Your Masters Voice

Might Joes Growl is badder than a roomful of James Browns

Joe Ligon is the most happening vocalist you've never heard, and I know you've never heard him because godless, commie, OC Weekly readers don't listen to sanctified black gospel music. Ligon is the lead singer for The Mighty Clouds of Joy—currently celebrating their 40th anniversary—and he sounds like the Incredible Hulk masturbating in a hurricane, although he'd surely disapprove of the comparison. Ligon sings with a rapturous intensity so violent it's actually scary the first time you encounter it. Even in a genre that has spawned such towering figures as Dorothy Love Coates, Mahalia Jackson and Clarence Fountain, Ligon stands out from the pack. Whatever he may he lack in subtlety, he makes up for in severity. I'm not a religious guy, but I'm sure Ligon could whomp the piss out of Satan, and he could surely slay Marilyn Manson, Ozzy Osbourne and Glenn Danzig.

Ligon knows he has this power and even has a pet nickname for his voice: "The Growl." "I love the Growl," he modestly enthuses. "When I sing hard with the Growl, I'm giving it all I have. I'm digging deep, way down. I'm known for the Growl and the preaching style—that's the talent I have. I get caught up in what I do. It's a blessing from God that I have. I'm not bragging, but I'm proud."

Because Mighty Joe's Growl is badder than a roomful of James Browns, there's absolutely no doubt that he could have been a phenomenon in R&B had he chosen a path of licentious pop stardom rather than a bad case of the Jeezles.

The temptations were many. "I had a chance to sing R&B with Motown and also ABC Records years ago," he says. "But they wanted the Mighty Clouds of Joy to completely change what we did, and I refused. I never had the desire to sing anything other than gospel. Sam Cooke took me to his house once, and he said, 'Joe, I could write you some R&B songs, and you could become rich and famous—look at me.' He had this big mansion near Hollywood. He said, 'You could have all of this, man, with all that talent you have. Let me write for you—I'll even put you on my own label and take good care of you.' But I don't know. I just never wanted to do that; I just wanted to do the music that I love. And believe it or not, to this day, I'm glad I turned it down."

He should be. Sam Cooke—a fallen gospel singer—was shot to death at age 33, pantsless, while chasing a woman he'd allegedly just raped through a hotel lobby; he's probably enduring eternal torment in hell. When Joe Ligon dies, he'll get to watch all the reruns of Car 54, Where Are You? he wants while Jesus personally serves him chocolate milkshakes with Junior Mints in them. Joe Ligon and the Mighty Clouds of Joy perform Friday night at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. I strongly suggest you cretinous heathens get healed, accept the spirit and all the other appropriate clichés, or one day, you may join Sam Cooke.

I love White Trash Cultural Icons Southern Culture on the Skids (SCOTS). When I hear their music, I think of the following:

•A '71 Dodge Dart up on blocks and dripping oil all over the front lawn, which is badly in need of seeding and weeding.

•Some guy named Buford emitting a wet-egg fart and waving it in his wife's face, and she doesn't even get pissed.

•Trying to solve the puzzles underneath the bottle caps of Lucky Lager but being too drunk to do so.

•Getting a knobber from a 17-year-old, dark-rooted bleached blonde wearing a tube top and garish, turquoise jewelry but being tweaked too hard to maintain a proper boner.

•A Spam, pickled egg, Velveeta and yella mustard sammich exquisitely melted in a microwave oven.

•A picture of Fat Elvis laid over a torch-burnt plank of wood and decoupaged to perfection by a steatopygic woman named Beatrice.

•A county fair midway exhibiting a shaved and tranquilized terrier as a Giant Sumatran Rat for $2 admission.

•Claiming you're too broke to pay the rent but still coming up with $29.95 to order the latest WWF Pay-Per-View event.

•Finding no ironic humor whatsoever in the video Dancing Outlaw.

Be a White Guy. Go see SCOTS Wednesday night at the House of Blues Anaheim.

The nominations for this year's W.C. Handy Blues Awards have been announced, and despite the expected omissions, categoric gaffes and other embarrassments, a couple of our well-deserving locals are among the potential honorees. Kid Ramos has been nominated for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for his decidedly traditional, non-contemporary West Coast House Party and also, more appropriately, for Blues Instrumentalist of the Year/Guitar. Meanwhile, James Harman's rereleased Mo' Na'kins Please has been nominated for Historical Blues Album of the Year. Good luck, fellas!

The Mighty Clouds of Joy and the Campbell Brothers perform at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Dr., Cerritos, (562) 916-8501. Fri., 8 p.m. $32-$42; Southern Culture on the Skids play the Anaheim House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-BLUE. Wed., 8 p.m. $12.50.

 
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