Big Bad Voodoo Daddy brings swing to FTC
While the hip California nightclub crowd knew about Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in the early ’90s, thanks to its legendary residency at The Derby in L.A., it wasn’t until a few years later that the rest of America fell in love with the group, thanks to an appearance in the 1996 movie “Swingers.”
The band first came together when singer Scotty Morris and drummer Kurt Sodergren were messing around with some music and Morris decided to take out his trumpet. They brought in some more players, make swing music “cool,” and soon found people were having a good time listening to their live shows.
Eventually, swing music was all the rage and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s music — most notably songs like “Go Daddy-O” and “You, Me & The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight” — was being played on radio, TV and in swing clubs around the country.
Now in its 27th year, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy continues to tour about 150 shows a year, and has amassed a sizable catalog of original music, bringing swing music to the masses.
On Jan. 12, the band will play the Fairfield Theatre Company. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s lineup includes all original members: Morris (lead vocals and guitar), Sodergren (drums), Dirk Shumaker (double bass and vocals), Andy Rowley (baritone saxophone and vocals), Glen “The Kid” Marhevka (trumpet), Karl Hunter (saxophones and clarinet) and Joshua Levy (piano and arranger).
Keith Loria: Take me back to the early days — pre-“Swingers.” What was the swing genre like at the time?
Kurt Sodergren: When we started, swing music hadn’t really become trendy yet. Brian Setzer was just making a name for himself and Swingers wasn’t on people’s radar yet. We would show up at a club in suits and people were expecting to hear Nirvana or something, and they didn’t know what was going on, but it certainly did explode and a lot of bands came on the scene.
KL: It all started with you and Scotty messing around with some music. Did you ever envision that you would still be playing swing music all these years later?
KS: No. I remember we went to the lake once for a vacation and I asked him if he thought this was something that we could really do for a living, and I was surprised when he said “yes.” That was even before Swingers came out.
KL: What do you credit with the band’s longevity?
KS: This kind of music is universal. In the beginning, we were doing a lot of parties and weddings, and it just worked for whoever we played for. Even now, there’s such a variety of people in the audience, I think that really helps. Swingers got our name out there across the country and it even led us to the Super Bowl. People see us having fun on stage and we all have a good time.
KL: What can those coming out to see you at FTC expect on the night?
KS: We’re going to be doing a retrospective of our entire career. We’ve been celebrating the 27th anniversary this past year and play pretty much something off every single record.
KL: There was a period of time when swing music was all the rage, but then its popularity started to wane. Were you worried that it would mean the end of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy?
KS: We actually had a talk about that before it even happened. It seemed like there were a lot of swing bands coming out of the woodwork, and many were doing it just to make a buck. We saw the saturation and thought it could be a problem. But we knew we had reached a certain level and risen above that level. We knew we had a nice big fan base and reach people. We started thinking of other ways to reach them, like playing with symphonies, and we’ve always had our hand in managing ourselves.
KL: With a rich catalogue to draw upon, how do you come up with a set list for each night?
KS: Scott comes up with a new set list every time we show up. When we come to Stage One, we’ll see what the crowd is like and what the feeling is like. Depending on what the venue is and the audience, he will come up with something.
KL: Reflecting back on the residency at The Derby, what was special about those times for you and the band?
KS: We did that for about two years. It was early on for us. The crowd was so cool. We were still cutting our teeth and getting better at what we were doing, so having a regular place to play, was a great way to hone our talent. You never knew who would show up there and there would be interesting people and maybe a Hollywood star. Robert Duvall used to come a lot. He was an amazing dancer.
KL: What do you consider the highlights of your career so far?
KS: The Derby is definitely one. Doing “Swingers” and then being on the road and seeing the difference in attendance once the movie came out. We did a van tour from New York to California and to see the excitement from everyone was great. And the Super Bowl, getting to perform a song with Stevie Wonder was awesome.
KL: What does 2020 have in story for the band?
KS: We’re working on some new material. Scott and Josh are working on arrangements now. The plan is to finish and release it sometime during the year.