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Music

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Saves Christmas

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Courtesy photo
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Big Bad Voodoo Daddy came to international attention in the late 1990s as part of the swing music revival that was seemingly everywhere at the time.

Although that music’s popularity had declined by the early 2000s, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy remains a popular and active recording and touring band. And among the most popular shows each year are the band’s Christmas gigs.

The band started recording Christmas music in the late 1990s and now plays Christmas music exclusively for the last two months of each year. Trumpet player Glen Marhevka says that he and his bandmates had no idea it would become as popular as it has.

“We really had no idea,” he says. “People really like it. It’s fun to play different music. We play our other tunes the rest of the year and then in December we turn into a whole different mode and bring in all these songs we don’t play the rest of the year.”

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Many recording artists try their hands at Christmas music, but those who succeed, and succeed on the level of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, are rare. Marhevka says that the success his band has had with the material probably comes down to their style being a good fit for holiday music.

“I think there are a lot of acts that will do Christmas songs and say, ‘Oh, everybody puts out a Christmas album. I’m going to do one!’ I think that, for us, it’s conducive to the style of music that we play,” he says. “If you listen to a lot of old, classic Christmas albums you’ll hear a lot of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. There are all these big bands behind them and it works really well with a lot of Christmas songs to swing ‘em and dig in on those songs. For us, I think it was a natural fit.”

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy tours with almost all original members, something that’s a rarity among bands of any type today and Marhevka says that surviving the years after the ‘90s swing craze died down came down to the band’s broad appeal.

“We started playing the music we play before there was a fad or it was popular or any of that stuff. We all love playing that music, and we all wanted to do something that we loved,” he says. “We weren’t doing it to be the next popular thing. We fell into great opportunities along the way, and it got really popular.”

The success in the band’s first decade was high profile, including a halftime gig at the Super Bowl.

“Every show we played was sold out,” he says. “Everywhere in America. And then once the fad changed, and the musical directions changed, we developed our show into a performing arts thing and playing with symphonies and doing all kinds of jazz festivals. We just kept doing our thing. We wanted to create music, and that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy performs its Christmas-themed music on Tuesday evening at the Orpheum Theatre.

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Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.