I called up Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's trumpeter Glen "The Kid" Marhevka to discuss his band, its brand of swing, its longevity in the swing scene, its hepcat haberdashery, and its impact on swing. That's right — swing, swing, and more swing. I was excited. I had my coffee and my questions ready. Then Marhevka answered the phone and dropped the bomb.
"We're not really a swing band," he said flatly.
Perfect. I ripped up my questions. We were going to have to freestyle this one.
Marhevka clarified: "We're an American band. We play jazz music, we play lounge music, we play music from the 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's. We're carrying on the American music tradition. It's just good music."
Yes, it's good music, but don't sell Big Bad Voodoo Daddy cheap; the music doesn't play itself, after all. This is an incredibly tight, spine-bending, wig-tightening, hip-shaking, toe-tapping, jitter-bugging dance band. And that's a fact.
Born in late-1980's Ventura, California, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy burst on the scene at the cusp of the swing craze that would also produce bands like Royal Crown Revue, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, The Atomic Fireballs, The Useless Playboys, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy set itself apart and gained national attention with its appearance in the 1996 cult film "Swingers."
The swing thing got played out; commercialized and saturated. It was used to sell khakis for Chrissakes. A lot of the bands dried up or moved on in a smaller capacity. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy endured. Marhevka credits the tight-knit lineup.
"I think it's just we've assembled a group of guys who are all great friends and who respect each other a lot," he says. "We all joined this band because we love the music that we do; jazz music, swing music, American music. We've worked hard and got lucky that we assembled the right guys."
Despite the swing downturn, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has consistently cranked out a plethora of platters (nine studio albums, to be exact) including the stellar "How Big Can You get?: The Music Of Cab Calloway," and its latest, "It Feels Like Christmas Time," a soon-to-be classic.
And the band still circles the globe playing to adoring fans anywhere and everywhere.
"I think if you put this band in front of any group of people, they all like it a lot," Marhevka says. "It's very versatile. We can play a jazz festival, we can play a rock festival, we can play with symphony orchestras. It's a super-fun, high energy show. People walk away feeling happy."
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy performs Friday, June 20, 9 p.m., at the City of Rochester East Avenue & Chestnut Street Stage. This show is free. Bbvd.com.