Big Bad Voodoo Daddy headlines fundraiser Saturday at the Alex
By Carl Kozlowski
Glen Marhevka has spent the past 20 years traveling the world as a trumpet player for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, one of few bands that continue thriving long after the late-1990s retro boom in swing music ended.
Yet, despite the fact Marhevka could easily tune out any distractions beyond his jet-set lifestyle of up to 150 shows per year, he’s taking the time Saturday to perform along with the rest of the group at a special benefit concert for music and arts programs in the Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) at Glendale’s Alex Theatre.
The show, which will feature the Glendale High School Jazz Band opening for the band, is the climax to a full day of entertainment under the title “A Day of Music,” which will take place in the courtyard of the historic theater. The “Day of Music” is free and open to the public and includes musical performances by GUSD student orchestras, bands and choruses, in addition to allowing attendees to witness a free sound check and question and answer session with the band.
According to Marhevka, the concert is important to the band because both he and the band’s piano player, Joshua Levy, are fathers of GUSD students.
“My kids are in public schools there, and our piano player Josh Levy grew up in Pasadena and also went to Glendale schools,” says Marhevka. “Parents asked for us to do a concert and loved the idea.
We did a benefit concert for Ventura school programs last year, because five of the seven band members are from there, and it was a huge success, so we went for it here. I got to meet the Glendale High Jazz Band and was asked by their head to do arrangements for them a few times, so I thought it would be great to have a student band open for us, since it’s all about inspiring musicians and raising money for the arts.”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was originally formed in Ventura in 1989 by its leader, Scotty Morris. Morris named the band after something blues guitar legend Albert Collins once wrote to him while signing a poster: ‘To Scotty, the big bad voodoo daddy.’ Bolstered with that confidence, Morris quickly formed the band and hasn’t looked back since from their success, which includes playing at the Super Bowl XXXIII half-time show in 1999.
Marhevka joined the band in 1995, when founding members Morris and co-founder Kurt Sodergren added a horn section.
“We like to play original music in that tradition of big band, jazz and New Orleans. It’s a really fun group, great bunch of guys,” says Marhevka, who played trumpet in school bands all the way through college, and, following in the footsteps of his own dad’s career, as a saxophone player.
“We did the music before it got a major push in popularity, built up a big following before the trend hit, did the Super Bowl halftime show, sold a few million albums, and just kept getting the band better and better all the time and doing new music. We do it ‘cause we love it,” he said.
After playing in punk and alternative rock bands during the 1980s, Scotty Morris founded Big Bad Voodoo Daddy with Kurt Sodergren. The band launched two CDs, “Big Bad Voodoo Daddy” and “Watchu’ Want for Christmas?” (Big Bad Records) before getting their big break when their songs “You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby),” “I Wan’na Be Like You” and “Go Daddy-O” were featured in the soundtrack of the 1996 comedy-drama “Swingers.”
From there, they were signed by Capitol Records. With Capitol, the band released “Americana Deluxe,” “This Beautiful Life,” and “Save My Soul.” The band has continued its tours, performances and album releases, with highlights including shows at the 1999 Super Bowl half-time show and the 2006 Capital One Bowl, in addition to serving as the house band for ESPN’s ESPY Awards on multiple occasions. The band also devised a version of the theme song for the hit NBC sitcom “Third Rock from the Sun,” which was used throughout the 1999-2000 season.
Over the last few years, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has played numerous Pops programs with the Los Angeles Phiharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. They also performed on ABC’s hit show “Dancing with the Stars” in addition to NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and have been performing at DisneyWorld’s EPCOT Center’s annual Food and Wine Festival since 2008.
“We wear classic suits onstage because Miles and Dizzy wore the hippest clothes and looked cool and wanted to play tribute to that,” referring to jazz legends Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. “I love wearing that stuff, vintage ties and T-shirts and all that when we play but not offstage. Believe me, we do plenty onstage!”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy perform a benefit concert for GUSD public school music and arts programs at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Tickets are $25 for balcony seating, with $125-$152 for tickets and assorted VIP privileges. Visit bigbadconcert.com or call (818)243-2539 (ALEX).