Big Bad Voodoo Daddy celebrating 20 years of making music
December 24, 2013
In the world of modern-day big band swing, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy reigns supreme.
Formed in 1993, the septet from Ventura, Calif., survived the fickle music industry trends and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Throughout its career the band — lead vocalist and guitarist Scotty Morris, drummer Kurt Sodergren, bassist Dirk Shumaker, baritone saxophonist Andy Rowley, trumpeter Glen "The Kid" Marhevka, clarinetist Karl Hunter and pianist Joshua Levy, along with touring members trumpeter Tony Bonsera and trombonist Alex "Crazy Legs" Henderson — has had its music featured on film soundtracks and TV sitcoms.
The band also played at the 1999 Super Bowl Halftime show, the 2006 Capital One Bowl, ABC-TV’s "Dancing with the Stars, "The Conan O’Brien Show" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy performed in Park City at the Eccles Center in 2011 and will return on Saturday, Dec. 28.
Marhevka said any band that lasts 20 years is a rarity these days.
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"It’s a huge accomplishment, and to think we’re still the same band," Marhevka said during an interview with The Park Record. "All seven of us have been playing together all these years and sometimes I can’t believe we still are at it."
For the past few months, Marhevka has taken time to reflect on the band’s accomplishments.
"I’ve thought about all the performances that we have done, and I can’t believe it," he said. "I mean, we really didn’t think too much about what we were doing throughout these years, because we would just take one thing at a time and then constantly moving on.
"Seriously, I had to think about when we performed on Conan O’Brien some 200 gigs ago," Marhevka said. "It just blew my mind. I’m glad we’re still happy and fortunate to still be doing this."
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s 20th anniversary tour features a mix of songs from its past and many from its new Christmas album, "It Feels Like Christmas Time," which was released a couple of months ago as a follow-up to its original album "Rattle Them Bones."
"This is our second full-length Christmas album," Marhevka said. "We did release an extended play called ‘Whachu Want for Christmas’ in 1997, and then released our first full-length Christmas album, ‘Everything You Want for Christmas,’ in 2004. I think this new one is a great album and the songs are super fun."
The band covered a handful of standards including "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer," "All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."
The album also features the band doing its third version of "Jingle Bells."
"That’s a fun classic tune that is just fun to play no matter what arrangement it’s in," Marhevka said. "There are a million different variations of that song and it’s fun for us to put another different twist on it and give it another perspective that we hope people will dig. The new version has a little nod to the Dean Martin version."
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy also wrote some original songs for the album.
"The title track was written by our guitarist Scotty," Marhevka said. "And it fits in with all the things we do on the album."
The nice thing about having new Christmas songs and some new songs is finding places for them in the set.
"We’ve been doing this Christmas tour with a whole well of songs that we can choose from," Marhevka said. "We’ve been working with our set list and changing things in it. The funny thing is that we are still trying to figure out what works in the live show.
"It says something when we can actually put some songs away that we have played live for a number of years and replace them with new ones," he explained. "Some nights we’ll do a tune and the next night we might do another."
Still, just because Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was one of the main groups that revived the big-band style in the 1990s, doesn’t mean the band members must feel a responsibility to keep the sound alive.
"We enjoy playing the kind of music we play," Marhevka said. "We like having a lot of horns in the band. We love playing jazz music and we love being out there doing it.
"That said, we have had people mention to us that they are thankful that we’re still out there doing what we do," he said. "They’ve told us how important it is for us to keep bringing this type of music to audiences. And it’s cool to hear that and I am happy that we can do it."
After the tour wraps next month, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will regroup and figure out what to do next.
"We need to assess where we are in our career," Marhevka said. "We do know we want to do another album of originals, and we will undoubtedly want to keep growing as a band and as musicians and keep inspired to play more music.
"Our only hope is that the songs we release get better as time goes on," he said. "Hopefully we can do this another 20 years."
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will bring its big-band swing to the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Saturday, Dec. 28, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $69 and are available by calling 435-655-3114 or visiting http://www.ecclescenter.org.