Apr 7, 2011

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Following the paths of big band leaders like Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's brassy, upbeat sound has been embraced both by older fans nostalgic for the music of their youth and by legions of younger fans enamored by the elegance and sophistication of the Big Band era.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has performed at the Billboard Music Awards, the White House, and at halftimes of both the Super Bowl and the Orange Bowl. The band's videos are regularly featured on MTV and VH1, and they have performed on numerous television shows such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Live with Regis, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

"I've never thought of our music as retro," says singer-songwriter-guitarist Scotty Morris, leader of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. "We're an alternative to retro. We're high-octane nitro jive—loud, wild, total edge."

In 1995, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, decked out in pinstriped suits, fedora hats, and spectator shoes, was already a staple on the underground Hollywood club scene when actor friend Jon Favreau told Morris, "I wrote a movie. Are you interested in being in it?" Morris read the script, which, as he puts it, "was very much the sort of life we were all living. So, we figured let's just do this cool movie with our friends. We had no idea it would do what it did." A year later, after the band had also appeared on the Fox television series Party of Five, Favreau's film Swingers was released. Thanks to its scene-stealing performance and the showcasing of three songs on the soundtrack album, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was tagged as one of the hottest, hippest, coolest bands around.

The first release for the Coolsville label, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, was the band's long-awaited major-label album debut. Eleven of the twelve tracks are originals, including two songs, "You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight" and "Go Daddy-O", featured on the Swingers soundtrack album. Their major-label debut has sold an astounding 1.2 million copies to date and tracks from the record have been used in countless television programs and feature films.

The band's second release, Big and Bad, features 10 more original tracks to go along with their cool cover of the Jungle Book Theme "I Wanna Be Like You" and their rendition of Frank Sinatra's "Old McDonald."

Morris couldn't have imagined such success when, dissatisfied and jaded by life as a young Los Angeles studio guitarist, he decided to launch a three-piece swing combo in 1989. The trio, including drummer Kurt Sodergren, performed everywhere from college clubs to cheap dives in the Ventura-Santa Barbara area. Soon after, Morris tapped Dirk Shumaker on string bass and a couple of surf buddies, including Andy Rowley on saxophone, to add horns.

By 1992, the band was officially dubbed Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. "I went to an Albert Collins concert, and he so blew me away that I had to ask him for his autograph," Morris says. "He signed my ticket, ‘To the big bad voodoo daddy.' I thought that was the coolest thing ever, and the coolest name."

Beginning in 1995, Morris wanted a bigger-sounding band. Glen "The Kid" Marhevka replaced the former trumpet player, and Karl Hunter came aboard on saxophone and clarinet. Also joining was pianist Josh Levy, who had played in a jazz band, which had recently won the John Coltrane Trio competition. A second self-produced album, Whatchu' Want For Christmas, was released later in 1995.

Since Swingers, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has performed more than 450 concerts on stages across North America. As testament to its cutting edge attitude, as well as its class and stylishness, the band has also been called upon to perform at some of the major entertainment event behind-the-scenes parties, including Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's New Year's Eve party, the Billboard Awards, the premieres for Titanic, and As Good as It Gets, the opening of the art world's Getty Center, halftime at the 1999 Super Bowl and Orange Bowl, and the 2000 Playboy Jazz Festival.

Additionally, the band performed four songs in an episode of Ally McBeal in 1999 and was the house band for the ESPN Espy Awards in 1999 and 2000.

"For me, music is music," says Morris. "I just happen to be writing in the style of Forties swing. 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. Everyone digs this music. This music is timeless."

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy isn't yesterday; it's both today and tomorrow.