During WW II, it was converted to assemble tanks in support of the war effort and employed many “Rosies” — the women who took over the manufacturing jobs formerly held by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons, who had gone off to fight alongside our allies on distant shores.
The attendees, many of whom wore authentic and period-inspired dresses, suits, and military uniforms, were treated to a night of 1940s era-inspired events, including a carnival (complete with midway games), cigarette girls, mimes, clowns, and contortionists. Following a gourmet dinner prepared by Executive Chef Paul Despotakis, the dance floor filled with happy revelers who swing-danced the night away to the big band sound of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Arriving on the Southern California music scene in 1993, BBVD was a standout among the bands of the 1990s swing revival scene. The seven-man group fused jazz, swing, Dixieland, and big band music into their own personal signature, and 19 years later, they are still swingin’. Just before the evening’s festivities got underway, BAM caught up with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s lead singer/guitarist Scotty Morris.
BAM: Thank you so much for meeting with us tonight, Scotty. What’s new with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy?
Scotty: This year was pretty monumental for us. We just celebrated being together for 19 years, and it’s still all the original members! It’s been great. Big Bad is always on tour, we do at least 150 shows a year, and we have done for all 19 years. We have a good time. We’re family, and I love those guys!
BAM: Your last album was a tribute to Cab Calloway [How Big Can You Get: A Tribute to Cab Calloway]. What inspired you to cover his music?
Scotty: From the beginning, Cab Calloway has always been my hero, and I’ve always been into his tunes. Since I was a kid listening to him in cartoons, that’s been the thing for me. So I thought: how better to take my hat off to the guy who made me play music than to make a record of his music? And so, when we went into the studio to make the Cab Calloway record, it was the most inspiring record, up to that point, that we’ve ever done. It took us to a higher level musically, and taught us so much! Then, the record became a great success for us on the road because people love the music of Cab Calloway, and the estate of Cab Calloway was extremely pleased with what we had done, as well.
BAM: Are you working on any new material?
Scotty: We just finished making our ninth studio record. The new album is called Rattle Them Bones, and it will be out in September. We didn’t want to make a record that was inspired by making a paycheck; we want to make records that inspire us to go out and play. After doing the Cab record, I was so totally inspired! I’m really excited to see what the audience reception to the new album is going to be, because people aren’t really into records anymore, it’s mostly about songs. And when I make music, I make Song 1 through Song 12 to make one story. I want to take people on a musical journey, and I can’t wait to see what happens with the new record!
BAM: What is the musical journey you are taking your audience on with Rattle Them Bones?
Scotty: It’s a journey from the 1920s all the way through the 1950s. The music is crossing from New Orleans, through Kansas City, to New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. There’s all kinds of great styles within this music. And we love the name Rattle Them Bones because it’s pulled from the lyrics of one of the songs, and it encompasses what it is — you gotta get out and rattle them bones, if you want to get something done. So we’re out rattlin’ them bones, gettin’ it done, ya know?
BAM: You’ve been gettin’ it done for a while, too, including winning a Bammie Award!
Scotty: Yes! In 1998, we won for Best Swing and Jazz Record. The Bammie sits in my studio, and it’s one of my proudest awards. It’s got that big microphone on there, and it looks so cool! I have always — well, the whole band has always had a serious soft spot in our hearts for San Francisco, and for the Bay Area, in general. We kinda broke here before anywhere else. We were coming up here and playing the small clubs, back in the early days, and our music started to really pick up steam here more than anywhere else. So we’ve always felt drawn here. It’s a special place for us!
It was certainly a special place and time for everyone who came out to honor the “Rosies” and celebrate the grand opening of the new visitor education center with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Check out Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s music and upcoming tour dates on their official website, www.bbvd.com. To learn more about the Rosie The Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park Visitor Education Center, visit www.nps.gov/rori.