KEY WEST, Fla. – Lou Reed left a lot of music and a lot of memories in his wake.
His death last week brought a lot of both back to the surface for Ellard-James “Moose” Boles.
Boles, who now plays bass and sings lead with the Bullet Proof Blues Band, plays a few times each week at clubs here. He said he loves it when Western New Yorkers stop by to chat.
A big man with a booming voice, his dark glasses, cowboy hat and a Harley shirt are part of his trademark. So are his colorful stories, including many about his rock ’n’ roll years in Buffalo. From his stool in the corner of the smoky tropical bar, Moose chats it up with his audience, sharing his stories about the roles Reed and others played in his career.
Boles played with the band Freeze in the late 1970s and performed at clubs including Mulligans, Patrick Henry’s and Mickey Rats.
His group backed up Gregg Allman, who lived in Buffalo at the time with his wife, Cher, for a benefit concert and then toured with him.
After several months with Allman and a good taste of Buffalo winters, Boles got an offer to go to California with Allman. “I turned it down because I was thinking that Freeze was going to get their own contract. We were finally going to get the break,” he said.
But Freeze melted. Boles took jobs as a bouncer and a stagehand working through producers Harvey & Corky Productions. Boles was setting up a concert for the band Triumph when he got a call from a producer about playing bass for Lou Reed.
“He said ‘Are you ready to show him you can play?’ ” Boles said. “I went to New Jersey and listened to 100 Lou Reed songs on cassette tapes.”
After three days, Boles said he was ready to go to meet Reed in person. He remembers Reed’s Lower East Side apartment in New York and how his first experience wasn’t even playing a Reed tune. “He asked me to play something by Marvin Gaye,” Boles said. “Then Lou asked me to go to a local bar and hang out.”
After their return, he finally had the courage to ask if he had the job. He did.
The trip to New York City from Buffalo was the first time he flew in a plane. Five days after his tryout with Reed, Boles was on the West Coast where he toured for about 70 concerts. He remembers being thrilled to have a roadie to himself. “First time I didn’t have to carry my own instruments,” Boles said.
His tour with Reed took him to Europe as well as around North and South America. He recorded with the band and is credited for playing bass, 12-string guitar and singing back-ups.
He and Reed became close friends. “I taught him to drive a standard (transmission) while we were in Germany working on a recording,” Boles said. The album was “The Bells.” He said Reed spoke to him before marrying his wife, Sylvia Morales. “And I looked at the house he bought in Jersey with him. We were pretty close.”
They had been talking again recently and kept in touch on Facebook. Both have had liver transplants and talked about the complications of the surgery.
“I was really down when I heard of his passing,” Boles said.
Boles said he’s not sure what his own future holds.
“Sometimes paradise can get to be too much,” he said.