TBS 1st Sunday Blues Jam: Mojo Collins
October 7, 2018 · Sunday * 5-8pm * NO Cover
It’s 1st Sunday again, so get your musical “fix” by playing, dancing, or just having a great time. Musicians from all over the Triangle and beyond show up to play.
Our guest hosts this month: Mojo Collins Trio
Mojo Collins, a fourth generation North Carolinian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, has been performing for 6 decades and has become a North Carolina Blues and Folk legend. Born in 1944 in Raleigh, North Carolina, Mojo was the son of Edna and Bill Collins, both musicians. Taught guitar mostly by his paternal grandmother Lorraine, Collins quickly learned the basic Piedmont blues and folk structures, and later took lessons from his father “Wild Bill”. Back porch jams, on Sundays with family and friends gave him the opportunity to develop and polish the “Piedmont style” of finger picking at an early age.
He has a quiet charm and talent that is impressive. His songs are original and wide in their scope.
When asked how he came to have his own personal style Mojo said, “When you listen to me perform live, or in the studio, you can hear traces of different music masters that I have studied and who have strongly influenced my music. My first big influence was, of course, my father who was an astounding player. Other people whose sounds you hear reflected in my style are Muddy Waters (slide style); John Lee Hooker (boogie); Jimmie Reed (smooth blues and harmonica); the Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry (rock); Doc Watson (folk); Buddy Guy (Chicago shuffle) and Stevie Ray Vaughn (rock n’ blues). After all these years, I have come into my own and can honestly say I have my mojo working!”
Now often touted as a “musical treasure”, Mojo performed his first TV appearance with his father at age 8 on the then popular Jim Thornton’s Saturday Night Country Style. It aired on WTVD, channel 11 out of Durham, NC. At age 18, while serving in the U.S. Air Force in Missoula, Montana in 1962, Mojo formed his first band. In 1965 the band was known as Mojo’s Mark IV. Mojo, with drummer Brian Knaff, bassist Steve Garr, were a hard driving trio renamed the “Chosen Few”. With the addition of members Ric Richter, sax, George Wallace, guitar and Rocky Leible, keyboards, Brian booked the group and they toured the northwest, Canada and the east coast. When “The Chosen Few” relocated to the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco they evolved into the “Initial Shock”. Collins laughingly tells it like this, “The name came from the fact that we were the loudest band and initially it would shock fans!”
Being in San Francisco during the infamous “summer of love” the “Initial Shock” quickly became a local favorite and caught the eye of the world’s greatest rock promoter, Bill Graham. At his suggestion they played original music and recorded “Mind Disaster” penned by Collins. Graham booked them at the Fillmore Auditorium opening for Country Joe and the Fish and the Jefferson Airplane. Many concerts followed for the “Shock” at the Fillmore with such acts as Janis Joplin, Big Brother, Quicksilver, Steve Miller, The Grateful Dead, Chuck Berry, The Youngbloods, and Santana.
Chet Helms the founder of the “Family Dog” and the Avalon Ballroom also became interested and added the “Initial Shock” to his concert roster. Although the Initial Shock never became a household word, the band was an integral part of the late 60’s San Francisco scene. In 1969 the “Initial Shock” did their last tour and disbanded. Today there is renewed interest in their music by record labels and music historians.
In the early seventies, Mojo signed a songwriting and recording contract with Bill Graham and David Rubinson of Fillmore Records. With this the band “Sawbuck” was born and featured Mojo on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, along with guitarist Ronnie Montrose and drummer Chuck Ruff. Bill Church and Starr Donaldson rounded out the band on bass and lead guitar with keyboardist Steve Hatley coming on board later. They all sang and this added to the attraction that led them to touring with Janis Joplin, Steve Miller, Pink Floyd and Santana. When time came for the closing of the Fillmore West, Mojo and his band “Sawbuck” were featured on the weeklong lineup of concerts.
In early 1972 Mojo headed back east before the release of his first album “Sawbuck” on Fillmore Records distributed by Columbia Records. It was here he reformed the band with east coast players and toured from his home in Nags Head, NC. Mojo now performs in concert solo, as well as with his band “Triple Vision”.
In the past 5 decades Mojo has toured the U.S. and performed at concerts and festivals such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Spoleto Fest, Artsplosure, both the 400th and 425th Anniversary Celebrations of the Roanoke Voyages, International Slide Guitar Festival and the Pittsburgh Folk Art Society Concert Series. Mojo has written over 300 songs and 30 releases both on CD and DVD, which receive airplay in 9 different countries and are sold at live performances, online, and at many retail music outlets.
While Mojo is, first and foremost, a concert performer he is as well known for his musical contributions to the environment and preservation efforts in his home state and his home, the Outer Banks of North Carolina. His original songs have helped raise funds in preservation efforts for the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, the drive to preserve Jockey’s Ridge as a state park and to help create awareness for the need to relocate Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. He performed his song “Shining Star Over Jockey’s Ridge” for the dedication of Jockey’s Ridge State Park and both “Save the Light” and “Hope of Diamond Shoals” for the rededication and relighting ceremonies for Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. He regards his talent as a “gift” and believes in “giving back and playing it forward” by volunteering performances to promote awareness of community needs and for fundraising events.
Another contribution that Mojo thoroughly enjoys is bringing his musical education and workshop programs to students in grades k-12 as well at universities and colleges. The History of Blues; Devon to Dare-the Roanoke Voyages; Flight of Magic-the story of the Wright Brothers and Make a Preservation all include history, music and the fun of interactive opportunities.
Mojo’s creative genius has brought him songwriting awards in Louisiana, Virginia and North Carolina, but receiving the most prestigious NC Arts Council Fellowship in Music for Songwriting for 1999-2000 remains his most proud moment. He is included in the NC Arts Council Artist Directory, is an active member of the Dare County Arts Council and is a supporter of the arts in North and South Carolina through performance, event coordination and attendance.
It doesn’t matter if he is playing the low down blues, rock, rhythm ‘n blues, folk or a soft ballad, Mojo is a skilled, versatile songwriter and musical artist who gives 110% to every audience regardless of age, venue or size. Arthur Shuey of “Blues On Stage” says this of Mojo. “Mojo Collins is the Mad Max of East Coast blues performers. He can honestly be described as tough, unique, compassionate, resourceful, observant, expressive, savvy, sincere, honorable and legendary, and the list of adjectives goes on from there.”
Doug Saum of Barbarous Generation Music in Reno Nevada had this to say about Mojo after seeing him in concert in 2012. “His southern gentlemanly manner and Mark Twainish appearance caught our attention, but it was his extraordinary guitar performance and voice that blew us out of the water. He is a pure original and master of the blues. He played acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, dobro, and sang about a dozen original songs with an efficiency I’ve seldom witnessed before. No joke. Even though I’ve been a musician and blues fan since 1965, Mojo’s innovative playing/writing opened my eyes to the limitless possibilities within the blues format. I am not exaggerating when I say that he deserves to have his name included with those of B. B. King, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, etc. His songs touched our hearts and we can’t wait for him to return our way.”
Triangle Blues Society: Working together to support, promote, and grow blues music in the greater Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill North Carolina area.