“For years, we just never went off the road,” said Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (BBVD) frontman Scotty Morris of the band’s more-than-two-decade-long history. “So this time out, we handpicked the places we are going to play,” he continued, “and for us, that’s like going on a vacation.” When the band rolls into the Granada on Saturday, October 4, the festive crowd that will greet them is guaranteed to make anyone feel as if they are on holiday.
Initially made famous by the 1996 film Swingers, these hep cats from Ventura have since gone on to worldwide acclaim, both for their highly danceable retro stylings in rhythm and blues and for the curatorial care and musicianship they bring to such projects as How Big Can You Get?, their 2009 album devoted to the music of jazz great and “hi-dee-ho” man Cab Calloway. When I spoke with the hard-working Morris from the band’s Philadelphia tour stop last week, he characterized BBVD’s balance of jump blues and jazz by saying, “We’re not jazz purists, but after 11 albums, anyone who has been paying attention knows that we can play jazz. Our Cab Calloway album brought us a whole new set of fans, but we have kept them happy with what we do on our own.”
When asked what the audience at the Granada should expect this weekend, Morris replied, “Every few years, we overhaul the show. Live is where we test-drive the next thing, but it’s also where we give the people what they want by way of our biggest hits. We’ve gotten pretty good at doing both.”
The band formed in the wake of the 1980s post-punk fascination with real American underground music and staked its claim on a permanent place in Los Angeles music history with a legendary Wednesday-night residency at the Derby in Silverlake. For anyone who was there, the image of that room packed to the rafters with swing-dancing guys and gals dressed in vintage suits and dresses is indelible — one of the most amazing nightlife phenomena of the last few decades. Just as amazing in a different way is the fact that the Daddy’s lineup has remained stable for 21 years, a remarkable achievement for any kind of musical group, never mind one that tours constantly and travels all over the world. Recent BBVD triumphs include a stint on Dancing with the Stars and a pair of successful albums, Rattle Them Bones (2012) and It Feels Like Christmas Time (2013), the band’s second holiday-themed record.
Appraising the band’s current drawing power, Morris reckons that they are among the only acts on the road today that “bring in all four generations. Everyone from the grandparents to the little kids will find something to love at one of our shows. We entertain everybody.” Their broad-based, intergenerational appeal becomes even more interesting when one considers their origins in what Morris refers to as the “punk independence” of Los Angeles in the 1980s.
“Phil Alvin [of the Blasters] really inspired me,” Morris said. “Before I heard the Blasters, I never felt like I belonged to a music scene,” he continued, “but through being exposed to what they and some of the other bands back then were doing with American music, I found my voice.”
Today that voice reigns as one of the most enduring sounds to have come out of the era, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy retains a deep connection to their roots in the independent music world. “Record store people love us,” Morris said, “all our releases come out on vinyl, as well, and we love doing in-stores.”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy performs at the Granada Theatre (1213 State St.) on Saturday, October 4, at 8 p.m. For tickets and information, call (805) 899-2222 or visit granadasb.org.