Big, Bad Voodoo Daddy bring a Time Warp to Atlantaby Pat and George Betzhold on 05/07/17
When band leader Scotty Morris was much younger, he met blues legend Albert Collins after one of Albert’s concerts. When Albert signed the poster for Scotty - “To Scotty – the big bad voodoo daddy” he never forgot it. When it came time to name the swing revival band he co-founded with drummer Kurt Sodergren in 1987, it just seemed natural to use it. The band self produced two albums and in 1997 got their big break. Three of their songs were included in the comedy drama movie “Swingers.” A Capitol Records contract followed and their careers took off.
It was around that time when this Ventura, California based band showed up on our radar screen. Our son Dylan and his future wife were avid swing dancers. Dylan even owned a Zoot Suit. We kept hearing about Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. But heck, that was the music of my parents. Why would we bother with that? That remained our level of interest until some friends of ours from Atlanta suggested we see them at one of our favorite live music venues – The City Winery in Atlanta.
As we approached The Winery that night, the sound of a trumpet echoed off the walls of the parking structure. The player was alone, standing next to a dumpster, blowing his heart out. The rich tones were just a prelude to what was coming.
When the entire nine piece band hit the stage it seemed we had suddenly been transported to Harlem’s Cotton Club in the 1930’s. For the next hour and thirty minutes we were treated to a set of songs, both old and new. Some were familiar standards that had been birthed by such greats as Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, The Mills Brothers, and the 3 Louis – Armstrong, Jordan, and Prima. Others sprang from the brain of Scotty Morris. If you weren’t familiar with all of the songs, it would be pretty hard to figure out which were old and which were new. This is a real testament to the love Scotty and the rest of the band members have for this music.
As the night progressed, the tightness of the band impressed us. I guess this should be expected from a band whose personnel had remained unchanged for over 20 years. It wasn’t until after the 8th song, Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher”, that we found out that the trumpet player who had been playing in the parking garage was actually a last minute substitute for regular Glen "The Kid" Marhevka. Atlanta trumpet player John Bradley filled in seamlessly. No wonder he was practicing. Another substitution was Los Angeles piano virtuoso Maxwell Haymer. He never missed a note either.
Scotty then explained that the band wanted to go back to their early inspirations with their new, soon to be released album. Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan, and Louis Prima were the primary artists who pointed them toward their love and appreciation for the music of an earlier time. He then led the band in three songs from the not so surprisingly titled album – “Louis, Louis, Louis”. The songs were “Dinah” – Louis Armstrong, “Is You, or Is You Ain’t My Baby” - Louis Jordan, and “Oh Marie” – Louis Prima.
As the show moved toward the end, the aisles were full of dancers taking advantage of exactly the music they came to hear. For our part, we entered as somewhat skeptical observers but, after 90 minutes in the Winery Time Machine, we were sharing the joy. Thanks Vicky and Corrine for talking us into it.