FROM FOLK MUSIC TO PSYCHEDELIC ROCK
The MOJO NAVIGATORS (in its several incarnations) were formed in 1995 by singer/songwriter Page Brownton. The band began as a folk-rock project designed to explore the potential of Page's extensive repertoire of traditional folk music, and soon expanded to include a sampling of 1960's psychedelic electric rock classics, with stylistic links to The GRATEFUL DEAD et al.
As a songwriter, Page Brownton invokes the collective archetypes of American folk culture, and his interpretations of traditional material have the ring of authenticity. Thus, the music of The MOJO NAVIGATORS covers the broad range of Americana - rhythm and blues, delta blues, gospel, Appalachian ballads, and the full spectrum of American folk music, the cultural heritage of the people of the British Isles and their descendents in the rural subcultures of the American South.
Page Brownton was born and raised in San Jose, California, at the south end of San Francisco Bay. In the 1940's San Jose was a relatively small town surrounded by orchards. Natives of Oklahoma, migrant farm workers, had migrated to the area during the Depression, bringing with them their taste for country music and gospel; and likewise black persons staffed the shipyards and industrial sectors of Oakland during WW II; these distinct cultural communities established their musical presence on local radio stations.
When Page graduated from High School in 1958, Rock and Roll as a cultural phenomenon was scarcely more than five years old, and Buddy Holly was still alive. Along with his musical contemporaries in the Bay Area, Page witnessed and participated in the creation of a new phenomenon: the hippy subculture, and its musical expression, electric psychedelic music, which, in 1965, followed close upon the heels of the early 1960's folk music revival.
Page studied literature and poetry for the better part of 10 years as a student at San Jose State College; he bought his first guitar in 1959 and studied finger-style guitar with folk music pioneer Rolf Cahn in 1960, driving 50 miles every week to Berkeley, where he also sang at the open mike--the "Midnight Special"--hosted by Gert Chiarito every Saturday night on radio station KPFA. In 1963 and 1964 he was president of the San Jose State College Folk Music Club, and produced a series of memorable concerts showcasing American ethnic musicians and blues artists.
Page sang and played guitar in San Jose's first old-timey band, The FORT MUDGE RAMBLERS (1964/1967), which (in its several incarnations) included Cheri Brownton (vocals and fiddle), Joe Novakovich (vocals and autoharp), Mike Fisher (vocals and guitar), Lars Bourne (5-string banjo), Pete Grant (vocals and 5-string banjo), Susan Ferrel Anderson (vocals), Rory Condon (bass), and Butch Waller (mandolin).
AMERICANA AND BEYOND
In 1960, Page Brownton discovered and mined Alan Lomax's Library of Congress field recordings, and Harry Smith's epochal 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music, which Greil Marcus cites, in Invisible Republic, as the well-spring of inspiration for a generation of musicians: "It gave us contact with musicians and cultures we wouldn't have known existed."
The psychedelic movement generated an exploration of archetypal consciousness, and a synthesis of ancient roots and cultural modalities distilled in song and sound, resonant with the strangely familiar voices of forgotten ancestors resurrected from the collective memory; the songs of Bob Dylan and GRATEFUL DEAD lyricist Robert Hunter owe their genius to this influence.
Simultaneously, a generation of musicians, grounded in rock and roll during their teenage years, moved through the folk revival, and emerged wearing long hair and Beatle boots. The musicians of the psychedelic movement, which began to take shape in 1964 and 1965 in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district and college communities around the Bay Area, drew inspiration from their common ground in traditional music.
Thus it was that Page Brownton shared, with his contemporaries, a repertoire of traditional musical styles, and a fascination and reverence for the songs of, in the words of Greil Marcus, "the old weird America." Prior to, and during, the San Francisco psychedelic rock revolution, Page shared the stage with such eminent folkies as Jerry Garcia, Pig Pen, Jorma Kaukonen, Paul Kantner, Country Joe McDonald, David Freiberg, Peter Albin, David Nelson, and Janis Joplin.
In 1967, Page sang with San Jose's premier psychedelic garage band, The WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW, which (in its several incarnations) included Paul Sussman (vocals and guitar), Bob Inwood (vocals and bass), Greg Simmons (vocals and keyboards), Chris Simmons (guitar), Rick Tedeschi (guitar), and Jim Bush (drums). In the intervening decades, Page continued to perform in small clubs, write songs, and teach the guitar, autoharp, and 5-string banjo; and from The FORT MUDGE RAMBLERS to The MOJO NAVIGATORS, he has continued to incorporate into the repertoire his signature selection of traditional songs.
In addition to The MOJO NAVIGATORS, Page and mandolinist Mark Varner currently perform bluegrass and old time country duets as The Sibling Brothers.