Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Biography

The most immediately successful exponents of the new swing boom that swept the southern Californian marketplace in the late 90s, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy established their reputation with a weekly residency at the Derby dancehall in Los Angeles. Though they had been around for some time, their profile increased substantially when they made a cameo appearance in the 1996 independent movie, Swingers. The band had been founded in Ventura, California, in 1989 by vocalist and guitarist Scotty Morris, an established session musician in the area. His first exposure to big band swing came, aged nine, when he heard Cab Calloway’s ‘Minnie The Moocher’ sung during a Betty Boop cartoon. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy finally gave him the chance to pursue the style further, after he had become disillusioned with the local music scene. The group grew from a trio to eventually include Dirk Shumaker (bass), Kurt Sodergren (drums/percussion), Karl Hunter (saxophone/clarinet), Glen ‘The Kid’ Marhevka (trumpet), Andy ‘Lucious’ Rowley (saxophone), Jeff Harris (trombone) and Josh Levy (piano).

They played gigs throughout the west coast, and released two albums on their own Big Bad Records. Their biggest break, however, came when they took over the Wednesday night residency at the Derby from previous incumbents the Royal Crown Revue, in 1995. The director of Swingers, Jon Favreau, became a regular visitor and befriended the band. Their signature tune, ‘You & Me & The Bottle Makes Three Tonight (Baby)’, was included on the movie soundtrack, while ‘Cruel Spell’ was featured in the same year’s Party Of Five. The attention focused on the swing revival by the success of Swingers led to the band being contacted by producer Brad Benedict, of Capitol Records’ Ultra-Lounge compilation series. As a result, Benedict was inspired to start up the subsidiary Coolsville, with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s third album (Americana Deluxe) becoming its first release. The album featured several winning Morris originals, including ‘You & Me & The Bottle Makes Three Tonight (Baby)’ and ‘Mr. Pinstripe Suit’, and a perfunctory cover version of Calloway’s ‘Minnie The Moocher’. The album went on to achieve gold sales and be nominated for a 1999 Grammy Award. The follow-up, This Beautiful Life, was released in October of that year.

After a four-year recording hiatus, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy returned on the Vanguard label with a new studio collection, Save My Soul. The album wisely steered away from the more gimmicky aspects of the new swing revival (with that scene now effectively dead in the water), with the band rooting themselves firmly in the New Orleans tradition to create arguably one of their most inspired collections. A live album and seasonal collection followed in 2004.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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