Todd Simpson and Mojo Child
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Todd Simpson and Mojo Child

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Take A Walk Down Abbey Road to benefit Children's Hospital
Posted by Hilary West Perry September 20, 2007 5:21 PM
From "I Want to Hold your Hand" to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," the Beatles' classic hits helped form the soundtrack of the 1960s. Those legendary tunes, along with '60s-era blues, will highlight an evening of music, food and fun to benefit Telemedicine in the Children's Hospital Emergency Department.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 29, from 6:30-11 p.m. at WorkPlay Theatre. More information about FAB may be found at

Headlining the evening is the nation's top Beatles tribute band, FAB. The group is comprised of some of Nashville's top session musicians, record producers and songwriters, including Ted Hewitt, David Kent, Tim Buppert, Bill Roberts, John Foster and Alison Prestwood. Brought together by a common love for the music of Britain's "Fab Four," their repertoire includes songs from every Beatles' album, faithfully reproduced note for note.

FAB's opening act will be Todd Simpson and MoJo Child, playing hits from guitar greats such as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. A Birmingham-area native, 18-year-old Simpson was born with a congenital heart condition along with other major health issues which required numerous hospitalizations at Children's Hospital. Because his physical activities were limited by his medical condition, Todd turned to music, excelling first at the harmonica, and later the guitar. Todd and his band, which includes his father, Wes, play a mixture of original songs and interpretations of blues classics. They were recently awarded first place in the Magic City Blues Society's Battle of the Bands, and Todd has spent the summer performing at several California blues and rock clubs.

"Todd realizes that he is very fortunate to be here, and the doctors at Children's worked so hard for that. He has been given a talent, and he feels like he should give something back," said Wes Simpson.

The event will also feature silent and live auctions. Bidders will have a chance to take home items such as an autographed guitar and book by "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks, paintings by local artists, jewelry, and footballs autographed by Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and Alabama coach Nick Saban.

The event is presented by Heninger Garrison Davis, LLC. Other sponsors include: Energen, Brownell Travel, California Pizza Kitchen, Culinard, Daniel George, Drs. Peter Glaeser and Elizabeth Elliott, FAB, Piggly Wiggly, Scout, Starnes & Atchison, LLP, Todd Simpson and MoJo Child and Tria Market.

Tickets for the event are $50 and may be purchased by contacting Jennifer Foster in the Children's Hospital Foundation office at 205/939-9166 or Tickets are also available from the WorkPlay ticket office, 205-380-4082.

Proceeds from the evening will benefit Telemedicine in the Children's Emergency Department. In 2006, the Emergency Department saw nearly 53,000 patients, making it one of the busiest in the Southeast.

Children's Emergency Department routinely receives transfers from all over the state of Alabama and surrounding states. Many emergency departments, particularly in rural areas, do not have physicians with specialized emergency medicine or pediatric training. "This adds to delays in evaluating the patient, and sometimes it is a hardship for the family to travel to Birmingham," said Dr. Peter Glaeser, Division Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Children's Hospital.



Battle of the Blues Bands Winners

Presenting the winners of the 2007

Magic City Blues Society

Battle of the Blues Bands

1st place – 2BLU

2ND place – Sam Pointer

3rd place – Troy Bland


Todd Simpson and Mojo Child

Dan and the Dusters

Midnight Train

All the acts were outstanding and should be proud of the sets they performed.



Todd Simpson and Mojo Child
Phelan Park
Southside Birmingham, AL
Hey everybody, thanks to all who attended the last segment of the Phelan Park Music Series for 2007. Todd Simpson and Mojo Child put on a great show. This year was one of the best and most diverse series we have ever had. Thanks go out to the 5 Points Neighborhood Association for supporting this event for the last 14 years!



Scribblers Columnist Susan Strickland
» E-mail this columnist

FAB-ulous event aids Children's Hospital
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Beatles albums from the '60s will turn-table into live music at a concert on Sept. 29 to benefit the Children's Hospital Emergency Department.

The headliner of the benefit at WorkPlay will be FAB: A Beatles Tribute Band.

The opening act for the "Beatles" has a special connection - and fan base - at Children's Hospital. Opening will be Todd Simpson and Mojo Child. Coming to hear Todd's band will be some of the nurses at Children's Hospital. Todd, now 18, was born with a congenital heart condition requiring numerous stays at Children's Hospital. Because his physical activities were limited by his medical condition, Todd turned to music, excelling first at the harmonica and later guitar.


FAB comprises some of Nashville's top musicians and songwriters brought together by a common love for the music of Britain's "Fab Four." Members include Ted Hewitt, David Kent, Tim Buppert, Bill Roberts, John Foster and Alison Prestwood. Their repertoire includes songs from every Beatles' album, faithfully reproduced note for note.

Todd and his band, which includes his father, Wes, play a mixture of original songs and interpretations of blues classics. The band was awarded first place in the recent Magic City Blues Society's Battle of the Bands. Todd spent the summer performing at California blues and rock clubs.

The event beginning at 6:30 p.m. will also feature silent and live auctions. Bidders will have a chance to take home items such as an autographed guitar and book by "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks, an orchid etching by Nall and painting by John Lonergan, jewelry from Barton-Clay, and footballs autographed by Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and Alabama coach Nick Saban. The event is presented by Heninger Garrison Davis LLC and other sponsors.

Tickets are $50 per person. Call 939-9166


July 30, 2007
Battle of the Birmingham Blues Band Winners On to Memphis

Photo by Glynn Wilson
The Magic City Blues Society staged a full house of local talent Sunday at Zydeco on Southside and two lucky acts will compete Jan. 31- Feb. 2 at the 2008 International Blues Challenge finals to be held in Memphis, Tennessee. Todd Simpson and Mojo Child, pictured above, took first in the Band category, followed closely by Dan and the Dusters in second and Midnight Train in third.

Glynn Wilson
With Bruce Andrews on vocals and blues harp and George Dudley on guitar, 2BLU came in first in the Solo/Duo category. Second place went to Sam Pointer. Troy Bland came in third.

The International Blues Challenge has evolved into the nation’s largest and most respected showcase for Blues musicians ready to take their act to the national stage, according to the Memphis Blues Foundation Website


When Todd Simpson plays guitar, it's all about the colors.

The 19-year-old has been playing for only a little more than two years, and with no formal training on the instrument, even he admits his style can be a little "different."

"When I play the guitar, I really don't even know what I'm doing," he says. "I can't even tune a guitar. My dad has to tune my guitar for me.

"But when I play the guitar, I see colors a lot," Simpson adds. "For me, it's all really about the feel, about the emotion. It's like when someone starts humming, and they don't really know what they're humming or what the next note will be. They're just feeling the song. That's what it's like for me."

And it's working for him. Simpson and his band, Mojo Child, often play area clubs. They're winners of the Magic City Blues Society's Battle of the Blues Bands, and before they head off to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge next week, they're headlining Saturday's Kid One Transport Mardi Gras Ball.

"It's full-time music for me now," says Simpson, who graduated last year from St. Clair County High School. "Reading's so hard for me that I really can't do anything else."


That Simpson plays guitar the way he does is something of a marvel. That he's even alive is something of a miracle.

Born with a congenital heart problem (later diagnosed as the rare DiGeorge Syndrome), he spent more than 700 days in the hospital before he was 3 years old. Health issues have left him severely dyslexic, and a serious problem with his immune system means monthly treatments, probably for the rest of his life.

"We're absolutely ecstatic and thankful that he's here," says his father, Wes Simpson.

Wes, then a high school baseball coach in Moody, was there at the beginning, when 8-year-old Todd picked up a harmonica and began playing it out of the blue.

"We thought, `Wow, he's pretty good,'" Wes recalls. "That was a Wednesday, and that Friday, I read a story in The Birmingham News about Willie King being at City Stages, and I found a number for him in Pickens County. Todd was having a real tough time, and I asked if I could bring him to City Stages and get him an autograph."

King did better than that. He invited the tyke up on stage with him, and Todd began to play as if he were born to be on stage.

"It was very strange, because at that time, he hadn't been exposed to that much blues," Wes says.

But Todd had been exposed to some classic blues music. Until age 4, a home nurse would sit at his bedside, playing the blues on a cassette player.

"Evidently, it must have sunk in," Wes says.


Todd continued playing the harmonica, often with much more seasoned musicians, including bluesmen Big Bo and the late Topper Price, both of whom dubbed the young Simpson "mojo child."

"I have Topper's harmonica case," Todd says proudly. "He gave it to me."


About two years ago, 16-year-old Todd branched out after watching a DVD of Jimi Hendrix playing the guitar.

A month later, he was leading a band, Mojo Child, playing guitar as if he had been playing it all his life.

"The guitar is such a fluid instrument," Todd says. "You can move around and express so much emotion with it. It just kind of grabbed me. It doesn't hurt that Hendrix is the first one you ever see play."

It also doesn't hurt if you have what Wes describes as an almost genius-like ability to absorb music and mimic others, including Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and B.B. King.

But Todd isn't just channeling the greats. He's feeling his way through the music, giving each of his live performances its own character.

"The universal thing that people say about Todd's playing is that it's so different," says Wes, who plays in Mojo Child with Todd, Cory Mitchell and Jessica Keenum. "What you're seeing is literally in the moment. Our job as a band is to follow Todd. We never know where he's going. Never know."

Mojo Child plays its share of covers, but Todd has also created 20 original songs. Created, not written.

"They're just in my head, and I remember them," he says. "That's shocking to some people, but it's just as much shocking to me that you're writing down what I'm saying right now."

One of Todd's originals, co-written by one of his special education teachers, Matt Byers, is "Living the Dash."

"It's not about your birth or the death on a tombstone," Todd says. "It's about that time between, the dash on the tombstone."

He's made good use of the dash himself, playing at every opportunity at places like the Metro Bistro downtown, where he'll be Sunday.

"He's the real deal, a special kid," says Jeff Baker, owner of Metro Bistro. "He can really light a room up."

When Todd plays, the crowd at Metro Bistro is a mix of folks, Baker says.

"There are a lot of young kids, because he's the new and happening thing," he says. "But there are also local musicians, because they've heard about him and want to see him play."

Jeff Roberts / Birmingham News
"All the Birmingham musicians have done a lot for me," says Simpson, who has shared the stage with the late Topper Price and Rick Carter, among others. "I'm very thankful."CONTINUING HEALTH PROBLEMS
When Kid One Transport, a group that ensures that children get much-needed transportation to medical appointments, approached Mojo Child about playing Saturday, they didn't know of Todd's medical history.

But he was pleased to play the benefit, just as he was pleased to play a Children's Hospital benefit before it.

"Anything I can do to help groups like them, I want to do that," Todd says. "I think I'm put here to do that kind of stuff."

Todd still has health problems. He and his older sister, Jade, both have compromised immune systems, and they get monthly treatments together at the Simpsons' house in Branchville.

"It looks like an emergency room in my living room when they're doing it," says Wes, who retired from a 29-year teaching and coaching career (first at Moody, then at St. Clair County) to run a small music store and help Todd with his career. Wes and Ina Simpson have two other children, 12-year-old Monica and 23-year-old Trey, who is majoring in special education at Auburn University.

"We feel like we're the luckiest people in the world," Wes says. "Things aren't the way we might have chosen, but we have two kids who have had illnesses and could easily not be here. ... For me, it's been the best of both worlds. I was able to coach my oldest son in sports, and now I get the thrill of being on stage with Todd doing his thing."

As for Todd, he realizes he has musical talent, but he also considers himself a "regular kid."

"I know that most kids can't do this, but there are some kids who are better at math, and there's some kid who's going to someday be able to cure what I have, and I'm glad they're doing that," he says. "This is just what I do. If that makes me special, then I guess I'm special."

- City Scene - The Birmingham News


How do you go from picking up an instrument for the first time to playing the biggest venues in Birmingham, Ala. in just two short years? According to Todd Simpson, it’s all about heart. At the age of 19, Simpson has been through more than most 90-year-olds and he has the battle scars to prove it. Born with a congenital heart problem, Simpson spent more than 700 days in the hospital before reaching the age of three. The same heart that has been so fragile in the past leads his music today; Simpson taught himself to play guitar and harmonic by feel and from the heart.

“To me feeling the music means keeping it real,” says Simpson. “I don’t know how people can say that music is an art form and a creative thing and then put so many rules and labels on it. Some people say this isn’t blues or this isn’t that, to me it’s just music or it should be. I never play a song the same way twice and have no interest to. I don’t feel today like I did yesterday so if I’m being real it’s gonna be different. I play a lot of interpretations of songs but I don’t call them covers because they’re not going to be like the original. I know it’s special and I think that people know when you connect with a song. So I guess that’s what feeling it means, it’s connecting. When I’m really into it I never look at my guitar, I close my eyes and go with it and sometimes I’m surprised where it ends up. I think the key for me is that I don’t play with my mind, I play with my heart. I may not know a lot but I feel a whole lot.”

The guitar was not Simpson’s first heart instrument. “When Todd was eight he picked up a toy harmonica and it was like he had played all of his life,” recalls Simpson’s dad, Wes Simpson. “This was a kid that had spent years in the hospital only being told what he couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to do, so we were so excited that he had found something positive.” Three days later Simpson was on stage with Willie King playing his harmonica.

Simpson first picked up the guitar around two years ago after watching a Jimi Hendrix DVD. “He had a hard time picking up chords but just started playing the intro to ‘Voodoo Child.’” explains Wes Simpson. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll play these chords and you just play what you want.’ It was more amazing than the harmonica experience. We put together a band and within a week Todd played his first gig.” Since then Simpson and his band, Mojo Child, have played some of the biggest venues in Birmingham. Mojo Child features Simpson’s dad Wes Simpson on rhythm guitar, Jessica Keenum on drums and Corey Mitchell on bass. The band won the 2007 Magic City Blues Society’s Battle of the Bands and placed in the International Blues Competition in Memphis. The group was a featured act at this year’s City Stages festival.

“We were told that there was a certain path that we had to take to break in to the Birmingham scene but we did it a little differently,” says Simpson. You can act like a rock star onstage, but when you come off, be yourself. If you can connect with a song it’s special, if you can connect with your fans it’s more than special. We’ve been lucky doing it on our own to have played some big shows in a short time.”

Simpson is ready to see where his heart and music lead him. “My plans are to keep working hard and reaching new fans,” he says. “I would love to be able to travel and see things and meet different people and bring them some pleasure with my music. God has blessed me with my music and I feel like this is what he wants me to do. I don’t know why. Whatever the reason, I just hope do it in front of a lot of people for a longtime with my band Mojo Child.” -


Todd's band is called Mojo Child and when you look at this young mans life and extraordinary talent you will say the name definitely fits perfectly. You hear the blues, southern rock, and psychedelic influence come through Todd's music. His talent is undeniable but when you hear Todd tell you what is going on when he is playing and how it is happening it really brings it home that we are in the presence of greatness.


No, I am very dyslexic so I can't read. I watch my brother Trey and his college buddies. Looks like a lot of fun; just not sure how I would do it. I have a really good memory due to my disability but I have not tried it yet. (Todd has an IQ in the genius range).


Yes, I was born with numerous birth defects. I spent like 700 days in UAB and Children's Hospital before I finally came home for good. I have had 3 major Open hearts and numerous procedures on stomach and esophagus. At the age of nine I was diagnosed with Variant Di George Syndrome with Combined Immune Deficiency. DiGeorge is a deletion in the 22 chromosome. Every month I receive a 6 hour IV immune treatment, like bubble boy, they keep me alive. Heart defects are a big part of 22Q, I had my first Open Heart at a day old. The syndrome affects people differently, from Mental Retardation to the rarest Immune deficiencies. My problems have been more physical. I would say my heart and Immune problems have been the most serious. I had major esophagus problems. I have learning disabilities, I am dyslexic so I spend a lot of time listening to books on tape, and writing is impossible. I can sign my name but it is foreign to me. I also have a high cleft palate so that's why I have a speech impediment. High School was tough, couldn't do the sport thing so I spent a lot of time on the outside looking in. I really want to bring awareness to disabilities so other kids will know that in spite of their conditions they are given unique gifts as well. I credit my parents with keeping me alive they had to learn to do a lot of things and they obviously did it well. They were definitely my advocate. When I was born many children with DiGeorge did not survive due to the heart defects and the repairs available then. So I am very fortunate.


Three years ago, I watched a Jimi Hendrix DVD. I am a visual learner so I just listened and watched his hands. I started playing the harmonica at nine, pretty much the same way, heard it liked it and played it. I can't read so reading music is out. Notes mean nothing to me. I would not be a good guitar player just sitting here. I need to hear the music. I may play the guitar upside down; backwards; left handed or right handed doesn't matter as long as I feel it. I just need to hear it and feel it and then let it take me where ever it goes. Probably not the ideal situation for the band but it works great for me.


I don't know, I do wonder if part of my brain is working overtime to make up for another area that is working less. It has been suggested by the Doctors that when on the ventilator for so long perhaps I had a series of small strokes and seizures leaving part of the brain damaged and enabling the other part to be hypersensitive to sounds, etc. I see amazing colors when I play, they are so vibrant. Colors change in and around the crowd. Maybe it is their energy I see. Different pieces of music look different to me visually. It's so great to just take in all the energy. I know it is hard to understand. It is hard to explain. The music just happens.


Oh it is definitely bigger than me. It is God. That is the only explanation. I do believe in old souls and I think maybe they help me out a bit. When I am on stage I am in a zone. People will tell me things I did or that happened during a show or on stage and I won't remember it. I am always moving on stage and when singing I don't have the speech impediment. The way things have happened have led me and my family and friends to believe that on stage is where I am suppose to be. I guess it's my destiny.


Yes and my dad is a great man. He taught high-school and coached all the while dealing with my medical issues. He retired just so I could do my thing. How great is that! We are having some great times and making some unbelievable memories. The drummer for the band is Jessica Keenum and Corey Mitchell plays Bass guitar.


I love it! I enjoy the day to day different cities, meeting new people, all the different shows. I want to put myself in front of as many people as I can. I see the people enjoying themselves and our style of music and it is great. We have the most diverse and loyal fans ever. I have made so many great friends through the music. I know my music is not the normal for people my age but I am so inspired by some of the older music. Beginning with Jimi Hendrix I really study the older musicians and their sound. Odis Redding is in my CD player right now, I can't take it out it is so awesome. I want to bring some more awareness to people about this style of music. All the old standards, funk, blues and southern rock and rock and roll. There is so much out there.


Yes, Johnny Sandlin (legendary producer for Muscle Shoals, Al.) brought his team up for a few days and recorded us. The CD has nine originals and two or three covers, we are still working on the project. It will be released soon so be sure and keep an eye out for it.


Oh yeah, that is going to be great. I have not seen either live so I am just excited. I want to just keep playing more and more and learning from for all the musicians I get turned on to. I have to say at this point my number one goal is turning people on to music. I hope I can touch people with my sound.

There are numerous Youtube videos of this Mojo Child's performances available to check out. A documentary is in the works and coming out on HBO or PBS about the unbelievable story of this amazing young man. His guitar playing and live performances are appealing to audiences young and old across all demographics of music lovers. This music lover is honored to have gotten to meet and talk to Todd Simpson. His story has reaffirmed my belief that the power and blessing of music is evident in even more ways then we yet know. We have to be open to it like Todd is.
- Rounder Magazine


Todd Simpson and Mojo Child "LIve at THe Back Door Music Hall"



Todd is a teenage guitar virtuoso, who has overcome huge obstacles in his personal life. Todd was born with DiGeorge Syndrome, requiring multiple open heart surgeries and countless hospital stays, due to related problems. Todd had spent over 750 days in the hospital by his third birthday.
Despite his trials Todd has amazed and inspired everyone,from the Doctors that treated him, to strangers that hear his story. Todd's activities were limited because of his health, yet he found his gifts and purpose in music. At the age of eight Todd walked into a room while his Dad Wes and a friend were playing guitars. Seeing a harmonica on a table, Todd picked it up and began playing it flawlessly. When asked how he knew how to play like that he responded "I just feel it". Two days later,, Wes took Todd to City Stages, Birmingham,s music festival, to see bluesman Willie King. Hoping to expose Todd to the blues and maybe get an autograph, Todd was asked by Willie to "hit a lick", after that Willie told him that he was playing with him that day. Todd played a 50 minute set that day and continued to play harp and sing with local and well known bluesmen.
At age seventeen Todd again amazed family and friends when after watching a Jimi Hendrix DVD, he decided to pick up guitar. Picking up one of his Dad's many guitars, he took to it as he had the harmonica. Wes put together a band, and with Todd fronting they played their first show one month later. Todd's soulful voice and heartfelt guitar work is packed with raw emotion. Not being able to read music or write his lyrics for himself is seen as a handicap by many, but for Todd it's a blessing. Todd has recently filmed the movie "Lifted" set for release in 2010. People that see Todd play know that what their seeing is real and in the moment. No two Mojo Child shows are the same.
Mojo Child is the high energy trio that backs Todd.
Consisting of Wes Simpson,Todd's father, on rythm guitar, Cory Mitchell on bass and David Burk on drums, they truly put the verb in "jam band" by being to improvise at the drop of a hat and sense Todd's emotions. Deeply rooted in the Blues, Mojo Child plays an ecclectic mixture of traditional blues, original songs, and interpretations of songs from all genres. Todd"s story, photos and other info can be found at Youtube and his Official Website He is also on Myspacemusic.