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No Foo Foo Haircut

Remembering Mojo Nixon

· The Lede

Cindy Lee Berryhill

I knew Mojo Nixon pretty well. We met at the beginning of 1984. He saw me and my partner play a set of music and he said, “I like that line that goes ‘Uncle Sam will go to bed with any country that isn’t red’.” My partner David had written that, not me, but nonetheless it was a conversation starter. Mojo asked me out on a date. He drove us around in his VW Bug that had only two working gears. We drove out to Campo so he could say we “drove out past the power lines.” He quoted Jonathan Richman and played an old AM radio station on the drive. We talked about having lost a parent young. We hung out.

We became an item. I started calling him by his real name, Kirby. We dated for five or six months. I was just starting to play solo shows and he was a regular performer at the Beat Farmer nights at Bodie’s. He was always drinking Mountain Dew or gin. I left a pillow at his place. I went away to visit family in the Texas Panhandle and when I came back things got dodgy. It turned out he’d met someone. Kirby was a guy that had already had a five-year long relationship with someone a few years earlier and I was just a beginner at this. Mojo was my first boyfriend!

The difference was too much. I told him I didn’t like how much he drank, gin. He told me I was a “bad egg” and that I played too many “foo-foo chords.” I told him he should “learn more than three chords.” And then we were done. I don’t think I ever got that pillow back.

Even after all that, life went on. I went to live in New York City, and he recorded and released his first record. We stayed in touch occasionally, talking about music stuff. He helped me get signed to Rhino Records, calling Gary Stewart, and suggesting he listen to my music.

I have to say I admired how Moj did his thing. He had a vision from those early days on. He called it “Mojo World Enterprises.” He inspired me to stay true to my own vision (of using foo-foo chords). He was supportive, actually. When we played a show together in New York in 1989 and Lenny Kaye sat in with me, Mojo called me a “rock and roll goddess.” It made up for the “bad egg” thing.

When my husband Paul Williams died eleven years ago Mojo and Adaire threw a fundraising concert for me and my family. They even tossed in a little coin themselves. It was so incredibly thoughtful and kind. Thank you, Adaire, for that, and for supporting Mojo in doing what he was meant to do, here on the planet, raise some hell, inspire, and tell the truth.

Oh, I forgot this little item: Right after my husband died, I went to a therapist. She was encouraging me to date again. She said, “I just saw a show last night and the guy that played would be a perfect guy for you to date. He just played at the Belly Up!”

I said, “Are you talking about Mojo?”

She said, “Heavens, no! I mean Steve Poltz. That Mojo guy was a foul-mouthed freak singing something about “Gonna tie a pecker to my leg.”

I think Mojo would have gotten a kick out of that.

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Mojo Nixon 1957-2024

Cindy Lee Berryhill is an American singer-songwriter who lives in Encinitas. Her seventh album, The Adventurist, was released on March 10, 2017, on Omnivore Records. This essay first appeared in Citric Acid (