The idea was to throw a 100th birthday party for the most influential blues musician that ever lived: Robert Johnson. For Big Head Todd & the Monsters, the plan grew to include a tribute album (100 Years of Robert Johnson) and a tour with some of the oldest living legends of the blues. But, aside from a cover of the John Lee Hooker party song “Boom Boom,” the Monsters are not known for being a true-blue blues band. Front man and band namesake Todd Park Mohr says the Johnson tribute was really the brainchild of his manager.
“I fought heavily against it, actually,” Mohr laughs. “I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the blues, because it’s always been a challenge. It could be the worst music or the best music in the world.” Big Head Todd & the Monsters began in 1986 out of a friendship between Mohr, Brian Nevin, and Rob Squires, students at Columbine High School. The three remain the nucleus of the band (Jeremy Lawton took over on keyboards in 2003).
Johnson was a 1930s-era bluesman who could sound like three people playing at once. “I was a little skeptical about covering Robert Johnson because he’s a tough cover for a lot of people,” says Mohr. Mohr says his own simmering roots-style guitar has been affected by going back and absorbing such early blues masters. “There’s a spirit in the music that needs to be revisited or represented in some way. My life’s been kind of revolutionized by it, and I’m excited to be a part of sharing it.”
The “Blues at the Crossroads” event includes David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Hubert Sumlin, Cedric Burnside, and Lightnin’ Malcolm.
BIG HEAD TODD & THE MONSTERS: Anthology, Sunday, January 30, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. 877-828-0891.