Master Bluesman Mojo Collins
“My best memories of playing the Fillmore are opening for Janis Joplin and drinking Southern Comfort with her in her Rolls Royce on the way to the gig.” It’s been a long strange trip for 62-year-old blues singer/guitarist Mojo Collins, but he’s happy to sing and talk about it. William Collins became “Mojo” in 1962 while snowed-in at a Chicago bus terminal with Muddy Waters, whom he jammed with there for hours before the legendary bluesman bestowed him with the nickname.
A proud U.S. Air Force veteran, Collins formed his first band while stationed in Glasgow, Mont. He later played with bands in Missoula and Haight-Ashbury, where his group Sawbuck signed with Fillmore Records and was managed by prolific San Francisco promoter Bill Graham. There he honed his skills opening for Joplin, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Country Joe and the Fish, the Velvet Underground, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd and just about anybody you can imagine who passed through the famous Fillmore Auditorium’s doors. “One night I got to witness Jimi Hendrix arguing with Bill Graham about an encore after jamming his guitar into his amplifier and letting it feed back for what seemed to be an hour while the crowd went crazy,” says Collins. “They were arguing about the $900 that Bill paid Jimi for three nights’ performances. Can you believe that?” What’s crazier is that someone of Collins’ caliber walks among us. Unlike many of his contemporaries from that era, he emerged high-spirited and seemingly unscathed.
“God has blessed me with a wonderful wife, Bonnie, for 34 years now, and she is the reason I continue to try and make a living in this crazy business we call music.” After two decades in the Outer Banks, Collins settled in Wilmington in 1992, hoping to work his musical magic in movies. While he says that’s been “a hard nut to crack,” he has enjoyed regular airplay on local stations, a steady gig at Water Street Restaurant, and an N.C. Arts Council Fellowship in Music for Songwriting – what he calls his “highest honor.” Collins currently tours schools, teaching the History of Folk and Blues Music. He will headline the Holden Beach Festival by the Sea and play the Seafood and Jazz Festival at Fort Fisher in October. He’s also planning a fall release, tentatively titled
Just Say Mo.
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