Big Head Todd & the Monsters Biography
Last updated: 06/10/2013 06:40:30 PM
The name conjures up all kinds of mental images. But in all actuality, it's just the name of a few of Boulder, Colorado's favorite sons.
This is the biography of one of the most popular unknown bands around. Hopefully, you'll learn a little about this talented band and you'll want to experience their music for yourself.
First of all, the band members. BHTM is led by Todd Park Mohr, the band's immensely gifted guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter. Rob Squires handles the duties of bass guitar, and last but not least is Brian Nevin behind the drums.
BHTM is a kind of success story in do-it-yourself-dom. They first started playing together in 1986 while all three were attending the University of Colorado. The band's first gigs included the all too typical nightclub blues jams and the ever-popular fraternity parties. Influenced by such artists as Lightnin' Hopkins, Albert Collins, and Eddie "Clean Head" Vinson (whose name inspired the "Big Head" in Big Head Todd), the band offered an eclectic mix of sounds at those early shows. Often they would string together back-to-back performances of old blues standards with covers ranging from Sly and the Family Stone to Johnny Cash.
Soon BHTM was well known in the Boulder area and the band decided it was time to branch out. They purchased an old van they dubbed "The Colonel" in which they traveled countless miles concentrating on the major music markets of Chicago, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Austin, to name a few. This was their plan for success -- play each of these cities once every few months to build a loyal, widespread following. The plan worked, and it wasn't long before the band had quite a reputation for its live shows and tireless work ethic.
Eventually, BHTM formed their own record label and recorded Another Mayberry, an album of the band's own compositions, which they released in 1989. The sole purpose for recording this album was to satisfy the large demand from audience members for a tape that they could purchase.
The band continued to tour nonstop and in 1990 released their second effort, Midnight Radio, a compilation of live two-track recordings with no overdubs. Many fans claim this to be their favorite Big Head Todd album.
The band began to be noticed by the industry due to the fan base that they had built by incessant touring. They were signed by Giant Records (appropriately enough!), which rereleased the band's first two albums, which to this date have combined to sell over 200,000 copies.
Sister Sweetly, the band's first major-label effort, hit the streets in 1993 and was soon soaring up the charts. This album brought the band much praise and made BHTM a bona fide hit. The band maintained its hectic touring schedule and was soon performing on popular television shows such as Conan O'Brien and David Letterman. Sister Sweetly was shortly certified platinum, and the future looked nothing but good for Big Head Todd.
Recording after hours at the Boulder Theater, the band put together their fourth album, 1995's Strategem. While maybe not as commercially successful as Sister Sweetly, this album displays the evolution of the band's style and the maturation of Todd's songwriting ability.
After more touring in support of Strategem, the band took a much-needed vacation, but it wasn't long before they were at it once again, working on tracks for their fifth release, which would later become Beautiful World. This was the band's most mature offering yet, a virtual mixing pot of musical styles and tastes. This album had a more soulful overtone than the previous records and also featured a few guest performances by ex-ParlimantFunkadelic keyboard whiz Bernie Worrell, violin from Susan Voelz, backing vocals from Hazel Miller, and John Lee Hooker on Big Head Todd's version of Boom, Boom, which was a staple of the band's early live sets. This was truly music built on a foundation of rock and roll straight from its origins of blues, country, and r&b with a contemporary sound full of big guitars and slinky soul.
Back out on the road, BHTM embellished their basic three-piece sound with the addition of keyboardist Corey Mauser and vocals from Hazel Miller, demonstrating their broadening style and sound to audiences all over.
I'd like to elaborate a little on why you should explore the music of Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Actually, I'd just like to rave about the talents of Todd Park Mohr. He possesses this uncanny knack for putting together the simplest chord progressions and combining them with layers of multi-textural guitar parts to produce a sound that can take you to another place. Every time I listen I find something new that catches my ear, whether it's an acoustic guitar track buried way down in the mix or a subdued melody line. It is amazing to me that there can be all these little parts going that intertwine and create a cohesive guitar sound, all while setting a mood for the story line of the lyrics.
Todd's lead work is equally impressive. His style owes much to Stevie Ray Vaughan, not so much in the notes or phrasing, but in the way he approaches the guitar. He plays with an intensity and fire, digging notes out from the deepest depths of the instrument, wringing them from every fiber of the wood. Needless to say, many guitar strings are broken at a Big Head Todd show!