History of Boston Rock
Boston Tea Party opening weekend

There was once a time in Boston when no one had ever heard of a radio station hiring a local music director, when there was no Carter Alan, Russ Mottla or Deb Brady. In those golden days of Boston music, if you were in a rock 'n' roll band, a typical gig was either a grueling 8 set night, ( yes, that's 8) in the Combat Zone or a night traveling from one sock hop to another, playing a 3 song set at each party. And the money you got for your musical labors? The handsome sum of 3 dollars per band member plus gas money was the norm. In addition, there was no "Boston Scene," but merely scattered hot spots throughout Eastern Massachusetts. We are going to reel back time and take you through those years, traveling from the late'50s up to the present from disc jockey Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg and The Surf to Face to Face and Down Under. So get ready for the likes of...

Alan Freed Riots

May 3, 1958. The day rioting erupted outside the Boston Arena after an Alan Freed Rock 'n' Roll Show. Teenagers allegedly stoned and bottled police, although no arrests were made. Newspapers charged that stabbings, rapes and looting took place, and narcotics were involved. Freed was indicted under Massachusetts Anarchy laws and the indictment prompted his resignation from radio station WINS of New York.

Payola Trials

A trip down to Washington D.C. with WBZ's Dave Maynard (then of radio WCOP Boston) who testified in the 1960 Sen. Oren Harris subcommittee investigation of commercial bribery. Massachusetts Representative Tip O'Neill called for all Boston stations to be investigated.

Adventure Car Hop

A drive-in restaurant on Route 1 in Saugus which sponsored Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg's Night Train on WMEX and gave 2-for-1 "Woo Woo" burgers when you drove in and told them Arnie sent you. All part of the American Graffiti-esque Cruisin' days,

The Beatles' first visit to Boston

It's over to Hotel Madison with a 14-year-old Avon girl named Kathei Logue who dressed up, slipped her way past security with a fake press pass, and spent an adventuresome day with Rock 'n' Roll's "mop tops."

Club 47

The Harvard Square coffeehouse, which as Passim's recently celebrated its 25th anniversary although Club 47 actually closed its doors in April of 1968, held an important role in folk history. It hosted such well-known locals as the Jim Kweskin Band, Tom Rush, and the Charles River Valley Boys as well as the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie and more.

The Surf and its house band, the Rockin' Ramrods

The Nantasket Beach Rock 'n' Roll Club which was the stronghold for many local bands of the early '60s like Sha Na Na's sax player Lenny Baker in his first band, The Pilgrims. For its house band, the Surf chose the Rockin' Ramrods who recorded with Revere's Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon and opened for the Rolling Stones on their 1965 U-S, and Canadian tour.

LSD at Harvard

Harvard Professor Timothy Leary and friends began experimenting with Lysergic Acid. Some trips and LSD's profound effect upon the decade.

The T.A.M.I. Show

No, not WBCN's Tami Heide of the 2 to 6 night shift, but Phil Spector-financed documentary featuring James Brown, The Stones, The Beach Boys, and a classic performance by local garage legends Moulty and the Barbarians, led by Moulty whose hook replaced a hand which was lost making a pipebomb.

The Boston Tea Party

Boston's premiere psychedelic club, which broke virtually every English rock act of the late '60s in America and featured the era's best local acts, including Willie Alexander's The Lost and Peter Wolf's The Hallucinations. After moving to Lansdowne Street's present Metro/Spit site; The Tea Party closed in the early'70s.


On March 15, 1968 from a small dressing room in the Boston Tea Party, Peter Wolf and Mississippi Fats first broadcast rock 'n' roll on a then strictly classical music format FM station, making radio history.

Fort Hill's psychedelic guru Mel Lyman and his controversial newspaper, The Avatar

Considered by some to be Boston's answer to Andy Warhol. Followers included folkie Jim Kweskin (of the Jug Band) and other Boston music luminaries.

MGM/Verve's exploration of the "Bosstown Sound"

Some record executives saw dollar signs if they could build a "Bosstown Sound" to rival the success of the San Francisco Boom of 1967. It bombed miserably and destroyed some excellent up-and-coming Boston talent. It also kept major labels disinterested in Boston musicians for a few years.

James Taylor and Apple Records

Did you know that George Harrison and Paul McCartney played on James' "Carolina On My Mind?" From heroin to McLean's Mental Hospital to England. James Taylor was discovered by Peter and Gordon's Peter Asher and was signed to the Beatle's Apple Records in early '68. The rest is history.


A three-day Music and Air Fair on Max Yasgur's upstate N.Y. farm. 400,000 people arrived causing the promoters to declare it a free concert. Boston's Lenny Baker and Sha Na Na perform and are subsequently featured in the resulting film while local band Quill also plays a set on the festival's first day.


From a cramped Boston apartment, where they all lived, to the Boston Garden. Boston's Bad Boys make rock milestones.

The House of Reddy Teddy

Ten years too late to call it a commune. Matt MacKenzie, ringleader of local stars Reddy Teddy, ran a drop-in center in the mid '70s for the homeless and as the headquarters for one of Boston's most magical periods.

Live At The Rat

A review of Jim Harold's 2-record album collection (which goes for as much as $25 used in today's market) of the Rat's most exciting bands of '76-'77, including DMZ, The Real Kids, Mark Thor, Susan, Boize, and more.

Boston Babylon

Two years on the road with megapop Boston and the story behind the success of Polaroid's Tom Scholz. "More Than a Feeling" to the "Rockman".

The bittersweet national releases

Private Lightning, The Fools, New England, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, and Berlin Airlift.

A Recap of the Rock & Roll Rumble

The Neighborhoods, Pastiche, Someone & the Somebodies, 'Til Tuesday, The Schemers, with BCN's Local Music Director, Carter Alan.

The Recent signings

Rubber Rodeo, November Group, Face to Face, Del Fuegos and 'Til Tuesday.

And more, more, more

Including Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon, Bobby "Boris" Pickett, Jonathan Edwards, Billy Squier, the Cars and the entire family tree from 1956 to the present. Stay tuned.

This series originally appeared in The Beat Magazine throughout 1985-86.

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