Mojo Nixon Dies While on the Outlaw Country Cruise

As sad and tragic as the news is, there seems to be no more fitting way for Mojo Nixon to make his exit than after a wild time on this week’s Outlaw Country Cruise. A few days after the annual floating festival departed from Miami, Mojo Nixon died of a sudden cardiac event on Wednesday, February 7th. He was 66 years old.

A statement from his family reads, “How you live is how you should die. Mojo Nixon was full-tilt, wide-open rock hard, root hog, corner on two wheels + on fire…Passing after a blazing show, a raging night, closing the bar, taking no prisoners + a good breakfast with bandmates and friends. A cardiac event on the Outlaw Country Cruise is about right… & that’s just how he did it. Mojo has left the building.”

There was nobody else like Mojo Nixon in music, and there was no lane for what he did when he set out. Despite being his own worst enemy and a publicist’s worst nightmare, Mojo Nixon still somehow made his way through the world to become a cult icon who was revered from the underground of country, to the rockabilly and rock world, to the West Coast punk scene. He was an American original, testing the limits of decency, and pushing those limits at every turn.

Born Neill Kirby McMillan Jr. and originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Mojo Nixon became synonymous with Austin and California as he made his way through life lampooning popular culture, razzing on celebrities, and finding the clear and present line of goodness and decency, then unabashedly stepping right over it. Her personally admitted to having no talent, but making up for it with enthusiasm.

It all started in the early ’80s when Nixon partnered with fellow gonzo performer Skid Roper in San Diego to release irreverent and wild songs who’s titles often were enough to send the audience in stitches. “Jesus at McDonalds,” “Moanin’ With Your Mama,” and “I’m in Love with Your Girlfriend” are some good examples.

Though one of the duo’s early hits was “Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin” about MTV VJ Martha Quinn, they were regularly featured on the national cable music show, which brought them to national prominence. But when the network wouldn’t air the duo’s video for “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Love Child,” Nixon cut ties with the network.

In 1989 Mojo Nixon went solo, releasing songs like “Orenthal James (Was A Mighty Bad Man)” and “Bring Me the Head of David Geffen,” which brought Mojo Nixon bad press and tons of attention. “Tie My Pecker To My Leg” also became a cult classic, though these songs also kept Mojo distinctly underground throughout his career.

Despite the lyrics being edgy and oddball, Mojo had an underlying anti-commerialization and anti-celebrity worship message to his music that made his career a bit more intellectual then one might glean from the surface. In 1994 Mojo partnered with Dead Kennedys frontman and Alternative Tentacles label owner Jello Biafra for the album Prairie Home Invasion that included songs such as “Are You Drinkin’ With Me Jesus” and “Let’s Go Burn Ole Nashville Down.”

Mojo Nixon was part of multiple legendary moments in Austin music. One came in 1992 at the city’s iconic Hole in the Wall venue near the University of Texas campus. At the time Nixon had a song called “Don Henley Must Die.” Henley attended Mojo’s July 31st show at the venue, and jumped on stage to sing the song with him, earning the admiration of Nixon and many of his fans for being a good sport.

Nixon retired from music on numerous occasions, the first time being on March 20th, 2004 at a big show at Austin’s Continental Club. But he always came back, including when his fellow oddball Texas-based performer Kinky Friedman ran for governor of the state.

What Mojo was most known for recently was as a DJ on Sirius XM’s Outlaw channel. Nixon hosted The Loon in the Afternoon, and a weekday show with Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band and Sopranos fame.

Mojo Nixon’s passing happened in close proximity to close friends and fellow musicians on the Outlaw Country Cruise who revered the musician, DJ, emcee, and general crazy man as a legend and an icon. Mojo Nixon most famously loved to channel the essence of Elvis Presley. One of his early songs was “Elvis is Everywhere” with Skid Roper. Nixon cited Elvis, cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn, and Mayberry’s town drunk Otis Campbell as his top inspirations.

“Since Elvis is everywhere, we know he was waiting for him in the alley out back,” Nixon’s family concluded their announcement of his death. “Heaven help us all.”

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