When Big Bad Voodoo Daddy comes to Harrah's Reno's Convention Center on August 20, the band will have almost 25 years of material under its belt, including hit songs such as "Go Daddy-O," "You and Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)," and "Mr. Pinstripe Suit."
2016 marks the 23rd year for this swing band, which was formed in the early 1990s in Southern California in Ventura, at a time when grunge was all the rage. Ten records and more than 2,700 live shows later, the band has its sound well pegged-down, having performed for three presidents (including Bill Clinton, a known saxophonist), during the Super Bowl XXXIII Halftime Show and even on Dancing with the Stars.
"We all feel very fortunate to have stayed together for over 23 years," said Kurt Sodergren, its drummer and a founding member.
Turning Up the Heat – Swing Style
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is nothing if not constantly on tour, appearing in an average 150-plus shows a year, which in 2016 includes a stop in Reno, as well as previous shows in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and elsewhere. The band doesn't limit itself to typical 'concerts', however. It will even perform in Walt Disney World's Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in November, for example.
"We have played in Reno, but not for some time," said Sodergren, whose own grandfather also played in jazz and swing bands. "It will be nice to see how things have changed since our last stop, though."
The original core line-up for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy includes Sodergren along with Scotty Morris, a co-founding member who performs lead vocals and on guitar, as well as Dirk Shumaker, double bass and vocals, and Andy Rowley, baritone saxophone and vocals. Others include Glen Marhevka on trumpet, Karl Hunter on saxophones and clarinet and Joshua Levy on the piano. Helping out on tour in 2016 also are Anthony Bonsera, Jr., on trumpet and Alex Henderson on trombone. Yes, that's nine all together.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's musical influences include, of course, swing, but also the "usual suspects," such as Gene Krupa and Papa Joe Jones, as well as traditional jazz artists from New Orleans like Herlin Riley and Shannon Powell, noted Sodergren.
"I listen to other styles and artists such as Joe Henry and his long time drummer/collaborator Jay Bellerose," he said. "I love the drumming of Questlove and his work on D'Angelo's album Voodoo. I am also a huge fan of John Bonham."
Bonham, who died in 1980, was the drummer of Led Zeppelin.
Swinging Toward Fame
The band made its way toward fame in 1996 with the production of the indie film "Swingers," in which they made a personal appearance, but also had several songs featured, including "I Wan'na Be Like You." Incidentally, that movie not only launched their musical fame outside of Los Angeles, but also those of actors Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn.
Before their appearance on "Swingers," the band had residency at the Derby nightclub on Los Feliz Boulevard in the city, where they were truly able to highlight the excitement and exuberance of revitalized swing. The Derby, located just a few miles south of Griffith Park, has long since closed, but also has been used for scenes in other movies, including "Speed," which starred Keanu Reeves.
From their time at the Derby to the current year, the band has brought their horn-inspired music and energy to the stage. It's no small fact that Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has sold more than 2 million albums – with its most recent one, called "It Feels Like Christmas Time," released in 2013 – (you may well find some of your favorite holidays classics on it.)
Looking Forward to 25 Years
In addition to playing at live venues, the band has performed with numerous orchestras across the years –in fact, more than 30 to date—including the San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and North Carolina Symphony. As well, they have appeared on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" -- a total of seven times, in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and at the ESPY Awards.
The band's 2016 tour features a variety of songs from across their career, including from their very first album, the 1994 eponymous "Big Bad Voodoo Daddy." Other major albums the band has produced include "American Deluxe," released in 1998, "Save My Soul" in 2003 and "Rattle Them Bones" in 2012.
"For us touring is a way of life," said Sodergren. "We spend a lot of time on the road and love playing new places, but also returning to familiar venues to see people we've know now for decades. Bringing American music to people across the country and the world is our mission and that drives us to work so hard."
(The band often does a meet-and-greet after the show, so be sure to stick around post-concert to see if they come out.)
In the meantime, the band is working on a new record called 'Louie, Louie, Louie.' This record is in tribute to not one, but three 'Louies,' including Louie Armstrong, Louie Jordan and Louie Prima, according to Sodergren. The album is planned for release next March, along with an accompanying 2017 tour.
In so many ways, the band has paid tribute or recognition to its musical predecessors, including through its name. In fact, 'Big Bad Voodoo Daddy' came from an autograph made out to Scotty Morris by Albert Collins, a Texas blues legend known as the 'Master of the Telecaster,' following one of Collins' concerts. For Morris, it was almost like the band name was being 'handed down', he notes on the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy website.
And, while the band is on tour in 2016, progress is still being made on that next album and anticipation for a quarter of a century together in 2018 builds. Staying together for 25 years is an accomplishment for any band, be it swing, rock-and-roll or otherwise.
"When the 25-year mark arrives we plan to release a new record of originals and a very special tour to celebrate," said Sodergren.