I worked in the drug department of a retail store. One day I was talking to the Pharmacist, this older guy in his early- to mid-fifties. His name: Hilton Nelson. For some reason we got on a conversation about music and he mentioned that he played the saxophone and had been doing so for many years. Half jokingly, I asked if he wanted to play in the band I was in and half jokingly, he replied "yes."

At the time, Dark Side of the Moon was hot and as you know it contained a lot of sax. I saw an opportunity—a gimmick. I went to band practice and asked everyone, "I know this guy that could play sax.

 


Larry Bogush: Drums, Vocals

"How would you feel if we learned 'Money' and have him come up and play the sax part?" Bernie, Mark and Tom thought it was a cool idea. Now, they had no idea this guy was three times our age, and to me it didn't matter. If he could do it, he could do it. What did we have to lose? I went back to work the next day and asked Hilton if he was serious and he said yes.

 

I gave him a copy of the album (for you kids, albums were the big black plastic things that played music before CDs and iTunes) and the next day Hilton had not only learned "Money," but "Us and Them," as well. He was psyched! He even jokingly said he'd wear a wig to be part of the group.

 

After a few rehearsals, we had the number down. Now came the fun part…bringing Hilton together with the band. I knew this was going to be a trip. I got to practice early. The rest of the band was there, so we started to warm up. At one point Hilton arrived. Now you have to imagine, here were these four teenage kids—long hair, ripped jeans and this older guy comes walking in—twill pants up to his chest, white patent leather shoes, old man three-quarter coat and a totes rain hat. The whole group turns to me with puzzled looks on their faces. Mark whispers to me "Who is this…the guy's father?" "No man," I replied, "This is our sax player!"

 

The guys lost it. Hilton looks at me and asks if there's a quiet place to warm up. Tom points him to the opposite side of the room, where Hilton unpacks his sax and starts to play scales. The band is still in disbelief and trying hard not to laugh too much at this old man. Hilton turns to us and says "I'm ready, let's give it a try."

 


Larry posing with his chrome-plated drum set

We start the song and Hilton begins to wail! The band starts playing better. It sounds great! After the first run through Hilton transcended from old man to cool sax player! We all started talking the universal language of music. It was no longer a 52-year-old guy and four teenagers. It was five musicians with respect for each other. We were ready to do the gig! The evening of the show, we had a good crowd—about 350+ people. It was a perfect summer night. We went through our first set and now it was time to bring Hilton on stage. Mark introduces him as "Hurricane" Hilton Nelson. He walks on stage, dressed in his Sunday best!

 


"Hurricane" Hilton Nelson and Larry backstage

The audience has the same reaction the guys in the band had the night of the first rehearsal—puzzled, curious and laughing. We launch into the song and the minute Hilton started playing, the crowd went wild. When we finished the song the crowd jumped to their feet and gave him a standing ovation! He had a smile on him like you wouldn’t believe. Ear to ear!

He was a star! People were coming up to him and talking to him. He left the show like the president, smiling, shaking hands! It was unbelievably uplifting. I have to believe Hilton had a story he could tell for the rest of his life. At 52, Hilton was a rock star!

       
   
 
 

On the name of the Band:

I'm sorry this story is not that interesting. When I was younger I used to spend hours at Bernie's home drawing cartoons. We would always develop these original characters.

Once, I drew this big fat guy with long hair, sunglasses and a pig nose. Bernie asked me his name and I blurted out, "Mortimer Snerd." It just rolled off the tongue.

Years later, I saw the W.C. Fields movie, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break and it co-starred Edgar Bergen, a ventriloquist. He had two dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. There you go!

My band, More to Come, had just broken up and the name sounded passé. So when I started with Bernie and Dave Plewa, I felt we needed a new name.

I was very much into Jethro Tull and there were many other name bands out at the time—Uriah Heep, Mott the Hoople, etc. So I figured a name was the way to go. I remembered Mortimer Snerd and suggested the name to the guys and it clicked!

I told you, not exciting.

Favorite bands then:

Bad Company, Mott the Hoople, the Who, Jethro Tull, Sparks. Tom turned me on to Bowie, Genesis and Brian Ferry. Bernie inspired me to rediscover the Beatles, and introduced me to the pop song. And through Mark I discovered KISS and Queen.

Favorite bands now:

Neil Finn, Beck, Porcupine Tree, Black Crowes, & Bowie and I still love old Jethro Tull. I am also following the Killers, Gorillaz, Head Automatica, Living Things, Arcade Fire, Nada Surf, Death Cab for Cutie, O.A.R., My Chemical Romance and a few others.

Memories:

Playing for 1200 people at St. Joes in Metuchen.

Having a huge riot break out during a show at Hoffman High School, South Amboy as well as during a show at a Sayreville Block Dance.

Doing the big KISS Show at the Sayreville Jr. High.

Playing OLV with the 3-piece Snerd.

Life after Snerd:

After Snerd, I got more into the technology of music. I wrote and recorded a lot and didn't care much for playing live.

I have the distinction of being turned down by every record company in the universe, three times, including a prized rejection letter from John Lennon’s office.

After a while, I got back into it (albeit with a lot of hesitation) I joined the revolving door band Whisper for a few years. I learned to play guitar (although it can be debated) and I still write and play.

I Started my own business, traveled all over the world, worked in forty other countries and 40 of the 50 States, and almost died a few times—in a Force 4 tornado in Tennessee, a plane mishap in Tokyo, heart surgery, a car jacking, and the scariest of all, fathering two daughters!