When Glen Marhevka first picked up his trumpet, there was an instant connection.
But he never planned on becoming a professional musician. Now, his band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Marhevka moved to the Santa Clarita Valley in seventh grade during the 80s and joined the band programs in both junior high and high school while also taking private lessons. While attending California State University, Northridge (CSUN), Marhevka majored in music before briefly working as a freelance musician.
“I chose the trumpet in fifth grade even though my dad, who played the saxophone and clarinet, wanted me to start on clarinet,” Marhevka said. “I remember hearing trumpets at my sister’s band concerts, and was enamoured by the instrument. Somehow, I convinced my parents to get me a horn, and from the moment I picked it up, I loved it.”
In the early 90s, against the backdrop of angsty grunge rock bands like Nirvana, a jazz/swing revival band called Big Bad Voodoo Daddy began to form and was looking to replace their trumpet player. Marhevka, who played in various reggae and ska bands at the time, was recommended to the band members by a mutual acquaintance. He clicked with the members of the band right off the bat, and has been BBVD’s featured solo trumpet ever since.
Being the youngest original member of the band helped earn him the nickname “The Kid,” and it didn’t help that he ordered a hot dog and fries during one of their first meals on tour — while the other members ordered “sophisticated” items, such as salmon and steak.
“Our lead singer Scotty said, ‘Oh my God, dude, you really are a kid,’” Marhevka recalled with a laugh. “Then, when we performed later that night in San Luis Obispo, he started calling me ‘The Kid’ — then other people started doing it and it stuck. Plus, my last name is hard to pronounce.”
BBVD did not want to just be a revival band that played classic oldies, and though they do play some covers Marhevka said that from the outset the band sought to craft their own sound and create their own original work. By creating a dynamic onstage presence, providing original songs that were a sort of foil to the grunge movement and capitalizing on prominent media appearances, Marhevka feels that the band was able to create a concrete following.
“The 20s through the 40s was the real heyday for big band music, but around the time we started, there was a resurgence in interest in that sound,” Marhevka said. “People came out to listen to us and liked it, but that interest came and went after the early 2000s; but we kept pushing forward and making new music.”
In addition to staying true to their original vision, the band has managed to retain its original seven members in addition to adding two other members, which Marhevka credits to clear communication between the members, respect and their commitment to highlight and support each others’ strengths.
Outside of playing with the band, Marhevka developed a passion for music education that he credits to the care his junior high and high school music teachers showed towards him. He also recalled a meeting he had with Doc Severinsen, former band leader on “The Tonight Show,” for further cementing his desire to inspire young musicians.
“My teacher brought our class to the set of ‘The Tonight Show,’ and he knew Doc, so he brought me over to talk to him,” Marhevka said. “I was a really big fan of his, and he took an hour out of his day to just be cool and talk to me. At that point, I told myself that if the ambassador of trumpets for the world could take the time to talk to me as a nobody kid, then if I had the chance to do the same for other kids I would do it.”
As the band gained mainstream traction, they formed a partnership with an instrument manufacturer. The trumpet player approached the company with the idea for a national high school band competition and held a clinic and concert for the winning schools. He continues to hold these concerts and clinics. He also teaches private lessons and mentors high school students.
“I think it’s really important to engage kids and if you can spark an interest in music in just one kid, then in my opinion it’s totally worth it,” Marhevka said. “The rest of the band is totally on board with it too and the importance of education has become one of our mantras.”
Last April, BBVD celebrated its 25th year and began an anniversary tour that will conclude this April. One of the tour stops included a The Canyon in Valencia, which Marhevka used as an opportunity to catch up with old friends.
“We rarely ever play in Santa Clarita, I think we’ve only done it twice before, but it’s really fun to come back to my hometown to play,” he said. “When I grew up here, there was nothing where The Canyon Club is at the mall except for fields, and nothing much in Valencia — so it was cool to come home and see how it’s changed.”
When he is not playing with the band and teaching, Marhevka likes to spend time with his family, golfing once a week if possible with friends and also works on side projects like creating original music scores for film.
When the 25th year celebration ends, BBVD still has some performances planned, but the band will also begin recording some new material and revamp some old material.
Marhevka said that he didn’t anticipate playing in the same band for over two decades, but he doesn’t know where his life would have gone otherwise.
“I have no backup plan,” he said, and adding he’s happy for the bonds and camaraderie he has built with his bandmates.
The musician said he doesn’t have a favorite moment of his career, characterizing the beginning of his days with the band as a “whirlwind” of activity; while more recently he’s been trying to “soak up the experiences.”
“It’s hard to describe this experience because we’ve been all over the world, played over 3,000 concerts, and I never anticipated anything like playing at the Super Bowl or in movies,” he said. “It’s been an amazing experience.”