January 30, 2014

MoFo Party Band marks 25 years with European tour, new record

If John Clifton had become a cop instead of starting a blues band, he’d be getting that proverbial gold watch by now.

If John Clifton had become a cop instead of starting a blues band, he’d be getting that proverbial gold watch by now.

As it is, he’s busy hustling gigs on Facebook.

The singer and harmonica player spent the better part of Monday morning sending out 500 invitations to a pair of weekend shows celebrating his band’s 25th anniversary.

“But I’m loving every minute of it,” says Clifton, who started the MoFo Party Band with his guitarist brother Bill Clifton in 1989. The band plays at 8 p.m. Friday at Hero’s Sports Lounge in Modesto with Big Earl and the Cryin’ Shame. They play Saturday night at Fulton 55 in Fresno.

John Clifton isn’t afraid to do the tedious work.

“We’ve worked hard to get our foot in quite a few doors,” he says.

Trick is, they work equally hard to keep those doors open. The music is a product and the band comes prepared to make sure they deliver on the quality, Clifton says.

It’s earned MoFo Party Band a reputation as a solid live act with an international fan base. Along with opening for the likes of B.B. King, Bo Diddley and Los Lobos, the band has played some of largest blues festivals in Europe, such as the Belgium R&B festival, the Kwadendamme Blues Fest in the Netherlands, the Luxembourg Jazz & Blues Rallye and the Blues Express Festival in Poland.

In fact, the band has been to Europe a dozen times since the mid-2000s and is preparing to head back on Feb. 12 for a week-plus tour that includes its first trip to France. Later this year, they’ll travel to play a blues festival in Baja, Mexico, and will make a trip to Fiji to play a week’s worth of shows.

In the midst of all that, the band will start work on an album, which will be released on Southern California’s Rip Cat Records (home of The Blasters and others) sometime this year. It will be the band’s eighth release, but the first time it has had a record deal.

Clifton says the record deal wasn’t something they pursued. Many of their musician friends have bands on Rip Cat and the label seemed interested and motivated to promote MoFo’s music.

“It’s something we’ve never done before, so why not?” Clifton says.

That could be the band’s motto.

There was never a five-year plan, much less one for 25 years. Originally, it was just a jam band, playing a weekly gig at a hole-in-the-wall bar called Zapp’s Park near downtown Fresno. Clifton had booked the gig before anyone agreed to play with him.

For years, the band couldn’t even get its name printed in the local newspaper. And for every time the band had played a packed house, Clifton says there was a time when the club was empty.

The band succeeds through tenacity. “We just keeping going and see what happens,” Clifton says. “We’ve just never allowed ourselves to go too far backward.”

And he won’t say whether all of this – the record and tour and festival shows – is a sign of things to come. “Sometimes we inch forward, sometimes it’s a big leap,” he says.

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