“Mojo” is magic, magical ability, and the power to get things done. “Mojo” first appeared in the 1920s in the southern United States from the Gullah word “moco” (magic), Gullah being Creole spoken by some groups of African-Americans. The ultimate root of “mojo” was the word “moco’o,” which means “shaman or medicine man” in the African language Fulani. “Mojo” spread first into mainstream Black English and then general usage primarily through the popularity of jazz and blues music. Muddy Waters got his ‘Mojo working’ and Jim Morrison of The Doors called for the Mojo Risin’.
Permian’s adoption of Mojo suppose to trace back to the early ’60s on a cold night in Abilene, TX. Jack Crawley, then assistant principal, was rumored to have been asking for more coffee in the third quarter. Fans sitting around him heard “need more jo” – jo > java > coffee. The close game hit its peak in the fourth quarter, where to warm themselves a handful of fans in the same section started saying “more jo”. By the time others heard the chant, it was condensed to Mo Jo.
The Mojo hand has been a part of the Louisiana folklore for special voodoo properties of luck. More and more fans started the chant during crucial moments of the games over the next few years. It was in 1972 that several fans were decorating their cars with MOJO. After all, it was easier to write Mojo than Permian or Panthers with shoe polish. In 1976… ‘MOJO’ had become so widespread that the Permian seniors were to let it be known MOJO and Odessa Permian were one in the same.
According to alumni, Mojo may have very well been adopted even earlier than this. Here’s what they say:
MOJO started in 1962 during the senior stunt play. We were using the Mojo Magic and the colors of our fine school to send all the powers to the next years to Permian Prowess in all areas of the school. However, it did not become a “fixture” until later in sixties when the song “Got My Mojo Working” was famous and then it went from there. These are my memories of the origin. I am honored to be a graduate of PHS.
Gaylon Roe – ’62
I graduated in 1964. MOJO first appeared at Permian in 1962 or 1963. At a pep rally in the auditorium a tall cheerleader brought out a whiskey jug painted black on the bottom and white on the top. Maybe MOJO was painted in white on black. When the fellow pulled the cork, that was the cue to holler MOJO. (The very first pull was to little effect except on the cheerleaders.) The only comment was, “Here is the spirit bottle”. After that, the jug regularly was a part of our pep rallies. Maybe the original (un)corker knows an earlier history of MOJO. Where is this guy? Follow the jug.
Dan Kennerly – ’64
In the fall of 1965, the El Paso Eastwood football team traveled to Odessa to play Permian. We dressed at the motel and rode in the bus to the stadium. We passed a house that had a 4 foot lighted “MOJO” sign in the front yard. At the stadium… “mojo” was all around. I remember asking… “What is Mojo?”. Sadly, Permian beat us 27-6. In the fall of 1965 it was definitely… big.
Douglas Gowland (New York City)
I have always heard that it can be attributed to Larry Walsh in 1965. We were playing San Angelo and behind 7-0. We scored at the start of the second half. Larry was the backup quarterback and holder for extra points. No one on the team except Larry and a receiver knew that it was going to be a two point attempt. It was successful and we won 8-7. After the game reporters were asking Larry how he managed to make that play and he said “I guess I had my MOJO working”.
Charlie Pond – ’66
The first time I heard the MOJO cheer/chant was after the Abilene Cooper game in 1967. In my annuals, there are a few photos from my junior year (1968-69) with MOJO in banners at Pep Rallies. By 1969, it was huge. The truth as I know it is that the cheerleaders picked it up at SMU Cheerleading Camp in the summer.
Jim Watts – ’70
MOJO was first chanted at the Abilene Cooper game in 1967. We were losing badly and some PHS Alumni began rolling their arms on MO and throwing their arms in the air for JO. We were sitting next to them and began yelling it with them. You can see a poster with MOFO instead of MOJO on it in the 67-68 annual. When we were Seniors, the Pepettes decided to order bumper stickers to raise money to travel to 4 of the games in a bus. When we ordered the bumper stickers, I asked them to put MOJO on one of them. When we returned, it was black and white (diagonal) with Mojo Mighty Panthers, and a Panther on it. We sold out in one hour. We made MOJO posters, and MOJO banners, and it became our battle cry. MOJO continued to grow in popularity as we made our way to the State Championship. In the semifinal game, we were tied at half-time 0-0 against Houston Smiley. The teams were waiting to come out on the field, and the PHS band spelled out MOJO instead of PHS for the first time in history. The fans went crazy, the team went crazy, and we won 22-0 and earned a birth in the state championship game. Coach Gene Mayfield brought the spirit of MOJO to Odessa, but it never had a name until four years later in 68-69. The class of ’69 embraced MOJO and along with the guys at the Cooper game, should take credit for beginning the legend.
Sheliah Freitag Safford – ’70