Mojo Hand is the best blues band in Thousand Oaks. That may be like being the only ski shop in Tahiti or the best surfer in Kansas because Mojo Hand is probably the only blues band in Thousand Oaks, a town not noted as the center of the musical universe.
The band will be playing at Thousand Oaks' version of The Roxy--the Hungry Hunter. No, really, the Hungry Hunter, a family restaurant, is also about the only place for original music in the eastern portion of Ventura County. Mojo Hand, offering blues in the basement, has been playing there for years. The band will perform Wednesdays through Saturdays for the next three weeks.
The main Mojo man is guitarist Randy Rich. He's got that gruff blues voice that half the singers on MTV wish they had. The band may sing the blues, but its members could be an ad for social mobility. Rich graduated from Camarillo High School, but has lived in Florida, Montana and about everywhere in between. The other singer-guitarist, Becky Barksdale, is from Port Arthur, Tex. Drummer Pete Gallagher is from New York, and bassist Brad Vance is from Malibu.
In a recent telephone interview, Rich discussed the life and times of Mojo Hand.
Where did the name come from?
I came up with the name several years ago. It's like a good luck charm. Originally, we were Mojo Hand; then I shortened it to just Mojo--now we're back to Mojo Hand again. You hear the word mojo all the time in blues songs; it's like a sort of magic that helps you to get girls.
How did you get started in the music biz?
Well, when I was 12, I got my first guitar and started learning all the general rock 'n' roll stuff from the mid-'60s. Then I got into the blues and, during the '70s, I began performing acoustic Delta blues. In 1978, I started playing electric guitar again, and I was doing a lot of country. I moved around a lot: Montana, New Mexico, Florida. I finally ended up in Nashville and stayed there for 3 1/2 years. But for the last eight or nine years, it's been blues all the way for me.
But why the blues?
For me, I've always dug the blues. I've been a blues musician for a long time. I'm committed to it--the band is working real hard. And, so far, I can get by without having a day job. The band used to be a three-piece with a different bass player; the current lineup has been together for three or four months.
Describe the east county music scene.
I think there's quite a few bands out here, but not a lot of places to play. Most places have Top 40 cover bands, if anything, and not much in the way of original music. We try to play every week, but it's hard because of the type of music we play. We end up playing the Valley or L. A. a lot. About the only place for us around here is the Hungry Hunter--they've been very good to us.
What sort of people go see Mojo Hand?
We get a lot of people in their 20s and 30s. A lot of them are engineer types--guys that just want a little less technology in their lives. They just want something basic. We're very basic; even our equipment is old.
What is going to be happening with Mojo Hand in a year? Do you want half of Warrant's money and a video on MTV?
Well, we're working on a tape; we've got about a dozen originals. The bass player has a recording studio--one he actually makes money with--and we're trying to line up some recording time. It's really hard to get the exposure we need as a blues band; that's why we started playing in L. A. more. Sometimes, it's really happening down there--all those VIP places where the stars hang out seem to be opening up to the blues.
What's the best thing about being a musician?
Well, I'm actually doing what I want to do for money. Unfortunately, it's very little money. Blues is a very up and down thing, but it's something I love.
How about those Rams?
I wish I knew something about them.