When swing revivalists Big Bad Voodoo Daddy formed in 1993, they were a severe anomaly, one that seemed destined to be overshadowed by the Nirvanas, Tupacs and Whitney Houstons who ruled the pop charts. Twenty years later, the brassy septet has outlived them and their appearance Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Alex Theater is going to be a very special triple-threat event.
"We've kept the band together all these years and we have not stopped playing, been on the road the whole time," trumpeter and Glendale native Glen Marhevka said recently. "The most we've taken off, at one time, is four weeks. We're closing in on 3,000 concerts played. It's crazy — time flies."
In the chaotic world of pop music, such longevity is unusual. "It's been the same guys the entire time, too. Imagine being married to seven different people!" Marhevka said with a laugh. "It is pretty rare, but we all move in the same direction and that's why we're still together. We don't always agree on everything but we respect each other so it works."
With the band currently celebrating that milestone anniversary, the Alex date is also a rare hometown gig for Marhevka and pianist (and Glendale resident) Joshua Levy. More importantly, it's a benefit concert with all proceeds going to the music and arts programs at Verdugo Woodlands, Franklin Magnet Elementary Schools, and the GUSD's middle and high school band programs.
"When I was a kid in school, I got to experience some great live music from professional musicians who came into our class," Marhevka said. "It really did change my life. So to me and all the guys in the band, it's totally worth all the effort."
"Music education is so important, and the funding has gone done in the last few years so we all feel it's more important than ever. Joshua Levy and I both live here and we've both got kids in the schools here. My kid plays trombone but she gets music instruction once a week for 25 minutes — when I was a kid, I got it every day. There are resources but they are spread thin, so we want to reach out to help also try to inspire other people to help."
Marhevka's commitment to Glendale schools extends to contributing his time and expertise for the last few years backstage at "Father's Follies," the Jewel City's colorful, cross-dressing annual musical extravaganza established in 1949 by the great Hollywood character actor Joe Sawyer.
"It's a 66-year tradition in Glendale, and I've been the musical director for a while now, the high school jazz band plays and all the Dads are in drag, and it's really something!"
Marhevka is a bona fide crusader when it comes to arts in school. "I cannot stress enough how important music education is, it's super important. For our whole career, the band has been advocating for music education and outreach, we've been doing music workshops in schools all over the country."
"And before our show, from 1 to 4:30, is a day of music in the courtyard in front of the Alex. We've got bands who will play throughout the afternoon, all the Glendale school bands, there's a concert band, a rock band — even a taiko drum band," he said. "And we'll be doing giveaways, we're sponsored by Yamaha so we've got a bunch of Yamaha horns to give away, a local music store has donated a guitar, it's really going to be something."
"I've got the Glendale High school jazz band opening for us at the Alex. We gave tickets to all the high school and middle school band kids so all the profits from the tickets sales will be spread to all to the schools. It's going to be wonderful to have all the kids on stage there."
"Because if we can make a difference in just one kid's life, that's everything." He said. "Of course, I hope we can make a difference in the lives of lots of kids, but even if it's just one, it's all worthwhile."
Where: The Alex Theater, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale
When: Saturday, Feb. 22, 7:15 p.m.
Cost: $25 to $152.50
More info: (818) 243-2611, http://www.alextheatre.org
JONNY WHITESIDE is a veteran music journalist based in Burbank and author of "Ramblin' Rose: the Life & Career of Rose Maddox" and "Cry: the Johnnie Ray Story."