Monday, October 27, 2014

The Electrifying Mojo

The Electrifying Mojo did not invent techno. But if you feel you need to blame someone for techno, and are not satisfied blaming artists collectively or individually... the Electrifying Mojo is a completely appropriate proxy for that culpability. Charles Johnson knows what he did, and he feels no guilt. Detroit has never been the same. Techno is just part of his long radio legacy. More here.

Charles Johnson,  the Electrifying Mojo himself is alive today.  He was born and raised in in Little Rock, Arkansas. He has been coy about his date of birth but it's assumed to be about 1948. His first spin on the radio was as a teenager at a daytimer, 1440 KOKY-AM in Little Rock. The station shared both staff and alumni with Little Rock Central High School but was not owned by the school. It was owned by Ebony Radio of Arkansas, Inc. This was not a fully independent station but somehow connected to John M. McLendon and his radio group sometimes called "Mclendon-Ebony Stations", and also sometimes called "Mclendon-Kent Stations." At the time they also owned WOKJ and WLNA. The Radio Annual lists the station as "100% Negro" even in 1957. They later owned KOKA, WENN and WYOU.

But Johnson.. already being called Mojo was drafted two years later. He served in the Vietnam war mostly in the Philippines. In the book You Should've Heard Just What I Seen by Bill Brown, the author claims that Mojo even found his way onto an ARFN station while stationed there.  After returning stateside, Mojo made his way to Ann Arbor. There he may or may not have been on air at WCBN.. (then only a carrier current station) but by 1972 he was on air at WAAM, where he stayed until 1976. In 1977 he popped up at WGPR where he just killed it for 5 straight years. He launched careers for artists like Prince, The B-52′s, and even Kraftwerk. He played what he wanted and his ratings were untouchable.
In 1982 he popped up at 97.9 WJLB, then a FM disco station.  But FM radio was in it's ascension... the move was good for Mojo. The station advertised his show on billboards announcing the landing of the mother ship. But like many popular DJs he was uncontrollable. He broke format, he wandered on tangents, ranted, raved, read aloud and mixed audio. This mixing, which he increasingly did with electronic artists was possibly the sole outlet for techno music in the Detroit metro in that era. But management didn't care for it. More here.


By 1990 he'd been through WHYT, WTWR, WMXD. In the mid 1990s Mojo began purchasing his air-time from WGPR and bringing in his own sponsors. But even under that arrangement, his program was too unstructured for station management. Mojo was shown the door again.. and he was getting if anything.. more eccentric and less controllable. He  turned up at WCHB starting in 1998 where he began reading poetry and prose from his book A Mental Machine in between cuts of rap, techno, works by Phillip glass, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. He made some guest appearances on WDTR in 2004 but he's been underground ever since.