A sure bet: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will be a fun show
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is easy to place within a scene — the 1990s swing revival and the martini-swigging “Swingers” set — but harder to pin down.
“Good music is not a novelty,” band leader Scotty Morris said in his band’s most recent biography. “Yes, the swing scene is a scene, but great bands can emerge from scenes. This scene may come and go but this band has come to stay.”
Or to go: Morris, a singer-songwriter and guitarist, launched the band as a three-piece swing combo in 1989 in Los Angeles. Soon, the group was playing clubs and parties around Ventura and Santa Barbara, and added horns. Before heading north on tour, the band turned south to Texas bluesman Albert Collins, and ended up making a name for itself — literally.
“I went to an Albert Collins concert, and he so blew me away that I had to ask him for his autograph,” Morris said. “He signed my ticket: ‘To the big bad voodoo daddy.’ I thought that was the coolest thing ever, and the coolest name.”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy also got bigger, adding more horn players, including Glen “The Kid” Marhevka on trumpet. Soon after, the band took up residence at the Derby in Los Angeles, where actor friend Jon Favreau used to hang out on Wednesday nights, leading the band’s spot in “Swingers” and on the crest of the swing revival.
The new interest in swing no doubt had something to do with the band’s presence on movie and television soundtracks. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy went on to play the Grammys, Espys, college football bowl games and even the 1999 Super Bowl halftime show. Two more albums — “Americana Deluxe” in 1998 and “This Beautiful Life” in 1999 before turning south again and finding inspiration.
If the band were Big Bad Hebrew Daddy, the musical pilgrimage might have been to Jerusalem. But it was an appearance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival that put the voodoo back into the music.
“We decided to do an album sort of based on our experiences in New Orleans and inspired by what we’ve seen and experienced down there,” Marhevka told Lake Tahoe Action last week.
On the heels of that trip, the band released “Save My Soul” in 2003.
“I’ve always loved the music that came from (New Orleans),” Morris said. “On our earlier albums, we’ve hinted at how important this music is, but this is the first time we’ve gone completely full-blast with it.”
A live album followed in 2004, as did a second holiday album, “Everything You Want for Christmas” (after “Whatcu’ Want for Christmas” in 1995). The band recently found a niche spicing up holiday parties, and wraps its latest stand at Lake Tahoe with Friday’s show at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
“We’ve played there a bunch of times,” Marhevka said. “We’ve been playing up there for quite a few years.”
One holiday is especially important for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, which paid tribute to the late Cab Calloway with a version of the musician’s song “Minnie the Moocher” on its debut album. Calloway, an important influence for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, would have been 100 on Christmas Day.
“We’re now starting to work on a Cab Calloway project,” Marhevka said. “We’re really inspired by him, and it’s great.”
The band’s next project, a Calloway-inspired album, is due out this summer, when Big Bad Voodoo Daddy plans to play complete Cab Calloway shows in support of the disc.
It might be a different scene than the Dresden 1996, but the spirit is much the same.
“I love our music and the fact that the same guys have stuck together for more than 10 years,” Morris said. “We get better and better as the years go by, and we have as much fun now as we ever did. There aren’t any rules and I never questioned what my instincts told me. We just went for it, and it’s felt right from day one.”
“Expect a really fun night. Our show has a lot of energy, a lot of fun, and expect to walk away with a smile on your face.”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28
Where: Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
Tickets: $37.50 plus tax
More information: (800) 786-8208