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Big Bad Voodoo Daddy swings into the Clay Center

By Bill Lynch, Staff writer
Courtesy photo Still doing it their way, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy brings rockin' big band swing music to the Clay Center May 15.
Courtesy photo Celebrating 21 years together, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy proves that cool never goes out of style.

Now in his 40s, horn player Glen Marhevka doesn’t really mind that fans of swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy still call him “The Kid.”

Marhekva, who performs with the band May 15 at the Clay Center, said, “I relish that now. I hope when I’m 60 people still call me that.”

Of course, when he got the name, he was more or less a kid.

“I got it when I first joined the band,” Marhekva said. “I was in my early 20s and really the youngest guy in the band. I looked pretty young back then, but I remember we were on a road trip up the West Coast in our van. We went out to dinner before a show, and everyone else ordered sophisticated food.”

“The Kid” ordered a hot dog and French fries.

Singer Scotty Morris looked over, sort of laughed and said, “You really are a kid.”

That night, Morris called him “The Kid” on stage. It caught on with fans, and that’s what they’ve called him ever since.

“Also the name Marhekva is just sort of awkward for people to pronounce,” he added. “The nickname just helps.”

And as far as nicknames go, it’s pretty cool, Marhekva thought. It’s cool to be The Kid.

Cool is something Marhekva never really imagined he’d be — at least not in the beginning.

He grew up listening to music that wasn’t considered especially cool at the time. His parents played Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. They took him to concerts that were anything but rock ‘n’ roll.

“I got to see Cab Calloway in concert live,” he bragged.

In junior high, Marhekva joined the band and picked up a trumpet. He played in high school and then in college at California State University, Northridge.

“I was in school band all my life,” he said. “And it wasn’t the coolest thing to be in school band.”

But playing trumpet led him to the guys that became Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

“The band kind of came together piece by piece,” he said. “One guy would bring in another guy. We all loved the same kind of music, and everybody had a story like mine.”

Playing together was bliss.

“We didn’t care if the music was popular,” he said.

Then, the funniest thing happened. In the early 1990s, while grunge rock was the reigning flavor of music, people rediscovered swing and swing dancing. They re-appropriated some of the style of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. 

Marhekva said, “All of a sudden, we’re playing these cool clubs, and people are coming to check it out.”

They’d listen and dance and tell them, “Wow, this is so cool!”

And he’d just laugh and say, “I’ve been playing this music since I was 12. Where have you been?”

Then there was the movie, “Swingers,” written and starring Jon Favreau, who’s perhaps best known for directing the first two “Iron Man” films.

“That was a really big thing for us,” Marhekva said. “He was one of our friends. He used to come out to our gigs all the time.”

In particular, Favreau came out to the Derby, a Hollywood club, where he’d hang out with the band and dance.

“He’s an incredible dancer,” Marhekva said. “There were a lot of good dancers who came out to the Derby, and he was right in there with the best of them.”

Music trends change, but Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has never stopped doing what they do. The band is still together after 21 years under and with the same people. They’re all still glad to be making the kind of music they’ve always made together.

Marhekva has watched the trends and noticed another style of pop music – Americana – is having its day in the sun. The genre has room for banjos, fiddles and mandolins.

“I see people playing more organic instruments,” he said. “And I think that’s a good thing. It’s not that far from what we did – infusing rock and folk.

“I just like it.”

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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