Mousers, 1978

(The Elliot Mouser Floating Blues Band, 1978. Left to right, Chris Jenner on guitar, Pete Bosco on guitar and vocals, Brian "Bone" Marra on bass and vocals, Chris Kelley on drums and vocals, Brian "Herman" Hess on keyboard.)

More than thirty years after I first saw the Elliot Mouser Floating Blues Band, I’m about to play my first gig with them.

The Mousers were the wildest thing I saw I the year 1979. Even then, I was late in getting hip to them. Back then, I was 19 years old and had retired from music. No more of that childish rock and roll for me. I was an assiduous English major and a member of the English Department Student Committee. Our committee would book scholars and poets to appear in the mock-gothic stone buildings of Boston College. When the visiting scholar was done speaking, we’d all applaud politely, then retire to the lounge for Pepperidge Farm cookies and bad wine that came in big glass jugs with screw-off tops. The collar of my shirt peeped out from over the sweater. Something was missing from my life…

Somehow, one Saturday night, I ended up going alone to a party at the notorious Red House, which was down the road from the campus. The house party was in full swing, and who were all these people? Here were all the best-looking women at the school, the guys with the best record collections, the best stereo systems and the best drugs. The atmosphere was freer and more evolved than what I had been breathing. People were dancing and laughing and having a lot more fun than I had been seeing. From the basement came the plangent sound of a band grooving away like they would never stop, led by the clear tone of a single-note electric guitar going around and around and around...

Down the stairs, the Mousers were playing a stretched-out version of some American rock and roll song, possibly Neil Young's "Tonight's the Night." Chris Jenner was just barely holding on to that guitar, which seemed to be squirming and leaping and trying to escape from his hands, as if it had a life of its own. Behind him, that deep, growling sound came from Brian “Herman” Hess, who played a Farfisa organ through a rotating Leslie cabinet. At the mic was Chris Kelley, the baritone-voiced rabble-rouser who was the organizing force in the band. And the guys in the band, Pete Bosco on guitar and vocals, Brian "Bone" Marra on bass and Joe Marx on drums, were so into it, you had no choice but to go with the flow.

After I had seen the Mousers, I sent for my bass guitar and went back to music. That’s what I wanted to do, man. The groves of academy were not the groves for me. The burnouts were having much more fun!

As I said, I was a bit late in getting hip to the Mousers. I’ll skip around in the story, if you don’t mind. Jenner left the Mousers, and they continued without him, still rocking, but without the “floating” sound that had been their trademark. Filling in for him was Ned Luboja, a fine guitarist who had been the band’s soundman.

Meanwhile, I began playing and singing with a guy down the hall. We were doing a lot of Grateful Dead repertoire, because that was the only game in town. Our big break came one night when the Mousers were playing an on-campus party. My musical partner had arranged for us to do a couple of tunes at intermission, backed by the Mousers’ Joe Marx on drums and Hess on keyboards. We went up and played “I Know You Rider.” It probably wasn’t great, but it was the first time I ever got to jam with those guys. And they couldn’t have been nicer about it...

Spin the clock forward through the years. The Mousers graduated and went their separate ways, I become friendly with Brian Hess, and he and I hatched the idea of starting a band that would play original music. He recruited Chris Kelley of the Mousers to sing for us. The band became Rods and Cones, and we ended up making a few records and performing in the Boston area and around the Northeast for six years…

The Cones came out of the Mousers, if you care to know. And as the clock keeps spinning, the years turn into decades, life unfolds in all its beauty and tragedy and frustration and irreplaceable moments. In 2004, Brian Hess dies. People reunite under sad circumstances. Meanwhile, I have switched from bass guitar to keyboard -- my main instrument is the 1960s Wurlitzer electric piano that Brian played in the Mouser band. And I’m starting to develop a brand of instrumental pop music…

Somehow, in 2007, Kelley rounds up the rest of the Mousers, and they play their first gigs in many, many years. To top it off, Chris Jenner reappears, playing better than ever. The Elliot Mouser Floating Blues Band is floating once again.

When Kelley asked me to fill in on keyboards, I jumped at the chance. So 30-plus years after this band first blew my mind, I’m going to be playing my first gig with them. This must be some sort of record.

It’s a private event on the Boston College campus, on Saturday, June 5, so there’s not much point in me publicizing it to you, unless you happen to be in the Boston College graduating class of 1980.

Playing with the Mousers is a gas. Everyone plays in a rather simple style, except for Jenner, who goes to the moon and back on his guitar, and when everyone synchs up together, you can't help but feel it in your knees and hips and elbows. It’s a classic case of the sum being greater than the parts. And we’ll be playing more events soon.

The expanded lineup is as follows:

Chris Kelley: vocals, harmonica

Chris Jenner: lead guitar, vocals

Pete Bosco: guitar, vocals

Ned Luboja: guitar , vocals

Brian “Bone” Marra: bass, vocals

Joe Marx: drums

Curtis Kelley: drums

Jim DiNardo: percussion

Jim Duffy: keyboard

I’ll have more to say about all of this. Meanwhile, to find out more about the Elliot Mouser Floating Blues Band, please go here or here.


Clare Silliman December 06, 2011 @01:45 pm

WOW!!!! This post brought back so many memories. I was a huge Eliot Mouser fan. They played at our house in Watertown and the entire police force showed up for "disturbing the peace" The photo with Brian Hess at the piano brings tears to my eyes...The Red House was a total reprieve from all the snoids we had to tolerate at B.C. It's a wonder we survived those days. Fun times to be sure. Play on...

Bone June 01, 2010 @01:28 pm

Sweet honor to have you on the bus..and it's only the beginning of a new floating tidal wave. Thank you for your kind words about our Mouser family.

Jim DiNardo May 30, 2010 @08:12 am

Good stuff, Jim! Looking forward to the gig on 6/7 and more to come as the clock ticks back into the future.

CK May 30, 2010 @05:31 am

Mr D.......i am happy to vbe dancing with YOU!!! What a nice perspective on the whole ball of wax.......a finer lad there isn't. Damn glad that your first Mouser gig is on the horizon......I know Herman is too.

Joesy Wales Marx May 29, 2010 @07:43 pm

Duff--great post. It's wonderful to have you groovin with us. Echos of Herm in those electric keys but still your own. See ya in Boston

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