East Bay Mudd Brings the Motown to Downtown

Brian Hough has a history with Pedrotti Ace

Brian Hough retrieves his trusty bass guitar and slowly plucks a catchy riff from “Express Yourself,” the 1970 funk hit by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Rhythm Band. The 73-year-old long-time Benician can’t help but smile. Some 22 years after a life-saving liver transplant, Hough is grateful his health and his musical ability remains intact.

“Just living the good life,” he says, granting an afternoon chat about the eagerly-awaited big post-Torchlight Parade performance July 3 with East Bay Mudd in celebrating Pedrotti Ace Hardware’s 100thanniversary. “I’m really looking forward to it,” Hough says of the Marina Green concert. “It’s probably been 10 years since we’ve played down there.”

Hiring Hough and his eight bandmates for the big show isn’t just a simple business transaction for East Bay Mudd and the Southampton Shopping Center hardware store.

As with Pedrotti Ace Hardware itself, Hough and Gene Pedrotti have a history. Hough was selling carpet in 1996 and approached Gene when he moved Pedrotti Ace Hardware from the former Dan’s Hardware on Fifth Street to its current location.

“I went in and gave him a bid,” Hough said. “I didn’t get the job.”  He did, however, connect with Pedrotti, who, 18 years later, hired Hough as a part-time store employee. Hough lasted from 2014 until he and several others were temporarily relieved of their duties when COVID hit in 2020. Though Hough got called back, he decided his non-musical employment days were over.

“I had a good time at Ace. I enjoyed it,” Hough says.

“A lot of the job was just stocking after the store closed at 6pm. I’d put earbuds in, crank up the music and for four hours, would have the time of my life. I called it ‘rockin’ and stockin’.’”

Through the years, Pedrotti attended several East Bay Mudd performances “and he would rave about us, saying we sounded ‘just like the record’” of whatever artist was featured, Hough says, reiterating how grateful he is at being The Chosen Band for Pedrotti Ace’s anniversary. “I was very happy when he asked me to do this. It’s going to be amazing,” Hough says.

Founded some 25 years ago by Ken Leach, East Bay Mudd was originally almost entirely Benicians. Now Hough is the lone local, though, he emphasizes, far from the only talent. “I appreciate everyone’s musicianship. They are all great players,” Hough says.

The rest of Mudd includes: guitarist Bob Cedro, the senior engineer at Dunlop Manufacturing in Benicia; keyboardist Cote Reece; baritone saxophonist Cookie Reece; drummer T Moran; vocalist Reco Kemp; trombone player Craig Bryant; sax player Michael Peloquin, and trumpet player Marcel Marchetti.  Hough has been with East Bay Mudd since 2003, though he wasn’t sure he would play again after the surgery in 2000. “Once I started feeling good, I asked myself, ‘Do I even want to be in a band anymore?’ or would I feel that it was enough? A friend of mine asked me to play with him and afterward I thought, ‘I want to keep doing this,’” Hough says. “I started practicing every night. I’d put on headphones and listen to a CD.”

Hough remembered his first step to joining East Bay Mudd, running into Leach, who asked the bass player to sit in for a local gig that week.  “I went in, did a one-nighter, and nobody’s told me to leave in 20 years,” laughs Hough. “I just keep showing up.”

And he keeps playing the music he loves: Classic soul from the 1960s and ’70s, with plenty of Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, and Stevie Wonder.  “Songs of that genre that people just like,” Hough says. “And if they know East Bay Mudd, they know the band will sound good.” Count on hearing Hough’s favorite from Tower of Power: “You’re Still a Young Man.” “I still get chills with the opening,” he says.

Nothing, however, could generate the adrenalin like getting back on the horse, with East Bay Mudd returning to rehearsing after months of COVID-related hibernation. “As I said, we’re really excited to do this for Gene,” Hough says. “Ace has been a Benicia fixture for so many years, we’re happy to be part of the 100th anniversary, though I can’t guarantee we’ll be available for the 200th.”