He started his musical career playing steel drums and upright bass in a calypso band. He moved on to play in a variety of blues and backup bands throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
But by 1984, “I was convinced my career was over, and that if I was lucky I’d be able to play blues gigs for $40 or $50 a night,” Mo recalls. Fortunately, luck came his way with a gig in a blues combo with saxist Monk Higgins and guitarist Charles “Charlie Tuna” Dennis.
“Until then I thought there was just two kinds of blues — fast and slow,” says Mo. “Charlie taught me that there are all kinds of blues: Delta blues, Texas blues, Chicago blues, soul-blues…I started opening my mind and learning how deep the blues was.” Over the next decade, Mo developed a sound that blended their acoustic framework with the pop, R&B, rock, jazz and soul that he loved.
By 1994, Mo was signed to a major label again. His album Keb’ Mo’ earned gold-record status, and Just Like You won the Grammy Award for Contemporary Blues Album — a feat he’s repeated twice since then, with 1999’s Slow Down and 2005’s Keep It Simple.
His songs have been recorded by B.B. King, Buddy Guy, the Dixie Chicks, Joe Cocker and Robert Palmer, and his playing inspired leading instrument maker Gibson Brands to issue the Keb’ Mo’ Signature Bluesmaster acoustic guitar. He’s collaborated with a host of other artists including Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Brown, jazz diva Cassandra Wilson, Buddy Guy, Amy Grant, Solomon Burke and Little Milton.