Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JJ GREY COMES FULL CIRCLE; the Leader of the Jacksonville Band Mofro Tells How the Past Led to the Present

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JJ GREY COMES FULL CIRCLE; the Leader of the Jacksonville Band Mofro Tells How the Past Led to the Present

Article excerpt

Byline: Clifford Davis

As he gazed through the pecan trees and palmetto bushes of his rural home outside of Jacksonville and sipped sweet tea out of a Mason jar, no one would guess that JJ Grey was a man that has played sold-out venues across the Southeast.

But the Ed White High School graduate and self-described "redneck surfer," with his band Mofro, has sold more than 250,000 albums and brought a sound carved straight out of the swamps where he grew up.

"I think there's real power in that message of going home," said Grey. "Wherever that is, it's been a theme in songs and hymns for thousands of years and people understand that."

Grey, who will be playing to a sold-out crowd at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall on at 7 tonight to debut his first live CD and DVD "Brighter Days," has crafted a type of music somewhere among front-porch soul, blues and swamp rock.

"I think you're a sum total of your influences," he said.

Many of Grey's influences came from growing up in Whitehouse, with traditional Southern-Baptist parents.

"I remember riding home from church at Normandy Baptist Temple with my parents, listening to the radio," he said. "They'd let me listen, but as soon as a song would come on and say "hell," or "damn," my Dad would turn it off."

However, not even Grey's father would refuse him Jacksonville's great band of the era.

"My sister got me [Lynyrd Skynyrd's] 'Gold & Platinum' for Christmas," Grey said. "My dad listened to it and grunted and said, 'It sounds like that rockabilly to me.' "

Dad let him keep that record.

But as he grew up, Grey said he began to stray even further from his roots.

"I think like a lot of kids, I was too busy trying to be somebody I wasn't," he said. "I was abandoning ship. You know, if you have straight hair you want curly hair and that type of thing."

But during a trip to England to chase down his first record deal, he said everything changed.

"When I was there, I really realized all of the advantages I had growing up where I did," Grey said.

Long gone were the days of trying to be someone he wasn't.

"I think the older you get, the more layers of bull you peel off," Grey said. …

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