One of the funniest things I remember Mojo ever telling me was in response to a question I asked him several years ago about if he was playing blues before he first met Muddy Waters in 1956. He replied, "Muddy made my black ass blue." Meaning he may have thought he was playing the blues before their meeting but Muddy was the one who showed him how to play THE BLUES.
George "Mojo" Buford will turn 72 later this year (Born November 10, 1929, Hernando, MS) and the plans are in the works for an all-star birthday celebration here in the Twin Cities in November (something you will want to keep an eye out for). While still a young man, Mojo moved first to Memphis (where he still lives on occasion) before settling in Chicago in 1952. After meeting Muddy he played in Muddy's band on several different occasions including being a part of Muddy Waters' last band along with John Primer just before Muddy's death in 1983. He also was part of a band called the Muddy Waters Jr. Band that filled in for Waters at local clubs when he was on the road. While traveling with Muddy on one road trip to the Twin Cities Mojo got an offer he couldn't refuse and moved to Minneapolis in the early '60s where he ended up splitting his time between the Twin Cities, Chicago and Memphis over the next 4 decades. In recent years between playing with his own band and releasing some critically acclaimed CDs, Mojo can be found touring with long time friend and harp compatriot, James Cotton.
Mojo Buford's blues never strays too far from his Muddy Waters/Chicago blues roots. In fact, if you want to re-live some classic Chicago blues then a visit to any of Mojo's shows will satisfy that "blues" fix you may have been craving. Such was the case this night at the quaint little roadside Triangle Bar located across the rail road tracks on a dead end street just east of Hwy 35E north of St. Paul.
Joined by John Franken on guitar, Dave, Hupp on keyboards, Chris Johnson on bass (John Schroder filled in for a few songs later in the night) and Jeremy Johnson on drums (yes Jeremy plays drums in addition to his fine guitar playing). Tonight's show was a regular stroll down memory lane with Mojo's ever-ready beaming smile and straight-ahead, no-nonsense Chicago blues harmonica playing. Franken's guitar playing was the perfect match for Mojo's harp, adding just the right traditional sound on many of the classic Chicago blues played throughout the night.
The Triangle Bar is a moderate sized place where you get your beer served in cans or plastic cups, where the local patrons all seemed to know each other, and where there was plenty of dancing, eating, drinking, smoking and just plain fun going on the entire night. Speaking of the local clientele, at one point as I was sitting just to the side of where the band was playing (there is no stage, just the speakers and equipment set up in the front corner), and a local patron leaned over and asked, "what's the deal with this guy?" He wanted to know who that was up there playing harmonica. I told him who Mojo was and that he had played with Muddy Waters. The guy shook his head and said he had never heard of Muddy Waters either. He added he wasn't a blues fan but liked the way that guy up there played the harmonica. Mojo Buford's name may not be that well known outside of the blues community but for those who came specifically to see him play tonight and those who just happened to be there, we were all treated to a special, all-too-rare show from this blues harmonica patriarch. Keep an eye on the Calendar page here at Blues On Stage (www.mnblues.com) for other shows that may crop up from time to time featuring Mojo Buford.
Mojo giving an enthused fan a "personal" autograph with Jeremy closely inspecting his handiwork.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Ray Stiles, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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