by Ken McAlpine
Ventura’s own — and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy front man — Scotty Morris has seen the world, joyfully playing BBVD’s signature jazz and swing from the Super Bowl to Lincoln Center. The band has played nearly 3,000 live shows, performed for three U.S. presidents, and sold millions of records worldwide. But it all started in Ventura, and for Scotty Morris, it stays here. Born in Ventura, weaned by Ventura, and as unpretentious as Ventura, Scotty sat down to answer a few questions about his town.
How did Ventura play a role in BBVD forming way back in 1989?
I started the band with (drummer) Kurt Sodergren. We connected as friends, and then we played together. There was so much music going on in Ventura at that time. The scene was amazing. There were a lot of great places to watch music, and so there were a lot of really great bands. The crowds were tough, because the bands were so good. It wasn’t easy to just come in and win a crowd. You had to really do something extra. We were like, “Man, if we can crack the nut in Ventura, we’ll do well anywhere.”
It must be a really nice feeling to have such deep home town roots.
It is. And the band is all the same guys. We’ve got four or five Ventura guys in the band. We did have to look outside of town for some other horn players, and we went really far to find one. Like Santa Barbara.
Your shows are joy-filled fun. You’ve said one of your intents is to bring joy to audiences around the world. Why that specific mission?
I’ve been playing music since I was a little teeny kid, and every time I played music when I was a little teeny kid, people would smile, and clap, and have fun. I practice to be a virtuoso, I try hard to write songs that transcend time, but the bottom line is what I’m best at when I get on stage and we play music is making people happy. As much as I’d like to be taken seriously as a very heavy jazz player … people love it because we make them feel good. And that’s a great place to be.
You’ve traveled the world performing with BBVD. You could live anywhere. Why is Ventura still home?
Seventy-three and sunny. Every day [laughs]. You can’t argue with that. I love it here. And I love the unpretentiousness of this town. In 1999, we were touring the world. We did the halftime show for the Super Bowl, then we went to Hawaii, and then to New York to do the ESPYs. Just this whirlwind, just as crazy as it could be. We get home, and I run into someone at the store, and the dude’s like, “Hey man, how’s it going? Where you been? You guys still playing?” It was awesome and humbling. I’m like, “I love Ventura. This is great.”
Do you reference Ventura in any of your songs?
Not directly. But I used to live on Ocean [Avenue], and the train would wake me up every night. So I stood out there with a microphone and I recorded the train going by. The Ventura train starts off our very first record.
Ventura’s live music scene is thriving. Are you surprised to see how the music scene has grown?
I love the music scene here, and I’m really happy with how it’s grown. It’s exciting for me now more than ever. My son is in a band called Echo, and now he’s playing out in the Ventura scene. And Kurt’s son is the bass player. That’s totally insane.
Do you have favorite local places to see a show?
I love Ventura Theater. They get great bands and it’s a fun place to see a show. I love seeing, and playing, on the hillside at Arroyo Verde (Park). I love playing outdoors.
What are some of your favorite local bands?
My son’s band Echo, because they’re the greatest band ever. There’s a band here called The Ashes, and they blow my mind. They’re amazing.
Let’s run through some Ventura favorites. Favorite place to see a sunset?
My front window. I can see the Channel Islands from my window. It’s mind-blowing.
Favorite place for a drink?
El Rey (Cantina).
Wow. Loaded question. There are so many that I love. I love TOKI (ramen noodles), for starters.
Favorite place to unwind?
Any Ventura beach. Our beaches are the best.
[Laughs.] I’m not going to give you my beach.
What would be your perfect Ventura Saturday?
Easy. Get up. Hit Arroyo Verde and hike with my family. Then lunch at either Spencer Makenzie’s (seafood, tacos) or Corrales. After lunch, hit the beach and surf all day, then dinner at one of the funky places anywhere downtown. And then go catch some music at Ventura Theater, or Sans Souci, or Watermark, or El Rey. Good day.
Anything else you’d like to add about your relationship with Ventura?
I love this town. I love how unpretentious Ventura is. It’s a great humble town. I like that vibe. I’m really happy to call this place home.