Music has always influenced the life of Bob Mora.
When he was a young man, he spent the year of 1972 – 1973 – sitting in with South Side Blues Bands and some of the greats – Junior Wells, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, Lonnie Brooks and Carey Bell.
“I’d go down to the clubs and I’d ask if I could sit in and they’d say, ‘get out of here kid.’ I didn’t understand then what a gold mine it was,” said Bob Mora the front man for the local band, Bob Mora and Third Degree.
Bob Mora and Third Degree will play live music at Bear Yuba Land Trust’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Open Spaces & Wild Places: A Celebration of Land this Saturday, Sept. 16.
“You’re gonna mostly hear blues, mostly Chicago blues with a little bit of reggae and little bit of New Orleans Mardi Gras. It’s very danceable and it’s going to be a rockin’ good time,” said Mora.
Bob Mora provides the vocals and plays the harmonica; drummer Steve Namle has played with many Sacramento bands like Mark St. Mary and Dr. Rock and the Stuff; Rob Holland plays Bass and has played with Bay Area bands like Conjunto Cepedese and Ivan Najara; on keyboards Frank Maranzino has played with the Reggae band, Mystifya and local favorite, Jamal Walker; Eric Price joins on saxophone and John Girton on guitar is a consummate musician and for years joined Maria Muldar and Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks.
It’s a conversation
As a kid, growing up in Chicago, the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Czecovsky always filled his home. His mom and sisters played the violin. He learned to read music and discovered the subtleties.
Mora took music lessons for piano and viola from the grandmother of his musical neighbors who lived across the street. He remembers duets with his teacher and learning to impart emotion into the music.
“It was kind of mandatory in our family to take music lessons. I learned at a young age what music was supposed to be… It’s interaction with other people,” he said.
Early Sunday mornings, when his parents were sleeping, a boy of nine, Mora listened for the fist time to gospel music on Public Television. It was the early 1960s. He would lean in close and listen to Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, Blind Boys of Alabama, Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, Mahalia Jackson.
When he was 13 or 14, Mora would hang out at the local teenage nightclub, eat potato chips and drink soda pop and listen to bands playing on stage Friday and Saturday nights. That was the first time he heard a harmonica played through a microphone.
“That is the coolest sound in the world,” he remembers. The next day he went out and bought two harmonicas.
He bought some blues albums, too – Sonny Boy Williamson and the Yardbirds (with Eric Clapton) and Blues Volume 5 with Jimmy Rogers, Howlin’ Wolf and Memphis Minnie.
“I would listen over and over and over,” he said, recalling how he put quarters on the records to slow them down to hear when the harmonica player was breathing in and out.
In 1966, his family moved to Sacramento when he was 15. It was 115 degrees the day they arrived and marked the beginning of the worst year of his life. He didn’t fit in with any of the kids from that “cow town.” Then his mom discovered the Quaker-based John Woolman School located in a remote corner of Nevada County.
“She liked their non-violence and social justice values,” he said. Mora was coming of age during a revolutionary time when the civil rights and anti war movements coalesced. Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan were influencing the1960s folk music scene and the American record company, Motown was playing an important role of racial integration of popular music.
At John Woolman, Mora became “hip to bending notes” to get the blues sound. Soon, he put together his first band, Jimmy Jet and the Rockin’ Bombers. Base player Rob Holland was in the band, and still is. His father, Milton Holland was a studio drummer and played percussion for The Rolling Stones 1968 album, “Beggars Banquet” on songs like “Sympathy for the Devil.”
The latest version of his band is two years old, but Mora has played with all of his band members for at least 15 years. He doesn’t use a set list, likes spontaneity and gauging the energy of the audience. For him, music is a way to connect with people, release his emotions in a positive way and build community.
“Like I said, it’s a conversation,” said Mora.