Minnesota Blues Society

Honoring the Musicians, Composers, Authors and Individuals Who Have Made a Historical Contribution, Impact and Overall Influence on the Blues in the State of Minnesota.

Dick Shurman
Dick Shurman

Dick Shurman's Recollections of Mojo Buford

Dick Shurman has long been associated with the Blues as a producer for artists like Roy Buchanan, Albert Collins, Magic Slim, Charlie Musselwhite, Little Smokey Smothers, Lee Shot Williams, and Johnny Winter. Dick is a prolific author with numerous liner notes to his credit. He is also the publisher of Chicago Blues News. Dick was the recipient of the Blues Foundation's "Keeping the Blues Alive" 2005 award for "Producer".

When Mickey Bauer informed Dick about Mojo Buford's 2007 induction into the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame, Dick was kind enough to share the following thoughts about Mojo with us.


To: Mickey Bauer
Subject: RE: Honoring George Buford ( From Blindman's Blues Forum )

Here are a few recollections of Mojo:

Before I ever saw Mojo, I had the wrong idea about him. I don't mean anything about his music or his personality, just his appearance. The problem was that my musical introduction came via an album on Douglas Records which featured him along with the other members of Muddy Waters' band in 1968. I was surprised when I first saw Mojo and he looked nothing like the shades-sporting harp player on the album cover -- who turned out to be Birmingham Jones, who made one east coast tour with Muddy but had nothing to do with the recordings. I was just as surprised that Mojo wasn't a big, beefy man; that deep and resonant voice had misled me as much as the album photo.

I got to know Mojo and the rest of Muddy's band pretty well during a memorable week in early 1972 when I was living in Seattle. Muddy and the band came through for a week and stayed in a motel a short walk from my home. I already knew a couple of them fairly well, and for a blues fan with a lot of free time, that week was heaven. Unfortunately, most of the best stories can't be told in public, like the unusual favor Mojo kept trying to coax Pee Wee Madison into doing for him. But the hang time and the music were both terrific, and reinforced in my mind that Mojo was an especially outstanding ensemble player with a perfect feeling for Muddy's music.

Life moved on and I moved to Chicago, but there was some continuity at play. A tape from that week in '72 was a major motivator for my friend Steve Wisner to record Mojo with a similar band (also including Twin Cities fixture Sonny Rodgers) for the "Windy City Blues Summit" album in 1978. (Steve was also motivated by the Muddy Waters Blues Band LPs on Spivey Records and by Mojo's previous recordings.) That too was a memorable experience as a lot of reminiscing went on amid some fine performances from Mojo, Sammy Lawhorn, Pee Wee Madison and the rest of the band; I certainly found out a lot of hitherto unrevealed nicknames the cats had for each other.

The thread continues. A year or so after the album came out, I knew that Muddy was going to be at the Wise Fools Pub hearing some friends of his, either the Nighthawks or the Fabulous Thunderbirds; I had a lot more working brain cells then. I took Muddy a copy of Mojo's "Summit" LP. Not too long afterwards, Muddy parted ways with his whole band after a financial ultimatum, and it was Mojo he called to put his next and last band together. I know Muddy and Mojo had a deep and long understanding by then, but always wondered if maybe part of Muddy's faith in putting the band in Mojo's hands was due to his liking that album and what Mojo (and Steve) did to put together the sound he needed and loved. In any event, it was great to see them reunited until Muddy's declining health intervened tragically.

Since Muddy's death, another generation has passed, and Mojo is still plugging away. The last couple times I've seen him, at the Chicago Blues Festival and the annual Muddy tribute in Westmont, Illinois where Muddy lived for his last decade, have both been as rewarding as that week 35 years ago and 2,000 miles away. On this night when Mojo is being honored in his adopted home ("Mindianapolis, The Twin City" as Albert Collins called it on the live album we recorded in St. Paul in '81), I'll "only" be 400 miles away, but my heart and thoughts will be with you as you honor an enduring blues figure who deserves to smell all the roses he can. Thanks and congratulations, Mojo, and thanks to the Society for giving him his props while he's still among us, and sounding good!

Dick Shurman

This Page Last Updated: Tuesday, July 10, 2012

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