Marc Mosby is probably best known for co-founding the reggae band The Instigators. The Instigators were understood to be the first mainland-based reggae band in the Florida region. During the 80’s, when reggae was experiencing more popular consumption in the US, Marc and his band were riding the wave. But unlike the men and women who birthed the styles of ska, rocksteady, and, ultimately, reggae, Marc was not of the Caribbean. He isn’t even from Florida. And his path to reggae styled music almost seems unlikely.
The Beginnings of Marc Mosby, Musician
Marc Mosby grew up in the mid-west in the 50’s and 60’s. And like most young boys of that day, he became enamored with rock-n-roll music. When the British Invasion hit with the Beatles’ first US tour in 1964, Marc recalls, “I just liked the sound of what they were doing. I liked the way that the girls screamed when they played.” Marc let’s out a short, gravelly laugh and with a shrug in his voice says, “I was a teenager, I was 15.” This period seems to have lit the fuse for Marc because by the end of 1964 he had an electric guitar and a high school rock-n-roll band.
As the 60’s rolled on, the American rock culture absorbed more and more influences. Jazz, hard rock, R-n-B, and Latin flavors were just some of the music customs & lifestyles that rock adopted or spawned. For Marc, it was folk rock music. By 1967 Marc’s parents divorced, he had moved from Cincinnati to Florida’s Vero Beach and back again, and graduated high school. Wherever he went, he had a band and was playing rock n roll covers. Then he got turned on to the lyrical mastery of Bob Dylan. “He was my guiding light for the next couple of years,” he recalls, “I sold my electric guitar and bought an acoustic.” Focusing heavily on the folk/rock culture of music, Marc began writing his own music in 1968. He had evolved into a hippie.
Sarasota, Appalachia, Los Angeles, and Back Again.
With family ties in Sarasota, Florida, Marc helped his father move there in 1972. He fell in love with the area. “Sarasota was really a cute town then, especially Siesta Key,” he remembers, “there were all these kids havin’ fun, it was real different from anything I’d ever been used to.” Thus he made the Suncoast his home in his early 20’s. “There was really a quite lively blues scene” he remembers, “There were really some good blues players here. I was just blown away at how good they were.” And while he appreciated the caliber of blues musicians he heard, he continued with his folk rock music pursuits.
For the next decade, Marc did a lot of exploring musically and geographically. While in Sarasota, his folk music led to a country rock band which ended up turning him and his musical compadre, Fred, on to bluegrass. This love affair with bluegrass inspired them to move to the Blue Ridge Mountains to study and play bluegrass. For years, Marc dug into that life. He had a small farm, a horse, a hash pipe business, and a bluegrass band. What more could he want? Safety.
Apparently, family feuds were still common in the area. Marc, finding himself closer to an Appalachian conflict than was comfortable and not wanting to worry about his mortality, was looking for a way out. The gods must have been paying attention because Marc received a phone call. It was from an old music partner who was living in Los Angeles. “Marc, let’s get the band back together,” he said. Without hesitation Marc and Fred packed up and moved to L.A. in 1976.
Gettin’ Run Outa Town
It took less than a year of living and playing out there for Marc to realize California wasn’t for him and he wasn’t for California. In fact, he and his band were “run out of town” by the sheriff. It was in an old gold mining town in northern California. “They keep the towns like they used to be,” Mark told me, “you know, for tourists.”
Thinking they could make some good tips they set up in a saloon. “We’re in there just wailin’ away, everybody’s dancin’,” he says, “they’re up on the tables havin’ a wonderful time and in comes these two sheriffs.” He recounts how the sheriff asks the band to quit playing for a second and says, “I’m gonna have to ask you guys to get outa town.” Marc, laughing now,tells the rest of the story, “You see, most of these people are armed,” he remembers the sheriff saying, “and we have no idea if the bullets are blanks or not. If they keep goin’ on like they’re goin’ on now, it’s not a healthy situation.”
This was one of his favorite memories of being a musician.
From Bluegrass to Reggae?
After being run out, Marc and Fred return to Sarasota in 1977. Getting yet another band back together, they start up the country rock gig again. For the next few years, Marc is living the life: playing music, partying, and having a good time. In the early 80’s, he started hearing reggae music. “whoa, this is nice,” Marc remembers thinking, “this is really fun. So, we started The Instigators.”
Over the course of the next decade, the Instigators would become the southeast’s original reggae favorite. Building a good name for themselves, they toured the southeast playing with reggae legends like Steel Pulse, Jimmy Cliff, and King Sunny Ade.
In addition to Marc Mosby on vocals, The Instigators also included at various times Frank Dziedziak on bass, Alfred Pacheco and Jess Hoover on drums, Richie Kicklighter on guitar, Richard Vinton on keyboards, Jim Fairs and Tom Vinton on synthesizer, Steve Gould on vocals and sax, and the late Willie Royal on violin.
A True Child of the 60’s
Today, Marc is still kickin’ around the Sarasota area. He plays music when he can, works when it’s available, and paints. A bit of a technophobe, Marc doesn’t trust modern technology. As a result, he’s a hard guy to find with out email, a modern cell phone, or much of a web presence to speak of. Still, Marc’s contribution to this area’s music culture should not go unrecognized or undocumented. If you get a chance, buy Marc Mosby a cup of coffee and listen to his stories for an hour. It’s a fun ride.