By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – Some 70 people gathered at the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau on Monday night, but only one of them wore a bright orange suit.
That was musician Sam Mosley, who formed the Mosley & Johnson Band with his friend, the late Bob Johnson.
Friends and family of both men, as well as band members and other well-wishers, attended the opening of a new exhibit that pays tribute to the rhythm and blues band and its accomplishments.
“This is indeed an honor and privilege and my pleasure to be here with you today to help celebrate the journey of Mosley and Johnson and the Mosley & Johnson Band,” said Mosley, a New Albany resident.
Since 1968, the band has performed as Sam & Bob and the Soul Men, MoJoBa (short for Mosley Johnson Band) and Mosley & Johnson.
The band has performed at venues with B.B. King, Lou Rawls, Percy Sledge, Joan Baez, Willie Dixon and more.
One of the exhibits is an album titled “Blues from the Montreux Jazz Festival” that features the names Bobby “Blue” Bland, Denise LaSalle, Johnnie Taylor and Mosley & Johnson on the cover.
Bland, Taylor and LaSalle, along with Little Milton, Otis Clay and others, have recorded Mosley & Johnson tunes.
“It has been my pleasure to work with some of the greatest blues musicians and singers in the world,” Mosley said.
He said that if Johnson, who died in 1998, had been at Monday’s event, he would’ve been in his element.
“He would’ve been beside himself,” Mosley said. “He wouldn’t have stopped talking.”
Johnson’s widow, Lillie Johnson, helped pull a black cover off the exhibit that highlighted her husband’s achievements.
“I was behind him 100 percent because I knew he loved his music,” she said. “I would go to bed listening to music and I would wake up listening to music. That was his life and I lived with it. I really enjoyed it.”
In addition to family, current and former band members attended the celebration.
“I’ve got some band members now that have been with me 40 years,” Mosley said, “and most all of them have been with me 30 years plus.”
Doris Badie of Pontotoc was with the duo in 1968, when they performed as Sam & Bob featuring Doris Badie.
“We sang our own songs,” she said, “and we went everywhere – everywhere they’d book us.”
This is the second in a series of CVB rotating exhibits that highlight Northeast Mississippi musicians. The first showcased bluegrass artist Merle “Red” Taylor from Saltillo.
The Mosley & Johnson exhibit will be on display until the end of the year, and Mosley is helping CVB officials gather materials for another exhibit that will open in January.