Big Head Todd and the Monsters on bill with Barenaked LadiesWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
To answer the obvious question: No, Todd Park Mohr doesn’t have a ginormous cranium.
“Seven and three-eights is my hat size, so it’s pretty average,” said the frontman of Big Head Todd and the Monsters.
His passion for music, however, is anything but average. Consider the inspiration for the Colorado band’s name.
“There was a blues artist by the name of Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson,” he said during a phone interview from his Chicago home.
So it was a natural that Mohr, bassist Rob Squires, drummer Brian Nevin and keyboardist and steel guitarist Jeremy Lawton paid tribute to another blues legend with last year’s disc, “100 Years of Robert Johnson.”
“It was his 100th birthday last May 8 [in 2011], and it just seemed like the right thing to do to acknowledge him, and I don’t think there was anybody else doing anything,” Mohr said.
For the CD, Mohr and the Monsters had the honor of jamming with B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin, David “Honeyboy” Edwards and Charlie Musselwhite.
“It’s extremely terrifying and humbling [to play with those blues legends], but it was also really thrilling to be able to spend time. We all went on the bus together, and those old guys don’t sleep; they talk all night long. It was just a thrill to be a fly on the wall and get some firsthand accounts of those experiences,” Mohr recalled.
His favorite story?
“Hubert Sumlin has a hysterical story about hitting a jackpot at a casino, and those were the days where it just spat out silver dollars. He stuffed his pants full, tucked his socks in, walked out of the casino, and was taken at gunpoint to jail because they thought he robbed the gas station next door,” Mohr said and laughed.
The singer-guitarist said working on the disc was educational.
“I learned about the blues from the ’60s and ’70s blues artists, Chicago and Detroit, and I didn’t know much about the Delta blues or the blues that came from the ’20s and ’30s,” Mohr said.
“What surprised me was just the incredible variety of the song structure and lyrical tenderness that I found in that music. A lot of what I thought about the blues was more of a macho guitar thing à la Stevie Ray [Vaughan] and that tradition, but I ended up with much more of a folk tradition, and I really have been turned on by that.”
On the road, the band known for “Bittersweet,” “Broken Hearted Savior,” “Circle” and “Resignation Superman” has been playing some blues and new music.
“‘Black Beehive’ is one we’ve been playing a lot. It’s about Amy Winehouse. I wrote it when she passed away,” Mohr said, adding the group plans to go into the recording studio this fall.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters are part of Barenaked Ladies’ “Last Summer on Earth Tour,” which will be at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre at 6:30 p.m. July 6. Blues Traveler and Cracker will also play. Tickets range from $35 to $58.50.
“The Mayans came up with that [tour name],” said Mohr, who doesn’t believe in the doomsday prediction. “I guess they didn’t figure on a leap year.”