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‘Wild, crazy, free, nut-job’ Mojo Nixon dies at 66

Sirius XM personality Mojo Nixon did his Outlaw Country channel show from his suburban Cincinnati home.
Courtesy Matt Eskey
Sirius XM personality Mojo Nixon did his Outlaw Country channel show from his suburban Cincinnati home.

The former WEBN-FM morning show personality did his Loon In the Afternoon show from his suburban Cincinnati home for Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country channel.

Snarky rocker Mojo Nixon, who skewered pop culture with songs like “Elvis Is Everywhere” and “Don Henley Must Die,” not only fit in perfectly on WEBN-FM’s Dawn Patrol morning show, he returned and bought a house here a decade ago after leaving San Diego radio.

Nixon died Wednesday hosting his eighth Outlaw Country Cruise in the Caribbean. He was 66.

The son of a Virginia radio station owner had a crazy career as a singer-songwriter with his own band; a MTV host; a DJ on stations in San Diego and Cincinnati before going to Sirius XM satellite radio; and movie roles in Super Mario Brothers, Car 54 Where Are You? and Great Balls of Fire, the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic.

“He was an absolute lunatic on Sirius, which was great,” says WLW-AM afternoon co-host Eddie Fingers, who was the heart of the Dawn Patrol on WEBN-FM, then called the “lunatic fringe” of radio, with Bob “The Producer” Berry, Dennis “Wildman” Walker and Michael “Fin” Walter. Nixon was part of the morning show from 1998 to 2003, Fingers says.

“He was such a big personality. Mojo ‘dialed down’ was like a normal person after 10 cups of coffee,” says Fingers, a close friend.

Nixon — born Neill Kirby McMillan on Aug. 2, 1957 in Chapel Hill, N.C. — earned a political science degree in 1979 from Miami University. After college, he was lured to Great Britain for London’s punk scene. He returned to the U.S. and formed a punk band in Denver before moving to San Diego and performing with friend Richard Banke as Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper, according to The New York Times.

The San Diego Union-Tribune called Nixon “the roots-rocking wild man who was an MTV mainstay in the 1980s.”

The New York Times said he “rocketed from the lunatic fringe of 1980s underground music to national attention with his rabble-rousing shots at celebrity culture … Mr. Nixon caught fire in the 1980s by drawing together disparate strings of American eccentricity — the manic energy of Jerry Lee Lewis, the anti-establishment politics of punk rock, the antics of 1970s Elvis Presley and the pious theatrics of televangelists — and then spitting them back in the form of intentionally offensive songs like “Don Henley Must Die” and “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child” … Mr. Nixon’s material was topical, profane and in your face.”

Nixon — who also wrote and performed such songs as “Jesus at McDonald’s,” “Burn Down The Malls” and “Destroy All Lawyers” — once described himself as a voice of “the doomed, the damned, the weird.”

“I just want to be a tiny piece of the great American crazy myth. Not the story they tell in schools, not the story they tell in the movies, but the wild, crazy, free, nut job on the outskirts of town story,” he said in a 2017 interview, according to the Times.

Nixon, an avid bicyclist, worked as a bicycle mechanic in San Diego until 1986, according to the San Diego paper. He married his wife, Adaire, in 1989 at a go-cart track, the paper said.

He came to WEBN-FM in 1998, four years after playing a sidewalk preacher in Car 54. He was “so hysterical” with the Dawn Patrol that Bill Cunningham — who was program director of sister station WLW-AM the time, while also doing his talk show — hired Nixon to host afternoons. That gig lasted only a few weeks before Nixon was moved to WEBN-FM’s morning team, Fingers says. Nixon worked in Cincinnati five years before Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia) offered him the afternoon shift at KGB-FM in San Diego.

“His personality was too big to fit into a (morning) team show,” Fingers says.

After San Diego, Nixon and Adaire returned here and settled in suburban Cincinnati to be close to one of their sons and granddaughter, Fingers says. He did his Loon in the Afternoon show for Sirius XM’s Country Outlaw channel from his home, Finger says. Nixon also traveled the NASCAR circuit for his Manifold Destiny auto racing show.

“They had been going to races every weekend. Being a Virginia boy, he loved his NASCAR. And the NASCAR community loved him. His fans definitely loved them some Mojo,” Fingers says.

Nixon died of a cardiac event as the Outlaw Country Cruise ship was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after performing “a blazing show,” closing the bar and eating breakfast with bandmates and friends, according to director Matt Eskey’s Facebook page for his 2020 documentary, The Mojo Manifesto: The Life and Times of Mojo Nixon.

Nixon is survived by his wife, Adaire McMillan; his sons, Rafe Cannonball McMillan and Ruben McMillan; a sister, Jane Holden McMillan; a brother, Arthur Reese McMillan; and a granddaughter, according to The New York Times.

Filmmaker Eskey announced Nixon’s death this way on Facebook:

How you live is how you should die.

Mojo Nixon was full-tilt, wide-open rock hard, root hog, corner on two wheels + on fire…

Passing after a blazing show, a raging night, closing the bar, taking no prisoners + a good breakfast with bandmates and friends.

A cardiac event on the Outlaw Country Cruise is about right… & that’s just how he did it.

Mojo has left the building.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.