Omaha’s Timeless DuoJun 23, 2023 01:02PM ● By Michael Kelly
Photo by Bill Sitzmann.
(L to R) Nebraska Music Hall of Fame Inductees Greg Fox, Jay Buda, Fred Genovesi, Dan Morrissey, Lou Bozak, and Lloyd Brinkman comprise Bozak & Morrissey’s full ensemble.
Lots of duos have come and gone: Lennon and McCartney…Sonny and Cher…Kobe and Shaq…Simon and Garfunkel. As partners, they didn’t last. Nor did, say, Bonnie and Clyde…Mantle and Maris…Thelma and Louise.
But one pair who matched up in 1976 endures like milk and cookies, mashed potatoes and gravy, or peanut butter and jelly. Or like two other pals whose partnership dates to the mid-’70s, Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie.
Meanwhile on Dodge Street, it’s the singing, guitar-playing music-and-comedy team of Bozak & Morrissey.
“We’ve got a good thing here,” said Lou Bozak. “And we love Omaha.”
“We’re like brothers,” added Dan Morrissey. “We have our moments, but we’re as tight as can be. Lou is the godfather to my son.”
They perform danceable “oldies rock and roll” with their Bozak & Morrissey Band—in recent years, monthly at the Firewater Grille near 72nd and Grover streets on “Nostalgic Wednesdays.” That’s just the latest in their long list of venues, including more than a decade at the Ozone Lounge until its closure last year.
“A couple of years ago, a couple came out to the Ozone on their 35th wedding anniversary,” Bozak recalled. “Their first date was a Bozak & Morrissey gig. Those are the kinds of relationships we have—and the gratification we receive.”
For Bozak and Morrissey, it all started in their 20s when they auditioned for Galileo at the Omaha Community Playhouse. They hadn’t met, and both sought the role of “the monk,” whose job was to confront astronomer Galileo Galilei about his controversial views on the cosmos.
“I read for the part and got a callback,” Morrissey said. “Then this guy walks in and everybody starts fawning all over him: ‘Oooh, Louie!’ He got the part and I got four small roles, so of course I instantly hated him.
“We were put in the same dressing room, and I brought my guitar in for a minstrel role. Lou says, ‘So you play the guitar?’ I say, ‘No, I just carry one around.’ But we liked the same kind of music, and the approach to acting, and became friends.”
The director, Charles Jones, asked if they would warm up the cast in the Green Room, and on opening night they played 1950s doo-wop. The pair came up with something new each night, and at the end of the play’s run had polished a repertoire of 25 songs. Thus, Bozak & Morrissey was born.
They soon played at the Wine Cellar under the Firehouse Dinner Theatre (now the Upstream restaurant) in the Old Market. Their pay was whatever Lou’s sister collected at the door. They paid her $10, and on some nights, Morrissey confessed, “Mary Lou made more than we did.”
But they caught on and drew a following. The Wine Cellar ran ads in the Omaha World-Herald about their “songs of the ’50s and ’60s.” Some ads called them “zany.” With a humorous nod to his ancestry, Bozak sang a “Croatian Cowboy” parody of Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
They took a break in the late ’70s when Morrissey went to graduate school in California, but reunited and performed in a comedy shop at Oliver’s Back Alley, north of 93rd and Maple streets. In 1980 they formed their band with the Van Fleet brothers, Larry and Gary, appearing at the old Peony Park, Arthur’s Lounge, the Ranch Bowl, and elsewhere. They also entertained at private parties.
Morrissey and wife Kathryn met while working at Mutual of Omaha, and the band went on hiatus. But after 18 months, the musicians re-formed in 1986 for the “Nerd Prom,” adding lead guitarist Greg Fox. The ‘B&M Band’ has played ever since.
“Lou and Dan are both personable and have good chemistry,” said Fox, a founder of the popular Chevrons band in the ’60s. “They’re really good musicians, but sometimes it’s also like a standup routine—and the other four guys in the band are afraid of what they’ll say next! But they have that theatrical stage sense about them and it works.”
Before they became Bozak & Morrissey, Bozak and Morrissey each performed in plays and bands as teenagers; Lou graduated from Ralston High and Dan from Creighton Prep. In 1973, as a Creighton University student, Dan was pictured on the cover of The World-Herald’s Sunday magazine as Superman emerging from a phone booth.
The accompanying article mentioned both of them—Lou was at the University of Nebraska at Omaha—as part of a combined-schools “World of Jules Feiffer” revue. Three years later, they met at the Playhouse and the rest, as they say, is hysterical.
Each has lived a busy life, though, besides playing music. Bozak is a carpenter by trade, as was his father, and today works in business development and marketing for Paul Davis Restoration. He also performs separately with “Lou Bozak and Friends.” In the 1990s he played a lead role in Little Shop of Horrors, and a few years ago hit the floor for a local Dancing with the Stars fundraiser.
Morrissey owned an events and meetings company and served as president of the Omaha Sports Commission when it helped acquire the Olympic Swim Trials for the city. He also worked in marketing for College World Series, Inc. Earlier yet, he played rugby and ice hockey.
“Playing in a band is as close to a team sport as I’m going to get now,” he said. “Everybody has a role to play and knows his job. Egos get checked at the door.”
Besides Fox, other bandmates include: Jay Buda on keyboards, Lloyd Brinkman on drums, and Fred Genovesi on bass. All sing, and harmonies are part of their show. For all, performing is more than a hobby. Bozak said, “It’s just what we do.”
Through the years they have played at such venues as the Interlude Lounge, the Whiskey Roadhouse, the Mutual of Omaha Dome, Le Grille, Barry O’s, Pauli’s, the Happy Hollow Club, Fontenelle Forest (indoors), Village Pointe (outdoors) and even for the Aksarben Coronation. The year that UNO Chancellor Del Weber reigned as king, they feted him with “King of the Road.”
Dan and Lou often appeared at Arthur’s Lounge, 83rd and Dodge streets, and the Ranch Bowl, south of 72nd and Pacific (now the site of a Wal-Mart).
“It was so fun to go to Arthur’s,” Kathi Jensen reflected. “I’ve been following Bozak and Morrissey forever. They not only sing well and are so entertaining, but they are quick and funny.”
Arthur’s and the old Ranch Bowl stand out in B&M history.
“One of the things Lou and I are most proud of, is that we turned Arthur’s and the Ranch Bowl into the two premier live music venues in Omaha in the ’80s and ’90s,” Morrissey said. “We were essentially the ‘house band’ for both of those venues, which never had bands before, and built up a huge following—opening the doors for some other great bands to play there.”
The nutty buddies enjoy ragging on each other onstage.
“I’ll make fun of Lou’s foibles or his appearance,” Morrissey said. “And he’ll tease me about my baldness. It’s all in fun.”
Cheryl Wild Goodrich, who has danced to B&M at the Ozone and now at the Firewater Grille, said fans appreciate hearing the music of their youth.
“But what I love as much as their music is their humor and how crazy they are,” she said. “They can get offstage and engage the audience—especially Lou. It just gets to be a big party.”
“Lou is a big personality, as vibrant as can be,” Morrissey echoed. “In his head he’s still in his 20s, which comes across on the stage. He has an innate ability to connect with the audience.”
Having paired up in the ’70s, Bozak and Morrissey are now in their 70s. Both enjoy longevity in their genes. Lou’s parents lived to 92 and 96, and Dan’s mother to 103.
In 2020, Bozak & Morrissey were inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame. So how long will they continue to play?
“As long as the audience still likes us and we have a place to play and can have fun with it,” Morrissey said. “When it stops being fun, it will be time to call it quits.”
For now, it’s still great fun.