Memphis is an inspirational place for musicians, especially during the time around the Blues Music Awards when 12-bar sounds blast from the Rum Boogie, B.B. King’s and the New Daisy Theater out onto Beale Street.
The Mighty Mojo Prophets singer Tom “Big Son” Eliff and guitarist Mitch “Da Switch” Dow, a pair of lifelong blues players, were part of the scene last year, nominated for the BMA’s Best New Artist Debut.
“All of a sudden you’re standing next to Bobby Bland or riding the elevator with Derek Trucks,” Dow said. “You can drop any name you want and they were there.”
Finishing the thought, Eliff said, “How tripped out we were, a five –year old band, to be sitting in the same room with those guys, from a garage in Long Beach to the BMAs in Memphis.”
The Might Mojo Prophets onstage during ceremonies at the Cook Convention Center proved they belonged, rocking the star-studded audience with a four-song set.
The bluesmen were still high from the experience on the airplane ride home when Eliff wrote the lyrics to a song, “California,” from which the opening verse was used as the title track of “Flyin’ Home From Memphis,” released April 16 on Delta Groove Music.
“California” has a similar melody to Louis Jordan’s 1945 track “Calidonia,” which later arranged as a jump blues inspired a new musical term: rock ’n’ roll.
“Flying Home From Memphis” is reminiscent of early rock but with a more refined groove that causes feet to tap and faces to smile. There’s a lot of Chicago, some Memphis Stax and, naturally, California. Remember Pee Wee Crayton? You will when you hear the album’s second track, “The Gambler.”
“We don’t stay in one style,” Eliff said. “We touch on all genres of the blues. Everybody comes out to California, so we’ve got a lot of styles out here. We just put them all together, so that’s how me and Mitch write.
“It might start out with a Muddy riff and end up with something completely different, just swinging hard. We try to incorporate everything we like about the blues.”
Knowing they had something special, Eliff and Dow produced the record themselves and shopped it out.
Delta Groove CEO Rand Chortkoff had smoked cigars with Dow but hadn’t paid too much attention to his music, Dow said, until the 13-track “Flying Home From Memphis” was cut. This week the record label introduces its newest band.
“It’s nice to be 30 miles from where the label is located,” Dow said.
Chorkoff booked the Mighty Mojo Prophets for the Fourth of July Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Ore. It is possible the band will play in the Tahoe-Reno area on the way to or from Oregon.
If there is a nearby gig, Tahoe Onstage will alert its readers when it’s time to jump.
The Mighty Mojo Prophets, ‘Flyin’ Home From Memphis’
Label: Delta Groove Music
Release: April 16
Click to Buy CD