HUDSON — With a face bedecked in black grease paint reminiscent of rock bands like KISS, Rusty Ellison took a swig from his beer and greeted old friends as they wished him luck.
“You’ve got this, Rusty!” several leather-clad motorcyclists called out as they purchased biker swag and tossed dollar bills into the donation bucket by the stage at Venom Saloon.
It was an event that was years in the making. Ellison was coached by band mate and Guinness World Record Holder, Russ Prager, who achieved his third World Record at Quaker Steak and Lube in Clearwater in October 2013 for marathon drumming, to set a world record himself: playing the bass guitar for at least 24 hours straight.
Ellison was only allowed to play to prerecorded tracks, with no repeated songs within a four-hour period. He received a five-minute break for every hour that he played, and several sets of “spotters” were required to witness the events to confirm to Guinness World Record officials.
There was only one caveat Ellison required to attempt the record. The event had to raise money for charity, specifically for Florida Bikers Helping Florida Bikers, a nonprofit group that helps sick and injured bikers, provided the accidents weren’t because of their own neglect.
“The first people to help a family and children are bikers, plain and simple,” Ellison said.
Ellison, 45, a father of four, is a full-time musician and avid biker, although he no longer owns a motorcycle for financial reasons.
“School supplies and stuff like that are a little more important than a bike,” Ellison said.
Ellison has played in many bands and music projects through out the years, inluding the Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, Hanson, Natalie Merchant, Chopp Devize, Urban Rose, Scarlet Rose, Peter Lemongello, Dirk Daniels, DJ Immortal and others.
Ellison can play every bass instrument and focused on the tuba in high school and college. He got a degree in musical technology with minors in piano and bass guitar from Broward College, then opened a recording studio nearby and was a drama teacher for Curtain Call Playhouse, a nonprofit theater company.
On Friday, April 4, after performing with Black Sun Circus, Ellison took off his top hat shortly before midnight and slapped a skull-covered baseball cap on his head. He sat down in an office-style swivel chair and quietly began his marathon bass record attempt. Some of his fans swaddled themselves in blankets and stretched out on lawn chairs in front of the stage to watch.
The night stretched on as Ellison continued to play, his face looking as though he were in deep thought. Venom Saloon shut down and most people went home on bikes for a few hours of shut-eye before coming back to cheer on Ellison.
Night turned into day and back into night again before Ellison reached his final minutes of playing. In the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, April 6, Ellison strummed his last chord at 25 hours and one minute of bass playing, setting the record.
Over the years, Ellison has helped raise thousands of dollars for various organizations such as The Red Cross, Homeless of Pasco, Kids in Distress, and American Veterans. The several shows he plays weekly up and down the west coast of Florida not only pay his bills but helps families in his community.
“He donates to everybody,” said Daryl Bailey from Peanut Patch, one of the event’s sponsors. “He helps everybody.”
Black Sun Circus will hold another benefit June 14 for Florida Bikers Helping Florida Bikers in Brooksville. The band hopes to set another world record in the next year for “a Marathon Jam” as a group. Prager will also attempt another drumming world record later this year.
“We’re breaking records for charity,” Ellison said.
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