A Love for the Swamp Gives Southern-Fried Band its Groove

audio Listen to a profile of MOFRO by NPR's David Molpus.

Aug. 23, 2001 Take some ham hocks and turnip greens, toss in a dash of Muddy Waters and mix it with a save-the-environment-before-it's-too-late message and you've got MOFRO, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based band that serves up what it calls "southern-fried swamp funk."

MOFRO's John Grey
MOFRO's John 'JJ' Grey sings of eating catfish and corn bread in Ho Cake.
Photo © Fog City Records

MOFRO (the name is play on a commonly used euphemism) hails from the Blackwater region of North Florida. As NPR's David Molpus reports on Morning Edition, the band members' love for the region's shrinking marshland and wilderness is the inspiration for songs such as Florida:

"Now skyscrapers and superhighways are carved through the heart of Florida, building subdivisions while the swamps are drained, making room for people and amusement parks. It's like watching someone you love die slow. They're killing her one piece at a time."

For John 'JJ' Grey, the band's chief vocalist and songwriter, the music is deeply rooted in his personal experience, growing up next door to cypress swamps and wilderness on a small farm that's been in his family for four generations. At 33, he still lives there in a trailer home next door to his grandparents.

"I love the natural world and I feel sometimes it can be overwhelming," Grey told Molpus. "I feel like it's the only thing left that's real in day-to-day living. I get scared that it could all go away, to where nobody has a connection to it anymore -- and nobody cares about it enough that it goes away."

MOFRO band members with their touring RV
MOFRO members, from left, Fabrice Quentin, John 'JJ' Grey, Nathan Shepherd (kneeling), Daryl Hance and Bea Gayle, with their touring RV in San Francisco.
Photo: David Molpus, NPR

While its roots are in North Florida, MOFRO actually became a band in London, England, where Grey and guitarist Daryl Hance found themselves after a record deal fell through. There the Americans met up with French bass player Fabrice Quentin and Australian keyboardist Nathan Shepherd. When Quentin and Shepherd heard Grey's soulful voice paired with Hance's front-porch guitar style, they were hooked on Florida funk.

The band just completed a tour of venues all over the United States -- like San Francisco's Boom Boom Room, where fans drank in the group's funky grooves and Grey's down-home looks. "You see him in his camouflage hat and overalls ... and you think he's a sweet dude," one fan told Molpus.

Other Resources

MOFRO album cover
MOFRO album cover
Courtesy Fog City Records

Visit the Fog City Records Web site. Includes band, tour and album information.

Visit MOFRO's Web site. Includes recipes, mailing list and Okefenokee Swamp photo gallery.

audio Listen to Blackwater, MOFRO's debut album.

video Watch a video of MOFRO performing Ho Cake.