Islands in the ’70s. We were vegetarians. For five years, we were like hippies and, it wasn’t my favorite but my mom used to make bulgur wheat and lentils and all that kind of stuff,” Daly said. “And nowadays, I find myself enjoying that stuff a little more. … I try to be a health nut but sometimes I fall off, so sometimes when I get home, I want to just eat a pizza.”
Although it’s a career he loves, like every other job, there are some days when he feels drained, whether he is not feeling well, or it’s as hot as July can get, and he wishes it were cold outside.
“Then the other part of my brain says you better enjoy every gig because something great always happens,” he said. “I’ve loaded a lot of equipment, and I’ve met a lot of really great people. I’ve been really lucky to have written a lot of kooky songs and a few serious songs along the way. Everybody gets tired of their job, I think I’m just not going to admit that to myself.”
Daly can be found “unbridled” Thursday nights at Captain Woody’s in the Promenade, and every other Wednesday at the Tiki Hut on Hilton Head.
The creative aspect requires as much discipline as performing does.
“I’m 50 years old, and I’ve kind of been on a pretty good tear for the last eight or 10 years where I say, if I have an idea, I’m not going to go do this, I’m not going to look for shark teeth. I’m not going to play pickleball. I’m not going to run,” Daly said. “I’m going sit with this idea, just for a minute. And that’s been really good for me, because all that other stuff can wait, and a creative idea will not wait. A creative idea will disappear.”
Daly moved to Bluffton from the island in 2001. He’s bought a series of houses but now only owns one.
“I could have been rich if I still had them, but I like to work a lot so I’m glad I didn’t get rich,” he said. “What do people do who don’t have to work?”
Among the many changes he has seen are the additions of national stores such as Walmart and Starbucks, and the arrivals of lots of people.
“The best and worst thing about Bluffton is I know everyone here. Everything is close by, the schools are close by, you can drive the beach is close, a lot of my jobs are really close by, and I live on Simmonsville so I love being smack dab in the middle of everything,” Daly said. “I can walk, ride my bike, run or get in my car and go to some of my weird hangouts. It’s a good mix of people around here.”
As for the recent surge of newcomers, he said, “That’s not a bad thing. It’s a shame they’re having to build all this stuff while there are other things vacant, though. And I wish they didn’t cut down so many trees – but I’m not a complainer. If I wanted to do something about things, I’d run for town council or something, but that’s not my thing. I’m just happy getting a laugh and being an entertainer around here.”
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.