Healing Mary Moser
by Cory Perla
An all-star lineup comes together to help a stalwart of the local music scene
In October 1980, a little-known Irish rock band called U2 released their first record, Boy, a youthful, surging album that is now considered one of the greatest debuts of all time. At the time, a young record store clerk, Mary Moser, who was working at the classic Buffalo record store Home of the Hits located on Elmwood Avenue, recognized the powerful potential of that album. She offered patrons of the store a unique deal: Buy the record and if you don’t like it, you’ll get your money back. She didn’t have to return a single dime.
“Bono [frontman of U2] still tells that story on stage,” says Bruce Moser, husband to Mary and father to their two children Erin, 29, and Grace, 24. Prior to the release of U2’s seminal record, Bruce was working with the band, booking shows for them in the Northeast between Boston and Cleveland so that the band could test American waters. The first time U2 played Buffalo was a few months after the release of Boy, at the old Stage One downtown, on December 8, 1980, the night John Lennon was shot and killed outside of the Dakota, his apartment in New York City. That night, Mary and Bono were playing Pong at a local bar.
Bruce recalls that night vividly. “A drunk guy came up and pushed between Mary and Bono as they were playing Pong and said, ‘Hey, man, did you hear John Lennon got shot?’ Bono turned around and said, ‘That’s a sick joke,’ but we found out later that night that it really happened.”
The three were devastated by the sudden death of the music legend, who must have, at least on some level, inspired Bono’s own musical activism.
Now Mary and Bruce are dealing with another, more personal tragedy.
On July 17, 2013, Mary Moser suffered what doctors believe was a stroke or a brain aneurism, which caused her to fall down a flight of stairs. The injury has left her in a non-medically induced coma. Nine months later, she is still comatose, a state from which doctors are unsure she will ever emerge. “It’s day by day,” says Bruce. “Every brain injury is different, nobody really knows. If you asked 10 people you’d get 10 different answers.”
The part of her brain that was injured controls speech and mobility, so if she comes out of the coma, it’s likely she’ll have to learn to walk and talk again. Though the prognosis is uncertain, she has been breathing on her own for about seven months, a good sign considering the doctors initially believed that there was damage to her brain stem. A person with a damaged brain stem would not typically be able to breathe on her own. “Her vital signs are probably better than yours and mine. Everything is good, except she just hasn’t woken up,” Bruce says. “They don’t know. She could wake up tomorrow or it could be a permanent coma.”
Needless to say, this has left the family emotionally devastated, and has also left them with countless medical bills. “My daughters wanted to do a benefit show,” Bruce says. “I said, ‘As long as you’re doing it, I want to make it into a major event.’ It’s going to be an exciting night.”
After 40 years in the music business, Bruce certainly has the connections to put together a major musical event. Healing Mary Moser will take place this Saturday, April 5 at the Town Ballroom. Some highlights include an appearance by Gord Downie, frontman of the Tragically Hip; Nashville-based singer/songwriter Jefferson Grizzard; Toronto-based soul singer Peter Elkas; and classic Buffalo bands like the Vores, Doctor Z and the Brothers Blue, After Hours, Bulletproof Claudia, Terry Sullivan, Gretchen Schultz, Cowboys of Scotland, and many more. On top of the outstanding lineup of national and local acts from past and present, Artie Kornfeld, co-creator of the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival and world-renowned music producer, will be on hand to MC the event. There will also be several auctions and raffles, door prizes, and rare rock memorabilia.
“It’s a tremendous tribute to Mary. The support has been overwhelming,” says Bruce.
As co-founder of Could Be Wild Productions with his partner Doug Dombrowski, Bruce was involved in the early successes of some legendary artists, including Melissa Etheridge, Rush, the Tragically Hip, Tom Petty, the Goo Goo Dolls, and of course U2.
“I had a massive heart attack in 2009. Bono was calling every day, asking how I was,” says Bruce. “He was the first one to call when he heard about Mary’s accident. He was on vacation in the French Riviera and [singer/songwriter] Willie Nile told his assistant that Mary had an accident. He called me from France and he was so very supportive.”
One of Mary’s long-time friends, Bud Redding, keyboardist and vocalist of experimental rock band Cowboys of Scotland, remembers Mary’s influence on his musical tastes. “All of the North Buffalo and Kenmore punks and new-wavers would hang out at Home of the Hits for hours listening to music and talking about bands,” he says. “I would go there every Friday afternoon after work and Mary would have some stuff set aside for me. She was the first person to turn me on to bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, New Order, the Cure, and countless others.”
Home of the Hits was born out of Play It Again Sam’s, a local head shop that opened in Buffalo in the 1970s. In 1982 Jennifer Preston bought the location at 1105 Elmwood Avenue from her brother and turned it into what would become a Buffalo musical institution known as Home of the Hits. Preston hired Mary Moser, who became the center of that institution, a scholar of all things underground. “The music bought there made a massive impact not only on the people who bought it but also on the music scene here in Buffalo,” wrote Donny Kutzbach of the Town Ballroom, in this paper’s obituary for Home of the Hits in 2006. Musician Terry Sullivan, who will be performing at Healing Mary Moser, remembers the record store similarly. “It was one of the only record stores that would carry underground original music. It was just a cool place,” says Sullivan, who has been in many successful bands including punk rock band the Restless. Bruce was instrumental in signing the Restless, to a major label deal with Mercury-Polygram records in the 1980s. That signing landed the band an opportunity to a record with producer Eddie Kramer, famous for his work with legendary acts ranging from Jimi Hendrix, to Kiss, the Rolling Stones, and even the Beatles. The Restless were considered a local super-group made up of Sullivan, the late Joe Bompczyk of the Enemies, session musician Guy Pelino, guitarist Bob James, and drummer Frank Luciano.
“I just want to mention one more thing about Mary,” Sullivan says, becoming audibly emotional. “She always had a smile on her face.”
That smile is probably what attracted Bruce. The two met at the record store, where Mary worked for about 15 years, more than three and a half decades ago. Now, after 30 years of marriage, Bruce is a retired and Mary is an employee of Family Help Center, where she has dedicated her life to helping others.
Now Mary requires some help, and hope, of her own.
“I didn’t witness this, but her therapist said she got her to laugh the other day. There was something on TV and she laughed,” says Bruce. “It’s tiny steps, but it’s hope.”blog comments powered by Disqus
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