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Earth Opera
Earth Opera

History of Boston Rock
     History of Boston Rock & Roll - Chapter 14 - The Bosstown Sound - Part 3

We're sorry, but to break down the tales of the bands of the Bosstown Sound is not only repetitive, but downright depressing. If you would like to find out more about the Sound in further detail, buy the book.

As the final conclusion, "The best part of the Bosstown Sound were the names."
- John Lincoln Wright - Beacon Street Union

Tangerine Zoo, Ultimate Spinach, Eden's Children, Phluph, Puff.... the list goes on.

Peter Rowan, vocals and guitar, played his songs with David Grisman, mandechello and mandolin together, they journeyed to the Boston Be-In and discovered John Nagy, bass, who introduced them to Bill Stevenson, piano, organ, vibes and harpsichord, from the icy North. They all practiced very hard and made this recording with the performance of Bill Mundi and Warren Simth, drums and percussion, then they met Paul Dillon, who has come to be known as the drummer's best friend. And that completed and began EARTH OPERA."

Earth Opera
- Elektra 1968

Wayland, MA native Peter Rowan played in a country rock outfit in his high school days. After a two year stint at Colgate University, he split to Nashville to reap the rewards of his musical endeavors. His guitar and vocal abilities caught the attention of country legend Bill Monroe, whose Blue Grass Boys Rowan became a fixture of. In early 1967, in search of his own identity, he headed home to Boston.

Multi-instrumentalist David Grisman ventured over to Greenwich Village from his Hackensack, N.J. birthplace, circa 1964. There he took up residency with the Even Dozen Jug Band which featured, among others, John Sebastian and Maria D'Amato.

1965 brought Grisman to San Francisco where he met and befriended the Dead's Jerry Garcia. In 1967 he received a call from Rowan who requested his presence in Beantown. Grisman went. Drummer Bill Mundi, whose resume included the L.A. Philharmonic and the Mothers of Invention (Absolutely Free, We're Only In It for the Money) soon followed

Hounsome's and Chambre's Rock Record charts percussionist Warren Smith as The Warren Smith of Sun Records. Bassist John Nagy was of Boston descent. Bill Stevenson on keyboards.

Elektra, veering over from the Cambridge scene, liked what they saw and signed them up for a couple of albums. The release unfortunately coincided with the March 1968 MGM releases. The self-titled album mixed wonderfully folk, rock, jug band, classical, country and jazz, not into different songs, but into every cut. Four cuts placed regionally: The Red Sox Are Winning (with its eerie KILL THE HIPPIES fan chant over a Fenway ovation). Time and Again, Dreamless, and When You're Full of Wonder.

The music cuts it throughout but Rowan's whining can get obnoxious, saved only by his beautiful melodies. At the tail end of 1968, the follow-up The Great American Eagle Tragedy marked the end of the band's stay. A critically acclaimed US/Canada tour wasn't enough to keep the spirit going. The band split up. Their futures were all successful. Keep an eye out for their names in upcoming issues.

The True Adam and Eve Story

In the wake Of Cream and Hendrix sputtered Eden's Children. Bassist Larry Kiley was attending Northeastern University, originally a guitarist who turned to the bass to fill a vacuum in a local gig. Cleveland born Jimmy Sturman was training for the life of business at Boston's Babson College. When something was rumbling under in Boston, a friend of theirs flew to Colorado to drag back a North Carolinian, Richard Sham Schmamuk who brought with him a satchel full of songs. The results were two albums on ABC under the direction of producer Bob Thiele. The self titled Eden's Children showed room for improvement. And the follow-up was a raver but paled in comparison to Clapton and Hendrix's.

Etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. Only the names change.

Who's On First

In 1966, the independently wealthy Kansas City born eccentric, Ray Riepen, arrived in Boston to collect a diploma from Harvard Law School's Master's Program. A family friend, Jessie Benton, daughter of American artist Thomas Hart Benton, needed a favor. In order to marry Kweskin Jug Band alumnus Mel Lyman, she needed to dispose of her current husband. When the process was completed, Riepen was rewarded with Mel Lyman's lease for a 53 Berkely Street synagogue then known as the Moon Dial. Lyman had since settled on Fort Hill in the heart of Roxbury where he had purchased a fair amount of soon to be valuable property for his commune.

What began as a cinematique for underground films, primarily New York pop artist Andy Warhol, soon became the Boston Tea Party, Boston's answer to the Fillmore East. In the second week of January, 1967, Riepen and partner David Hahn opened the Tea Party with what was to be one of the last performances of Willie Alexander's band, The Lost.

Peter Wolf's Hallucinations became a permanent fixture. Wolf, nee Blankfield had been enrolled at the Museum of Fine Arts circa 1965. He quit painting after he got involved with a drunken lam session when an inebriated Paul Shapiro couldn't remember the words to G.L. Crockett's The Man Downstairs. The band included Stephen Jo Bladd (drums), Doug Slade (bass.)

Fellow Law Grad Steve Nelson served as talent director. This is the ground work of an important era. The story expands.

Elsewhere 1967

WBZ was THE station under the direction of Al Heacock, an open-minded programmer who often got heat from Westinghouse for his liberal stance. The all-star dj line up included Dick Summer, Jay Dunn, Jeffersonson Kaye, Bob Kennedy and Ron Landry.

WRKO was being programmed from L.A. by Bill Drake. The tight format 40 song rotation was an attempt to boost its ratings. The formula was less talk, short station promo jingles, fewer ads and the non-stop Much More Music. It worked because it held my attention as a kid in suburban Boston.

Jonathan Edwards' band Sugar Shack arrived from Ohio, soon to be taken under the wings of Castle Music.

Willie Alexander's The Lost made a transition from Grass Menagerie to the two tone, do-wop Bagatelle.

Chevy Chase, the comedian, not the city in Maryland, was in town for a short stint with Chameleon Church.

Canned Heat's Blind Al Wilson was Boston born, bred, schooled and bluesed. The band performed at the January 18, 1967 Pop Festival in Monterey, CA.

La Donna Andrea Gaines was the lead singer and only black in a regular Psychedelic Supermarket (now the Nickelodeon Cinema) act, CROW. She split, after acquiring a healthy drug problem, to Germany, in 1968. She became Donna Summer, Roxbury's own disco sex symbol.

James Taylor was in England on the verge of being signed by Peter Asher (Peter and Gordon) to Apple Records.

Bonnie Raitt was a blues hit in Cambridge.

Arlo Guthrie (who did his first gig ever at Club 47) was riding high on a tale about an adventure in Stockbridge, Massachusetts titled Alice's Restaurant.

This article originally appeared in The Beat in 1985
(c) Charles William White III

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