ventura big bad voo doo daddy
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Biggest Baddest VooDoo Daddy-Oh
Story by Amy Jones
Photos by Dina Pielaet

BBVD members sauntered to the concert hall “frisking the whiskers” of trumpets, saxophones and trombones. Suits and goatees were trimmed sharp, wing tips polished to a mirror shine. Inside the newly renovated Smothers Theatre in Malibu, the audience roared with anticipation. Band leader, Scotty Morris beat out a choppy cadence on a cow bell that started the rest of the band playing. He threw open the doors at the back of the theatre and led the band through the crowd in a New Orleans style Jazz processional. Fans were instantly elevated to a state of intoxicated brightness. Before they’d set foot onstage, BBVD seemed to squeeze every ounce of life into ecstatic notes as instruments reflected spot light across the theatre.

Pausing to greet the audience, Scotty the lead singer and founder of the band shared this story: “This next song is legend. Back in the late 20’s when this guy gigged in cabarets, he sang every night of the week. When you do songs every night of the week, sometimes you forget a lyric…I know nothing about this...One night he forgot what he was supposed to sing. So out of nowhere, he digs deeeep into his pocket, and he pulls out - HIDEE HIDEE HIDEE HI. Wow. Can you imagine pulling that out in a clutch? Man. I wish I had a mistake like that. HIDEE HIDEE HIDEE HI became his calling card for the next 70 years. This song is Minnie the Moocher; the guy was Cab Calloway. Take it away boys!” Music vibrated the peacock feather in a headdress perched on the head of an enthusiastic fan decked out in vintage swing-era threads.

Jazz history greats such as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and King Oliver seemed to smile out of the faces of BBVD members as they splashed the crowd with waves of brass, percussion, piano and panache. In the 20’s, Louis Armstrong showcased an entirely new performance concept. Instead of each musician playing as part of a group, his musicians played solos out front, while other band members played back-up. This envisioned an entire band of soloists and unbridled improvisation that set crowds wild.

Today, audiences enjoy the same from BBVD’s powerhouse band members, who each possess the talent and presence to front their own gig but have remained together for over a decade. A BBVD concert is a dizzying carousel that drops each member in turn for their part of the ride: Andy Rowley wails slush-pump trombone solos, Josh Levy tickles ivories, Glen “The Kid” Marhevka’s trumpet notes hit the highest Armstrongs, Karl Hunter’s sax growls, Dirk Shumaker’s pops the stand up bass and Scotty’s guitar riffs creep out like shadow. Kurt Sodergren’s snappy percussion keeps the ride together no matter who feels like goin’ off. Then the whole thing seamlessly bubbles over to all out voodoo charged group jams.

Singer-songwriter, guitarist, Scotty Morris, once played everything from punk to country as a studio musician, but found himself disenchanted. Going back to the wild sounds of old school Jazz without abandoning his collective musical sensibility, he decided to start a 3-piece swing combo in 1989 with drummer Kurt Sodergren. In 1992, when the legendary “Master of the Telecaster” Albert Collins autographed Morris’ concert ticket:“To the big bad voodoo daddy,” the band found its name.

If you would like to continue reading our Feature Story for Winter 2004 please call: 805.641.9303 or click here for details on how to order back issues

Wanna know more about Big Bad Voodoo Daddy? Check out their site.


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