Interview

Swinging Sounds in the Star Wars Galaxy: Talking About the Saga With Scotty Morris of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

You remember the scene. Yes, yes you do…

Back in 1996, a little indie film called “Swingers” gave the world a nightlife; sending former punk rockers and hair bands into thrift stores and their grandparents’ closets looking for zoot suits, garters, and fedoras.

At the forefront of the Neo-swing movement, which saw one of its seminal moments in Jon Favreau’s first big production, was Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

There, in the background of the movie’s most uplifting moment — pun intended — Scotty Morris and his band provided the soundtrack for Favreau’s Mikey and Heather Graham (Lorraine, “like the quiche…”) to fall in love in the midst of the jazz and swing dancing.

Careful the clip has some swearing in it…

 

So, what does this all have to do with Star Wars, Bish?

Hold on a minute, jeez. I’m getting to that.

Anyway, I recently re-connected with my friend Scotty and, as per usual whenever I’m involved, the subject turned to Star Wars.

Shocking, I know…

“I think I was probably about 10 when star wars came out in theaters, maybe a little bit younger and my family was on vacation in Canada, and my dad kept saying, we’re going to see Star Wars, we’re going to see Star Wars,” said Morris, when the subject of Favreau’s new project, Star Wars: The Mandalorian came up. “I had no idea what, what my dad was talking about, none. Zero. And I think we were in Vancouver or Toronto; I don’t remember. And I remember standing in line and I remember going in and seeing it sitting down and I remember the opening credits and I remember being so young that I couldn’t read fast enough where those rolling credits.

“I’m like, what is going on. Is this movie subtitled? I had no idea.

“And then the movie started, and then when Darth Vader came on screen, it was done. I was sold,” he said.

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©2018 Big Bad Voodoo Daddy®

So sold, in fact, that — remember this was 1977 and pre-VCRs — that, pretty soon afterward, Morris’ dad went to the store.

“My dad bought the Star Wars record because we were all so blown away – the whole family,” said Scotty. “I have an older brother; so my brother, mom and my dad and I remember that I would put the Cantina song on, and I would jump up on the coffee table, and I would do this super funny dance that would bring my family down every time.

“Yeah, the Cantina band has always been a big hit for me, man.”

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© & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Thinking back to the conversation, I am still taken aback to how so many of the things I truly love go back to Star Wars. And I am not alone.

Scotty and I spoke for a long time about the music of John Williams; of the Cantina Band — Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes — and their real-world influences.

“For sure. It’s definitely a small jazz combo band,” said Morris, whose own band has eight members. “Like definitely like small Jazz combo band, like the thirties, late thirties.

“That kind of thing.”

 

Fast forward through 25 years of touring, movie and tv appearances, the halftime show of Superbowl XXXIII, and the ESPYs, and that “kind of thing” has been very good to Morris. So it stands to reason that Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has never covered the tune.

“It’s a great thing. And I always wanted to do something with it; but you know, I just thought I’d leave that one alone. It’s kind of sacred.

“You don’t mess with Star Wars,” he added with a snicker.

But there are echoes of the Cantina bad in many of BBVD’s live sets.

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© & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved

“We’ve never done that song, per se,” said Morris. “As in like a verbatim version of that, but the Cantina song gets quoted all the time in someone’s solo.

“Our sax player Karl [Hunter], he’ll quote just about everything.

“And, and a lot of times if he doesn’t like a certain situation — like if we’re playing like a corporate party or something like that — he’ll start his sax solo with Darth Vader’s, dom, dom, dom…”

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©2018 Big Bad Voodoo Daddy®

And now, like many of us, Scotty’s kids are in on the Star Wars action.

“So, so the thing that’s different with my upbringing and my kids, that we… have all of the films on Blu Ray, so we have everything that there is and then the kids also have these books that are available because now so much time has gone by.

“But my son, I would say my son’s favorite book for probably four or five years is the Star Wars Technical Manual, and it’s a textbook on star wars, and it’s a big, thick coffee table book, and it’s got extensive artwork in it.

“It’s got behind the scenes,” added Morris. “It’s got everything you could imagine. So he is, he knows everything about all of the tech. He knows every inside detail about everything.

“It was amazing for me to introduce him to the movies and he and his friends, his group of friends all fall in love with them, and they watch those movies over and over and over, and you know, every inch of it,” he said.

For a guy, who has made a career using a retro vibe, it didn’t shock me to hear that Morris had made sure to kick it old school Star Wars with his son and his friends.

“I have a really great story because I have a friend that worked for Twentieth Century Fox… and he has a DVD of the original print; from the one I saw the very first time I saw Star Wars in 1977,” he explained. “So, I had a party at my house about two years ago, and he loaned it to me just to check it out.

“So my son and all his Star Wars nerd buddies are all huddled around the TV watching it, and they were flipping out on all the changes. They couldn’t believe all the changes [in the Special Editions].”

It was a strange moment for Morris, whose mind’s eye still had the original editions squarely in his memory.

“I’m like, guys, I don’t see what you’re seeing,” said Scotty remembering the original versions he saw. “So it was, it was the funniest thing.
It was just like, unbelievable.”

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©2018 Big Bad Voodoo Daddy®

Looking ahead, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will be playing at Walt Disney World during Epcot’s Eat to the Beat celebration on Nov. 10 – 12 in the America Gardens Theatre.

So, I asked him, thinking about the coming of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, whether there might be an opportunity ahead; would BBVD like to play the Star Wars Land cantina?

“One-hundred percent,” he said. “I’ve been practicing my whole life for that.”

Getting a little greedy (Greedo?), I suggested that it might make good sense for the band that headlined the bar in Jon Favreau’s first production to make an appearance in his current production.

“Jon’s a great guy, man,” said Scotty. “He’s got good taste.

“He knows what he’s doing.”

But Morris added, thinking of the possibility, “I’m not sure.

“I don’t know when it comes to that kind of stuff, man. I just let the zeitgeist be the zeitgeist.”

To hell with that! Mr. Favreau, if you ever read this, give Big Bad Voodoo Daddy a call, and put them on a stage in a galaxy far, far away. JB

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© Disney 2018. All Rights Reserved.

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John Bishop

A graduate of Boston and Northeastern universities, John Bishop became the beat reporter for BostonBruins.com prior to the B’s 2006-07 hockey season. While with the Bruins, “Bish” traveled North America and Europe to cover the Black & Gold’s every move via laptop, blog, and smart phone. The co-author of two books, Bygone Boston and Full 60 to History: The Inside Story of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, John covered the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010 and the B’s 2011 championship run and banner raising before taking a faculty/communications position at a prep school outside Boston in 2013. He lives with his wife Andrea and sons Jack, Scott, and Luke in central Massachusetts.