Remembering Mojo Nixon: A wild rock 'n' roll spirit who left his mark on music and culture

Mojo Nixon has passed away, but we can and should enjoy his great, often outspoken, often silly music. And hey, why not even watch him as Toad in the bizarre 1990s "Super Mario Bros." movie?
"The Mojo Manifesto: The Life and Times of Mojo Nixon" Premiere- 2022 SXSW Conference and Festivals
"The Mojo Manifesto: The Life and Times of Mojo Nixon" Premiere- 2022 SXSW Conference and Festivals / Michael Loccisano/GettyImages

The announcement on his Facebook page solemnly declares,"Mojo has left the building." Mojo Nixon, the enigmatic figure synonymous with the wild rock 'n' roll spirit and famous for his 1987 MTV humorous hit "Elvis Is Everywhere," passed away on Wednesday, February 7, at the age of 66.

Originally a member of bands like Zebra 123 and Snuggle Bunnies, one of his first breaks was when his early band "went on to win the best new band in San Diego during the Battle of the Bands. They also scored a three-hour recording session at Soundtrax Studio in San Diego..." Reportedly, Nixon, whose real name was Neill Kirby McMillan Jr., succumbed to a "cardiac event" while onboard the Outlaw Country Cruise, where he was scheduled to perform. Describing his vibrant persona, the Facebook post states, in so many words, that Mojo Nixon epitomized living life to the fullest - unbridled, intense, and relentlessly wild...

"A cardiac event on the Outlaw Country Cruise" indeed seems fitting, as the Facebook post elucidates: "Mojo has left the building. Since Elvis is everywhere, we know he was waiting for him in the alley out back. Heaven help us all."
Nixon embarked on the Outlaw Country Cruise with his band The Toadliquors from Miami on February 4th. Among the lineup were renowned artists such as Steve Earle (whose recent album, "Ghosts of West Virginia," is about a mine explosion) and Lucinda Williams. Furthermore, Nixon participated in a SiriusXM Session at Sea with the band 49 Winchester, showcasing his versatility as a musician and as a host on Steven Van Zandt's Outlaw Country channel (he was known as the "loon in the afternoon").

The illustrious life and career of Mojo Nixon

Born in North Carolina in 1957, Nixon migrated to California in the early '80s, where he collaborated with musician Skid Roper, producing six albums between 1985 and 1990. Their 1987 album/research project into rock 'n roll Americana, Bo-Day-Shus!!! featuring "Elvis Is Everywhere," even got MTV coverage and managed to reach No. 187 on the Billboard 200 chart. Nixon's musical prowess rarely extended beyond humorous songs and novelty hits with occasional political messaging, but he never seemed ashamed of that fact, If anything, he wore it like a badge of pride (and why not?).

In addition to that Elvis song, he also found success with songs like "Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child" (with a music video starring Winona Ryder) and "Don Henley Must Die," the latter being a bold critique of the Eagles frontman. In an amusing anecdote shared in an interview with the Austin Chronicle, Nixon recounted an encounter with Henley himself at one of his gigs, where the inebriated singer demanded to join him onstage, and he indeed joined Nixon in the insulting song, thus earning Nixon's respect (and likely a full pardon).

Mojo Nixon the actor(?!)

Beyond music, Nixon dabbled in acting, notably appearing in the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire! (Lewis was, at one point, a candidate for the role of "King of Rock and Roll") and portraying Toad in the 1993 film adaptation of Super Mario Bros. A documentary chronicling Nixon's life, titled The Mojo Manifesto: The Life and Times of Mojo Nixon, premiered at the 2022 South by Southwest film festival and became digitally available in March of the subsequent year.

Hear Mojo Nixon as Toad sing lines like "Let's castrate the Koopa so he can’t reproduce-a!":