Catching up with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy before VPAC performance |

Catching up with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy before VPAC performance

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy founders Kurt Sodergren and Scott Morris formerly played in punk rock bands and had a “curiosity and fascination” with swing music.
Andy Rowley/Courtesy photo
IF YOU GO... What: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy When: 7 p.m. Feb. 3 Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek Tickets: Starting at $45; child and student, $28 More info:

Thirty years ago, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy named themselves after an autograph by blues legend Albert Collins, and since then, they’ve definitely made their mark, from television and movies to the Super Bowl. 

The band set out to celebrate and revitalize jazz and swing music — some of the nation’s original musical forms — and, of course, bring a sense of joy and fun to audiences nationwide, which they’ve been sharing through sold-out shows from the Hollywood Bowl to Lincoln Center, as well as television shows like “Dancing with the Stars.”

While founders Kurt Sodergren and Scott Morris formerly played in punk rock bands and went as far as they wanted to with blues and rockabilly, they had a “curiosity and fascination” with swing music, Sodergren said. Plus, his grandfather played in a big band. 

“It was something different,” he said. “It wasn’t the traditional approach. We broke a few rules and didn’t use as many standard arrangements.” 

Part of that was because, at the time, they only had two horn players, and Morris’ Stratocaster, with a Fender amp, was “exciting and loud.” 

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“We played swing music with a lot of energy, and people responded,” Sodergren said, though he admits, at first, new audiences were a bit puzzled, looking at musicians wearing retro suits and bringing a stand-up bass. “Then, this music comes out because it hits you right in the face.” 

The 1996 movie “Swingers” advanced their career during a time when they hadn’t even reached No. 45 on the Billboard charts. Their break came after befriending writer Jon Favreau during their midweek residency in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. They performed as themselves in “Swingers.” After the movie’s release, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s fanbase multiplied from a few hundred to a few thousand, drawing hipsters with costumes and dancing. By 1998, their self-titled album went gold, then hit platinum. 

The band continued to garner attention and eventually landed a spot as part of the 1999 Super Bowl halftime show, as well as the Orange Bowl halftime show that same year. 

Piano and arranger Josh Levy, as well as trumpet player Glen Marhevka and sax and clarinet player Karl Hunter, rounded out the nine-piece, 2.0-version version of the band. 

“Then we adjusted the music because we had all these instruments and learned a lot more about this style of music. We were still holding onto our intention of playing the music with excitement while playing it with a little tradition, as well,” Sodergren said.  

In 2009, the band released its Cab Calloway tribute CD (aptly named “The Music of Cab Calloway”), followed by its 2017 tribute to the Louises: Armstrong, Prima and Jordan, titled “Louie, Louie, Louie.” In-between those, they released “It Feels Like Christmas Time” in 2013 and “Rattle Them Bones” in 2012. 

They began their 30th anniversary (officially in April 2023) celebration early by gathering eight other musicians they’ve played with live or in the studio throughout the years, for a total of 17, and delivering a very big band sound in their hometown of Ventura, California. Sodergren said they hope to do more, as well as work on a new record. 

Though they wouldn’t have wished any pandemic shutdowns on anyone, it did give members a break from the 120 to 150 shows they’d been playing on the road for nearly 30 years. 

“It helped us step back,” he said. “We enjoyed home time and recharged. Scott started to write new music, and we just finished our Christmas tour with 22 shows — a lot of them sold out. Now, it’s more of getting new music out there and going out there gangbusters — to come back out with the same energy as ’98 and still play something fresh. We’re really grateful to be able to get to do this — none of us take it for granted.” 

One of the main comments Sodergren receives from audiences is “you look like you’re having so much fun,” and, indeed, his band of brothers — and neighbors (he lives next to four of his bandmates) — certainly are. 

“That kind of thing translates to the audience. We love playing, and everyone appreciates each other,” Sodergren said. “Our main goal is: We know that people work really hard — life is beautiful, and life is hard; our shows are just an escape for you to have a really good time.” 

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