An Interview with Tom "Big Son" Eliff of Mighty Mojo Prophets - Real Blues that speaks to heart and soul

"The Blues like Jazz in that it’s real music made by real people playing real instruments. The human touch my man...that’s what it is."

The Mighty Mojo Prophets: Mojo Riders 

The Mojo Prophets play a mix of West Coast Blues, from swing to chicago blues to way down in the alley blues. Tom "Big Son" Eliff and Mitch "Da Switch" Dow started The Mojo Prophets late 2007, with a goal to perform the blues the way they heard it, not watered down and NOT BLUES/ROCK, Just BLUES from the West Coast/L.B.C.

The Mighty Mojo Prophets' follow-up effort "Flyin' Home From Memphis" continues the tale with thirteen skillfully written and wonderfully performed songs, composed by founding members Tommy Eliff and Mitch Dow. Together they've summoned a veritable bevy of musical variations beyond their adopted West Coast roots to incorporate other regional styles such as Chicago and Texas blues, Memphis soul, country blues and proto-rock 'n' roll.

With solid rhythmic support from Dave Deforest on bass and Alex Schwartz on drums, along with special guests San Pedro Slim and Alex "Li'l A" Woodson on harmonica, Mike Malone on piano and organ, plus the B7 Horns consisting of Mark Sample on tenor sax and Jonny V on trumpet, this collection stands out as a refreshingly original take on traditional roots styles in a sea of 'the same ol' thing'. 

Tom ”Big Son” Eliff the Prophets own Blues Shouter was born in Compton, CA. and has opened for Roy ”Guitar” Gaines, CoCo Montoya, Rod Piazza. Mitch “Da Switch” Dow hails from Anaheim Ca. and has played guitar for over 35 years. Wanting to play straight ahead blues/roots style music they brought together there separate street blues styles and combined them to make a heck of west coast mojo stew of jumpin & swinging blues. The Prophets can also get down in the alley with there gutbucket blues. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

When was your first desire to become involved in the blues?

TOM: As a kid I was always listening to 40’s & 50’s Jazz and RnB, my Dad had a great record collection and played them very often at the house and our house parties. Also a guy who lived up the street had a huge Blues record collection and would sit out on his porch getting high and listening to Jimmy Reed & Muddy Waters all the classic stuff. And it sticks w/you, I believe the BLUES chose’s you & not the other way around.

What do you learn about yourself from the blues, what does the blues mean to you?

TOM: To me it’s a way of life, playing this music ain’t about making $$, Hahaha… not that it wouldn’t be nice. But the blues for me is like breathing. Its everyday and every feeling you have to express. Happy, sad etc. I think it's the real music that speaks to your heart and soul...

How do you describe your sound and what characterize Mighty Mojo Prophets philosophy?

TOM: It’s a mix of West Coast swing and all the traditional blues styles from Texas to Chicago, St. Louis etc. I told an interviewer a while back maybe one day MMP will pick a style and stick to it. LOL.

What is the story behind the name of band?

TOM: Mojo Prophets was my Idea. I just thought it was a name you wouldn’t forget. MAYBE? LOL! Mitch says to me Hell brother go all the way and let’s call us MIGHTY too. LOL!

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues? What is the best ever gave you?

TOM: James Harman says write in the style you like, and Whiteboy James Page says to be yourself…

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

TOM: We are really happy to be with Delta Groove Records and this new CD “Flyin home from Memphis ”, Haven’t had a real bad time yet. But I know they happen..

Are there any memories from recording time which you’d like to share with us?

TOM: All I can say about recording this CD is everyone came into Compound Studio in Signal Hill, CA. ready to lay the shit down. I have to give up to The Prophets and all the musicians who took part of this record. We played the blues like men!

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

TOM: Had some great Jams with our good friend San Pedro Slim and Henry Carvajal, he is always a blast to perform with. Also we performed at the 2012 BMA’s in Memphis. That was a lot of fun, we brought up Big Pete to blow some harp.

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is?

TOM: It’s like Jazz in that it’s real music made by real people playing real instruments. The human touch my man...that’s what it is.

What is the line that connects the legacy of Pee Wee Crayton and William Clark with the Mighty Mojo Prophets?

TOM: It’s like family. Grandpa, Dad and son… We learned from the giants that came before. Pee Wee and William Clarke lived right here on the west coast (Los Angeles, CA) so I got see them perform a lot around town. William Clarke was a huge influence on this scene out here. His influence can still be felt today. I talked to his widow last year and told her we (upcoming blues bands) are all Bills kids.

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD BLUESMAN and SONGWRITER?

TOM: Open ears and eyes. Best writers are the observers. And tell the story...

Do you know why West Coast is connected to Swing Blues and R&B and what are the secrets of local sound?

TOM: Well I think its from the early days when T-Bone and Big Joe Turner, Pee Wee Crayton and the whole Central Ave scene in the 40’s & 50’s had a lot of Horns and more jazzy feels then say Chicago Blues. I know T-Bone is from Texas and Big Joe from St. Louis, but they all moved here and there swinging big style took hold here, William Clarke, Rod Piazza all swing like a funky back porch swing. That’s WEST COAST SWING brother.

Give one wish for the BLUES

TOM: More young players pick on it and play it without having to Rock it up to sell it..

The Mighty Mojo Prophets @ Delta Groove Productions

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