Casino Scene: Big and better Bad Voodoo Daddy

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has outlasted its contemporaries from the '90s swing-music fad.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has outlasted its contemporaries from the '90s swing-music fad.

Glen "The Kid" Marhevka of the California swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, which performs Friday at Gold Strike Casino's Millennium Theater, doesn't ordinarily identify with Beyoncé.

But as the R&B diva prepares to entertain at halftime of this Sunday's Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, the trumpet player can relate to what she must be going through, after recent criticism over her allegedly lip-synching the national anthem at President Barack Obama's second inauguration.

"It was kind of surreal," Marhevka says of his group's appearance in the 1999 halftime show along side Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan. "Everything was prerecorded except for the vocals, so we actually went in and recorded the tunes a couple of weeks ahead of time. Logistically, I just don't think they can really set everything up that quickly. … We actually played 'Sir Duke' with Stevie Wonder, so we got to go in the studio ahead of time and record that with him, which was probably the highlight for me."

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is in the midst of a tour celebrating its 20th anniversary. Founded in Ventura, Calif., by vocalist-guitarist Scotty Morris and drummer Kurt Sodergren, the band was part of a swing music revival in the '90s that also included groups like Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Squirrel Nut Zippers.

With their appearance in the 1996 Vince Vaughn film "Swingers," however, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy shot to the front of the pack, and have now outlasted all their contemporaries.

"We brought in guys that really love this kind of music and are committed to it," Marhevka says of the nine-piece's lasting power. "It wasn't popular when we started doing it. I think a lot of bands started doing it when and after it was popular, and once the popularity died off, they went on to the next thing. We committed to it from the very beginning."

One key to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's resilience has been their willingness to evolve and grow as musicians. Their 2003 album Save My Soul found the group embracing classic New Orleans R&B sounds, and in 2009 the band put out a tribute to the Cotton Club bandleader Cab Calloway.

The group's latest, the September release Rattle Them Bones, has been called their jazziest effort yet. Comprised of Morris originals and choice covers of songs by Randy Newman, Jon Hendricks and others, the record is easily the most wide-sweeping of the band's career, encompassing many of the variations the band has explored over the years.

"Our goal is just to keep getting better, writing better songs and playing at a higher level," Marhevka says. "If you listen to this album, I think it sounds really great, and you can hear the band is playing better than we ever have. If you listen to the albums in succession, the band just keeps getting better and better and better."

Showtime for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is 9 p.m. Tickets available for $14.95 and $19.95 at the casino gift shop, by phone at 888-747-7711, and through Ticketmaster. For more information, visit goldstrike.com.

Also In Tunica Week

Country music legend George Jones kicks off his final series of concerts — appropriately dubbed "The Grand Tour" after his 1974 No. 1 hit — Saturday with a sold-out engagement at Sam's Town Casino's River Palace Entertainment Center (1477 Casino Strip Blvd., Tunica Resorts, Miss.).

The 81-year-old Country Music Hall of Famer has announced that he will be calling it quits this year, 60 years after he signed his first record deal. But Jones, a Kennedy Center Honoree and, just last year, a recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, still has a few songs left in him.

Besides the 60-date tour, which culminates in November with a show in Nashville, Jones is preparing one last record to be mostly written by fellow superstar Dolly Parton.

"It is a little bittersweet," Jones recently told Billboard. "I have been blessed to do what I love for all these years, and when I return to places that I know I will be performing for the last time, it makes me a little nostalgic and sad. I will surely miss my fans and the good people I have met along this journey."

As one country singer exits the stage, a new one takes it. Aaron Lewis makes his debut as a country artist Friday at Horseshoe Casino's Bluesville (1021 Casino Center Drive, Tunica Resorts, Miss.).

After 15 years as the frontman for the chart-topping hard rock band Staind, the conservative-leaning Lewis recently started a country solo career.

In 2011, he released an EP, Town Line, that contained the single "Country Boy" which featured Jones, Charlie Daniels and Chris Young. In November, he followed up with the full-length The Road.

Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $25, $35, $45, and $100 and are available at the box office and through Ticketmaster. For more information, call 800-303-7463 or visit horseshoetunica.com.

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