Big Head Todd and the Monsters


Big Head Todd and the Monsters’ story demonstrates how perseverance can lead to triumph.

Rather than coasting on the national fame earned during their early recordings for major labels, the group’s members kept working, kept playing and kept inspiring fans one gig at a time for decades. The result is one of the most enduring and remarkable careers in the history of Colorado music

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The Monsters first roared to life in 1982, when fellow Littleton, Colorado Columbine High School students Todd Park Mohr, Rob Squires and Brian Nevin began raising a ruckus together in the basement of the Nevin family home. From there, the three matriculated to house parties and the Denver-area bar-band circuit. But the group wasn’t interested in merely providing background sounds for beer-guzzling. Mohr’s vocals and guitar were muscular and memorable, the rhythm section of bassist Squires and drummer Nevin provided sturdy, powerful support, and the combo’s original material built an original vision atop a blues foundation.

The popularity of 1989’s Another Mayberry and 1990’s Midnight Radio,

issued independently on the Monsters’ own Big imprint, got the attention of Giant Records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. operated under the auspices of legendary Eagles former manager Irving Azoff. The company spared no expense to make Big Head Todd even bigger, arranging for the Monsters to record at Paisley Park Studios with Prince associate David Z. The investment paid off with 1993’s Sister Sweetly, the group’s Giant debut. The album went platinum, and tracks such as “Bittersweet, “It’s Alright” and “Broken Hearted Savior” became rock-radio staples.

The group followed up Sister Sweetly with two more well-received offerings for Giant and Revolution Records, a sibling firm: 1994’s Stratagem and 1997’s Beautiful World. But it was Live Monsters, an aptly titled concert recording released in 1998, that most proved most prescient. Thanks to near-constant touring, Mohr, Squires and Nevin had transformed themselves into a performance juggernaut capable of lifting their songs to the next level every time they took the stage.

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The jam-band crowd recognized the musicians’ spontaneity and creativity, and the loyalty of these listeners allowed the Monsters to thrive. After moving on from Giant, the players cut albums for labels such as Sanctuary (2004’s Crimes of Passion and Live at the Fillmore), and Shout! Factory (2014’s Black Beehive). But many more efforts came courtesy of the revived Big Records, including an additional passel of concert documents. Among them was We’re Gonna Play It Anyway, captured in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic at Red Rocks, which has hosted the Monsters on dozens of occasions.

Meanwhile, the band continued to evolve. The Monsters supplemented their lineup in 2003 with the permanent addition of keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Lawton. Fellow Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee Hazel Miller added her voice during multiple tours. In addition, a side project dubbed the Big Head Blues Club gave the crew a chance to collaborate with genre icons such as B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin, Charlie Musselwhite and Honeyboy Edwards on 100 Years of Robert Johnson, with a sequel tribute later to Willie Dixon, Way Down Inside.

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The far-reaching impact of Big Head Todd and the Monsters is epitomized by “Blue Sky.” Mohr wrote the tune in 2005 as a tribute to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and six years later, the band played it at NASA’s Mission Control in Houston as a wake-up for astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle.

The trip from Brian Nevin’s basement to outer space was long. But for Big Head Todd and the Monsters, the journey has been more important than the destination.

By Michael Roberts

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