Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
This year is a big one for the swing/jazz band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. It marks the 30th anniversary of the arrival onto the scene of the group that made swing cool again.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was formed in Ventura, California in the 1990s, and was given its name by a musical legend. When co-founder Scotty Morris went to a concert by blues giant Albert Collins, he asked for an autograph. Collins wrote “To the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy” and Morris picked up the name for the band he was forming. Now, 30 years later, the group still has its original core line-up of Morris on lead vocals and guitar, Kurt Sodergren on drums, Dirk Shumaker on double bass and vocals, Andy Rowley on baritone sax and vocals, Glen “The Kid” Marhevka on trumpet, Karl Hunter on sax and clarinet and Joshua Levy on piano.
The band, which was at the forefront of a swing revival, easily blends together the classic American sounds of jazz, swing and Dixieland. With hits like “Mr. Pinstripe Suit,” “The Jitters,” “Go-Daddy-O,” “Minnie the Moocher,” and “You & Me & The Bottle Makes Three,” classy suits and hair slicked back, the group recalls an earlier time. It didn’t take long for them to hit the big time in 1996 with the indie film Swingers, which introduced the musicians to an audience beyond their Los Angeles base. The band’s music has appeared in films and television shows including Despicable Me, Ally McBeal, and Phineas and Ferb, and they have appeared live on Dancing with the Stars, NBC’s Christmas in Rockefeller Center and the Super Bowl XXXIII Halftime Show, where they performed with Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan and Savion Glover. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy presents more than 150 shows a year, has appeared with many of the country’s most distinguished symphony orchestras, and has entertained three U.S. presidents.
For trumpet player Glen Marhevka, the show is intended for an audience “from 8-80.” He explained why swing is so important to a group of musicians who didn’t know it the first time around. “It’s a style of music we all love,” he said. “We all grew up listening to it and parents and teachers influenced us. We found each other and started playing. It’s a passion of ours.”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has promoted and revitalized swing music as more than just a tribute to the genre. They have taken inspiration from the creators of the uniquely American art form and created original, horn-infused music. The band’s high-energy shows introduce the music to a new and younger generation while remaining respectful of the music’s rich legacy.
Marhevka said audiences should expect that high energy. “Our shows are energetic,” he said. “We feature five horns and everyone runs around playing solos non-stop from the second we hit the stage. It’s uplifting. Even if it’s your first time hearing us, you walk away smiling. We’re excellent in front of audiences; we work well in front of people. This band has that showmanship and musicality.”
After 30 years together, 11 records, more than 3000 live shows and countless appearances on film and television, audiences and listeners agree. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will cast a spell.