Papa Mojo's, Durham's main club for blues, has closed

07/21/2014 10:50 AM

07/21/2014 10:51 AM

This past weekend saw the Triangle's club population contract, with the closing of Papa Mojo's Roadhouse. Local bluesman Mel Melton, leader of the band Wicked Mojos, had run the club for the past seven years on Highway 55 in Durham.

"I'm tired of it," Melton said on Monday. "I'll be 65 next month, so I'm just burnt out."

Papa Mojo's was a restaurant as much as a nightclub, serving up Cajun food -- a specialty of Melton's. Known as the "zydeco chef," Melton has played with many notables including Sonny Landreth and Clifton Chenier while also earning acclaim as a cook. Papa Mojo's was to be the first in a chain of similar establishments through the Mid-Atlantic region, but one of Melton's investors recently had to bow out over health concerns.

"That made me ask, 'What the hell am I doing running a gumbo shack in South Durham?'" Melton said. "The lease is up in August, so I decided to shut it down. There's just no money in the blues thing. We'd bring in internationally known acts like Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, and there was just not much appetite for it. Then we got into this merry-go-round with local bands, but how many different times can you see the same bands? Right now, I'm interested in getting back to just playing some music myself."

David Menconi

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