Big Bad Voodoo Daddy fan Mike Weltman said this about the band’s July 9 Mohegan Sun Wolf Den concert: “When you have artists performing at the top of their talent—the way BBDV did Saturday—and the audience senses it, gets excited by it, and wants more—what an experience. Alas, if you were fortunate enough to witness that kind of event, and this ain’t no jive, you’ve had the experience of live.”
I was at BBVD’s concert with my friend Zog, who has a history with the band. “Well, we go back a long way, if that’s what you mean,” he said. “I first saw BBVD in the summer of 2001, at the Wolf Den. The guys have been appearing there about twice a year since then. I missed them once. I have a lot of their CDs and I’m familiar with most of their songs. When the band plays new songs, they’re fresh because they’re new. And when they perform familiar songs—like ‘Mr. Pinstripe Suit’— they’re fresh because the boys are able to make them sound new.”
Talk about the concert’s highlight, I said. “The whole concert, my friend, the whole concert,” he said, rubbing his forehead. “But if I have to pick one high point, and that’s tough, it’s when the guys perform ‘Minnie the Moocher.’ Love those lyrics: ‘[Minnie] messed around with a bloke named Smokie/ She loved him though he was cokey/ He took her down to Chinatown/ And showed her how to kick the gong around.’ You know, BBVD founder Scotty Morris’s biggest musical influence was the legendary Cab Calloway. He made ‘Moocher’ a classic, of course. Now if you want a non-Calloway song as a highlight, maybe it was ‘I Wanna Be Just Like You.’”
At a previous concert, I said, Scotty mentioned when he was young, he’d hurry home after school and listen to his parents’ Calloway records over and over again. “Well, any BBVD show pays tribute to the great Calloway,” Zog said. “On Saturday night ‘Calloway Boogie,’ ‘Hey Now, Hey Now,’ ‘The Jumpin’ Jive,’ ‘The Old Man of the Mountain,’ and ‘Reefer Man’ were the other Calloway numbers the band performed.
“Listen. I think of it like this: When they perform Calloway it’s a tribute, of course, to the Hi-De-Ho man. But at the same time Scotty, Kurt Sodergren, Karl Hunter, Dirk Schumaker, Jeff Harris, Joshua Levy, Glen ‘The Kid’ Marlevka, and Anthony Bonasera Jr. make Cab’s music their own. What the boys do is dig deep into America’s musical well to keep alive the sound of such greats as—and I’ll just mention a few—Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, and the music of New Orleans. BBVD’s music is textured because it contains a lot of history.
“You know, in a recent interview on ‘Sessions@AOL 1 Video by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy,’ Scotty Morris talked about meeting one of his biggest heroes, Stevie Wonder, several years ago: “He grabbed my hand, lifted my hand up, and said, ‘Big Bad Voodoo Daddy—yeah.’ He put my hand down and whispered in my ear, ‘What you do is special. It’s very important.’”