Swing Theory

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Florida Theatre, Friday June 23. 


Words by Shelton Hull

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, who plays the Florida Theatre on Friday night, June 23, is now officially in its fourth decade, having debuted in Ventura, CA in 1989. Founder Scotty Morris took the name, as if handed down from a demigod, from blues legend Albert Collins (1932-1993), who inscribed that to him in a photo some time before. Ventura was hardly epicentric to the Southern California music scene, but they helped put the city on the map. Original members Morris and Kurt Snodgren have had ten other musicians in and around the band over the past 34 years, but their look and their sound have remained consistent all this time.


The band has released nine studio albums since their eponymous 1994 debut, which came amidst a Swing revival that swept America right as Grunge was peaking. Their most recent, Louie Louie Louie, was released in 2017. Their work provided entry to a whole new aesthetic for an entire generation in the 1990s. That first dose, for most, was delivered via “Swingers”, the 1996 movie that launched Vince Vaughn and future MCU staple Jon Favreau into national prominence.  Thus spurred by references made in movies like “Swingers”, “Swing Kids”, “Harlem Nights” and “Mo’ Better Blues”, their jazz education came remarkably fast, this creating the customer base that sustains the industry today. As such, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and their colleagues did the world a tremendous service. 


The band has played more than 3,000 concerts over the years, of which a few dozen have been in Florida, dating back to the band’s earliest days. They’ve played Clearwater, Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Piece, Gainesville, Lake Buena Vista, Orlando, Sarasota, Stuart and Tampa. They’re well-familiar with our territory, having already played the Florida Theatre several times, as well as the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, the Times-Union Center and Surfer the Bar (in its previous life as Freebird Live). Clarifying that timeline was priority number one for our interview with Morris, whose memory is better than most.


“I love coming to Florida,” says Morris, speaking via phone from his hometown of Ventura, CA. “Florida is a wonderful music state for me. We have a really long relationship with Disney, in part because we live really close to Disneyland, in Anaheim. And our first major label record, the Swingers soundtrack, came out on Hollywood Records, which was owned by Disney. From that.point on, Disney has used us in so many different capacities, whether it’s writing music for ESPN, which they own, or appearing on TV for them. We started out playing private parties at Disneyland, and eventually they decided to bring us out to Disney World, which were some of the very first shows we played in Florida.”.


“We have always been 100% a live band,” says Morris, who estimates that 85% of his band’s income comes from touring now, and always. “It’s been that way since day one. We’ve never been a singles-driven band. When we played the Super Bowl (XXXIII, in 1999), we were on tour right up until the game, and when the game was over, we went right back on tour. Some songs were more popular than others, but none have ever cracked the Top 40. It was always about the people who really enjoyed this band and came out to see us live. The records are really just nostalgia pieces that we try to make nice for the fans, but live performance is our forte.”


After over 30 years of fairly relentless touring, Morris and company have the logistics down to a science, rolling 12 deep on two buses, with a box truck for gear, they’re in and out in a matter of hours. They’ve deliberately cycled sparingly through their favorite areas, careful not to burn out the market. Every show in Northeast Florida, for example, has been at a different venue, by design, and that’s always been the case. At this point, Morris has checked off every venue on his bucket list but two: the Sydney Opera House, and Carnegie Hall.


The interview ended with a laugh, when Morris was asked to name the concert he will most regret. Maybe the worst thing, if anything, about the life of a touring musician is all the great shows they have to miss, because they’re playing that night, too, so that’s always a fun question to ask your favorite musicians. Morris’ answer was great: “Actually,I’m not going to miss the show,” he says, because I made a pact with my son.” That concert in question is Metallica, with opening act Pantera, at SoFi Stadium in LA on August 25. After that, it’s back to the road, where Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are already booked well into the year 2026. It’s unclear when they’ll be back to Florida, but we know that they will, always and forever.


About Shelton Hull

Shelton Hull has been writing for Folio Weekly since 1997, but his resume goes back even further. He has written for almost every newspaper, magazine and zine in Northeast Florida, as well as publications like Orlando Weekly, Narrow GNV, Creative Loafing Tampa, Charleston City Paper, Ink19 and The Atlantic. He currently writes the "Folio Weed" column, which he created in 2018; he remains one of the widest-read and most influential cannabis writers in the world today. He also compiles material for "Weird Wild Stuff" column, and he previously wrote the legendary "Money Jungle" column for Folio Weekly from 1999 to 2009. He is a regular contributor to "First Coast Connect" on WJCT, as well as the Jacksonville Music Experience. He is a co-host of "The Contrast Project" and the "Bold City Civics" podcast. He is also a co-founder of the record label Bold City Music Productions. He can be reached at [email protected].