Zoot suit style meets finger popping sounds in the form of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
Swing along to the big band revivalists on Nov. 15 at Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greeneville, Tenn. as they trumpet tunes seemingly suited for 1940s America. Listen close and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy seem as if spawned from the snappy threads and notes as left by Cab Calloway.
“Cab Calloway was a great showman, a great singer, a great dancer,” said Glen “The Kid” Marhevka, trumpeter in Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. “We try to bring that style, that energy that Cab Calloway had, that larger than life feel to the stage.”
This year marks 20 years for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. But what about that name?
“Scotty Morris, our lead singer, went to see an Albert Collins concert,” Marhevka said. “Albert signed a poster for Scotty, ‘To Scotty, the big bad voodoo daddy.’ That spawned our name.”
Born in the heart of rock’s grunge era and just before a revival in swing that birthed such bands as Cher-ry Poppin’ Daddies, the nine-piece horns-honking band zeroed in on vintage sounds. And stayed there.
“For me, everything with horn in it, I loved,” Marhevka said. “Granted, in the early ‘90s swing wasn’t as popular. It wasn’t cool. But nothing else mattered. We wanted to play this music, so we went for it.”
Led by lead singer Scotty Morris, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy caught on early. First came the sound and the look.
“We wanted a professional, swinging sound with a cool, classic jazzy look,” Marhevka said.
Then came the exposure. Two songs including Go Daddy-O” swung to the silver screen in 1996 via Vince Vaughn’s “Swingers.”
“For us, ‘Swingers’ was huge,” Marhevka said. “We had been playing on the West Coast. Before the movie, we couldn’t just show up to play in, say, Austin, Texas. All of a sudden after the movie, there were lines around the block when we showed up.”
Since then, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy shined on such late night television shows as “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brian.” They’ve graced the marquees of the famed Holly-wood Bowl, sold millions of albums and did so with nary a wave made in the mainstream.
“People weren’t expecting it, but we would play a tune or two and they were digging it,” Marhevka said. “We’ve played more than 3,000 concerts. We built up a huge fan base.”
No hits, yet Big Bad Voodoo Daddy proved quite the hit.
“We were doing swing before it was popular,” Marhevka said. “We just kept doing our thing.”
Loads of swing-leaning bands cropped up around the country as the revival soared. When the fad waned, most of the bands faded into oblivion. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy remained.
“We had to work really hard after the popularity went away,” Marhevka said, “but we stayed.”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy persevered. Their hep-cat persona matched music as tight as their uptown threads for an infectious style-meets-sound showmanship that’s resonated with fans for 20 years. People love it, the band loves it and want 20 more years of it.


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