Mojo Nixon doesn’t live in a van down by the river, but he understands why you’d think that. In reality, his home base is a “House in the Hills” in Cincinnati, Ohio, from which he broadcasts a thrilling, uncensored redneck rampage of roots rock, celebrating the demented underbelly of the American dream.
Affectionately known as The Loon In The Afternoon, his show airs weekdays from 4-8 pm ET on Little Steven Van Zandt’s Outlaw Country (Ch. 60) — the perfect home for Nixon, who identifies more with the fringes of society than the mainstream.
“I am immersed in hillbilly rock ‘n’ roll,” Nixon says, sporting cut-off jean shorts and a long-sleeved Western shirt. “Outlaw Country is where country and rock ‘n’ roll come together with a very bad attitude. If you’ve ever seen that picture of Johnny Cash when he’s giving the finger — that’s Outlaw Country in a nutshell.”
Before he was Mojo Nixon, however, he was Kirby McMillan from Danville, Virginia. His father ran a soul radio station (WILA) in town during the pinnacle years of soul, exposing his impressionable son to artists like Arthur Conley and James Brown.
“I was music crazy,” Nixon recalls. “I remember listening to Arthur Conley’s Sweet Soul Music like 700 times in a row.”
During his teenage years, he took up the guitar and never looked back.
At age 18, he left home to attend Miami University in Ohio, where he received degrees in political science and history.
After college, he got a community organizing job in Denver, “organizing winos to drink more wine,” and played in punk rock bands, including a group that was visited by the Secret Service after one of their gigs.
But when his buddy Country Dick Montana formed the band The Beat Farmers without him, he took his anger out on a cross-country bicycle trip from San Diego to Virginia. That’s when the “Mojo Nixon revelation” came to him in a Bourbon Street vision — a combination of “voodoo and bad politics,” filtered through blues artist Howlin’ Wolf and Looney Tunes character Foghorn Leghorn.
“Mojo Nixon is just who I wanted to be,” he says. “If I could be anybody, I wanted to be this character Mojo Nixon.”
After transforming into this bombastic luminary, Nixon released about a dozen albums, appeared in eight movies (including the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire!), and gained exposure on MTV for a number of years.
The network not only embraced his pop culture-skewering novelty songs like Burn Down the Malls, Elvis Is Everywhere, Don Henley Must Die, and Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin (an X-rated tribute to MTV VJ Martha Quinn), but they also invited him to film short rants that aired during commercial breaks and even gave him periodic hosting gigs.
He eventually cut ties with MTV after they banned his Winona Ryder-starring video for Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Love Child. However, his lampooning of mainstream American culture continued.
Over the years, a few satirized celebrities have taken offense to Nixon’s songs, but others have taken it in stride, including Don Henley of The Eagles, who notably jumped on stage with Nixon at The Hole in the Wall in Austin, Texas, to perform Don Henley Must Die.
From Stage to Satellite
In the late 1990s, Nixon began his career in radio, working for local stations in San Diego and Cincinnati and officially retiring from performing music in 2004 (though he occasionally comes out of retirement to perform at SXSW and the annual Outlaw Country Cruise).
For more than 12 years, he has been a staple of SiriusXM. In addition to his duties on Outlaw Country, he hosts a weekly show on Nascar Radio (Ch. 90) called Manifold Destiny, which delves into the sport’s redneck roots.
Nixon — who is prone to fits of laughter, roaring “yee-haws” and off-color jokes — has a specific goal for his unruly persona: “Go too far too fast” and “make the church people nervous.”
This refusal to follow the rules is part of what has him so successful.
“I hate being told what to do,” he says. “If you told me I couldn’t wear purple pants. I’ll be the purple pants-est wearing motherfucker that ever lived on the earth. I hate being told, ‘Oh, Mojo, you can’t do that. Oh, Mojo, that’s against the rules. Oh, Mojo, that’s going too far. As soon as you tell me that that’s going too far, that’s all I want to do.”
Of course, “the straights” do occasionally complain about his antics and swearing.
But to that, he says: “It’s Outlaw Country. It’s not nice country. It’s not church country. It’s not Barbara Mandrell country. It’s Outlaw Country. It’s David Allan Coe and Hank Jr., George Jones, Johnny Cash and Waylon and Willie. You don’t like it? Fuck you!”
In addition to these and other legendary outlaw artists, Nixon makes a point to highlight newcomers that play “exciting and dangerous” music, such as Margo Price and Sturgill Simpson, and continues to look out for emerging artists who are “the real deal.”
“I have the greatest job in the world,” Nixon says. “Spreading the love of hillbilly rock ‘n’ roll. If it’s too rock ‘n’ roll for a hillbilly and too hillbilly for rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s got a bad attitude, we’re playing it on Outlaw Country, and it feels good!”
The monthly series Behind the Voice profiles SiriusXM hosts in one-on-one interviews and gives listeners a closer look into our on-air personalities and their shows.
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