Big Bad Voodoo Daddy caught its big break in 1996 when “You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)” and “Go Daddy-O” were featured in the hit indie comedy “Swingers.”
The movie and the accompanying soundtrack initiated a swing revival during the late 1990s, and helped the band secure a contract with Capitol Records.
With two million albums sold and a Super Bowl halftime performance under its belt, the band is preparing to release its eighth studio album, “How Big Can You Get?,” on April 21. It’s a tribute to legendary big-band leader and jazz vocalist Cab Calloway, whom the act cites as one of its most important influences.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will run through cuts from the disc and its deep catalog Friday and Saturday at the Civic Center Music Hall, with help from another big band: The Oklahoma City Philharmonic.
One of Calloway’s most well-known songs, “Minnie the Moocher,” has been a staple of the band’s performances since it first formed in 1989. Until recently, the song was one of the only covers the group performed, and was considered a fan favorite from the beginning.
Discussion of a whole Calloway tribute album had been going on for several years, but the project didn’t take off until what would have been the singer’s 100th birthday in 2007.
“Around that time, before he turned 100, we had started talking about an album,” said BBVD trumpet player Glen Marhevka. “We thought it would just be kind of cool to do something for his 100th-year celebration, so we started moving forward with it at that point. Everybody in the band was really inspired by him, and his music is just really challenging and fun.”
Marhevka said seeing Calloway at a young age served as one of the main reasons he became interested in big band and swing music.
“I was maybe, like, 11 or 12 years old, and my parents took me to see him at Disneyland, of all places. I had no idea who he was, but he just had so much energy and this insane band playing behind him,” he said. “You know most kids would want to go on the rides and stuff, and I wanted to check out all his shows. I was just hanging out, listening to the music of this crazy guy with a big suit, and I’ve never forgotten that.”
When the decision to record a tribute record was finally made, BBVD began digging through Calloway’s catalog and bouncing ideas off each other. Lead vocalist Scotty Morris, one of the band’s founding members, had the final say in what would go on the record.
“Scotty is pretty much the elder of the group and he has ideas of what tunes he thinks will work well for us,” Marhevka said. “He also has to sing them, so he needs to be really comfortable with the tunes ” but a lot of the tunes we all thought were the right tunes are the right tunes.”
Before the album was finished, the band reached out to Calloway’s family for approval of the project. The members met his daughter while touring the East Coast, and played several covers for her. She expressed that her dad would have loved the recordings, and complimented Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on its approach to reinterpreting the music.
Marhevka said the main motivation for the band with both the album and the live performances is to expose fans to the music of one of its biggest influences. Calloway is typically remembered for his cries of “Hi-De-Ho” and eccentric onstage theatrics, but the technical aspects of the music he conducted are often overlooked.
“If you really listen to what Cab is doing vocally, and then you listen to what the big band was doing behind him, there’s some really great musicianship going on there. I think we wanted to capture all of that, and we just want to get people to check out his stuff,” he said. “Maybe people that don’t know too much about him will explore some of his albums and get more of an insight into who Cab Calloway really was.” “James Lovett