Now and then I’m asked how I acquired the nickname “Uncle Mott.” It all started back in the early 70s, after I finished college with a BA and a teaching credential.
At the time, teachers were being laid off and there were no teaching jobs available, so I decided to open a record store, Jabberwocky Discount Records, at the corner of Tustin and Chapman in Orange. After a while, my employees began calling me “Mott,” just like Mott the Hoople. Eventually, they started calling me “Uncle Mott,” which was OK with me, since I was born an uncle.
The name stuck and I used it in making radio commercials for my record stores in Orange and another one in Anaheim at the corner of Lincoln and Knott. The commercials promoting record albums that were on sale went something like this: “Hi, it’s Uncle Mott from Jabberwocky, the home of rock bottom rock, where this week you can get Neil Young’s latest release, Harvest, for the super low price of $2.99… etc.
Later on, in the early 90s, the market for teachers opened up and I was hired as a substitute for the Rim district. Two years later, I was teaching eighth-grade language arts at MPH. Often, when the kids started coming into the classroom, the first thing I’d hear was, “Good morning, Mr. Motley Crew.” I went along with it because it was kinder than some of the other things they called me. Even today, former students come up to me and repeat the familiar phrase.
In the mid-90s, I attended a lot of John Stewart concerts in the L.A. area and other western states, and I followed him around as a sort of roadie (carried his guitars) on a tour of England and Scotland in 1997. I had a good relationship with Mr. Stewart, who had a nickname for almost everyone he knew, so he started calling me “Mott.” It was the first time anyone had called me that in years. Us “Stewartistas,” as we referred to ourselves, called him “Johnny Stew.”
Stewart, who had been a member of the folk music group The Kingston Trio back in the 60s, is perhaps best known for his highly acclaimed “California Bloodlines” album, as well as for writing songs for other recording artists, such as “Daydream Believer” for the Monkees and “Runaway Train” for Roseanne Cash.
The next question I’m often asked is how I came up with my “Keep it flyin’” sign-off. I borrowed it from one of Johnny Stew’s songs called “Irresistible Targets,” from his Punch The Big Guy LP. 1968 it has that ring of RFK and Martin Luther King, where a dream went down on a hotel floor, dreams are what we’re living for. Are they shooting down the angels, yeah? You can bet your life we are. They’re irresistible targets, yeah, to any shooting star Shoot out the moon in a midnight sky, shoot out a dream and don’t say why, so it’s up to you and I to beat our arms against the sky and to keep it flyin’.
Keep it flyin’, Uncle Mott