Max Mouse and the Gorillas are probably one of the best bands that you haven’t heard of. Described as "intense, original, country tinged blues and boogie, reggae, rock, and more," they spent the 70’s and early 80’s just enough outside the mainstream that they didn’t get a lot of radio play, but popular enough to pack both bars and dancefloors across the county. The band’s past – which began here at Trent – is a storied one that saw both the group and individual members working with a wide cast of Canadian music characters.
While they were capable of filling venues with a diverse audience, Max Mouse and the Gorillas also had a dedicated following that clamored for their unique blend of country-tinged blues, boogie, reggae, and rock.
Check out their 1982 video for "Stepping Out."
David Tough, co-editor of Electric City Magazine – and a darned fine musician in his own right – interviewed the Gorillas ahead of their annual Lakefield Animal Welfare Society benefit show and gives a brief history of the band (read the full article here). He looks back on those pre-Gorillas Trent moments:
JP [Hovercraft ‘71] and Cris [Cuddy ‘65] met at Trent University at the turn of the 70s. Cris had already made two albums as Jeremy Dormouse, beautifully bare, homemade albums on which his Roy-Orbison-meets-Fred-Neil voice and the voices of his various friends enjoyed minimal accompaniment. JP arrived at Trent from the US (“draft-dodger,” he coughs) looking for a musical gang, and quickly found one. “I was heading up the stairs to my dorm and I saw some people singing and playing guitars in the stairwell. I said, ‘Musicians, yay!’ I ran up the stairs and hauled my gear down again, and said, ‘Hi, can I sit in?’”
Those jam sessions were loose, friendly occasions, without any focused ambition. Dennis O’Toole, David Tingley ‘71, and various others were around sometimes, and other times others were around. Eventually a band with a stable line-up “fell together,” as Cris puts it, and took the name Bacon Fat.
TRENT Magazine editor Donald Fraser asked Hovercraft about that first meeting on the stairs.
“It was a wild time – an incredible time – the music actually went on until Dawn. I remember that David Tingly – an early Gorilla – was there. Wendy Davis was also at the jam. She’s living in BC now, not doing music any more, I don't think, but beautiful photography.”
During the late 80’s the band disintegrated as members worked on other project. Over the past few years, however, a new line-up has emerged. From Electric City:
These days the band features, besides Cris, JP and Buzz, Bobby Watson on lead guitar, Jim Leslie, the “King of the Jungle Drums,” and John “Johnny Homburg” Lang, the new guy, who spent the 70s in jazz fusion band Audiomaster, on keyboards. They enjoy each other’s company a lot, and they love the sound they make together. Playing music is “something we had to do, which is basically our whole careers, what we didn’t have enough sense not to do!”
Max Mouse and the Gorillas play the Red Dog Tavern on Sunday February 12, from 3 to 6pm. All proceeds go to Lakefield Animal Welfare Society. Tickets are available in advance for $10 at Moondance, and admission at the door is $12.
David Tough has been a constant on the Peterborough (and Canadian) music scene. Previously a member of the legendary beerhall orchestra, The Silver Hearts – and a frequent collaborator with the likes of Serena Ryder and Beau Dixon – he has also recorded a number of solo albums. When not making music, Dave is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Trent Community Research Centre, and a course instructor in Trent's Canadian Studies program. He recorded a feature interview for the #TrentVoices last year.