The Stones and Boston

Kevin White, the rock and roll mayor

Kevin White, the rock and roll mayor

I wasn’t much in the mood to work on the blog — or anything else — last week. But today I want to share the greatest Rolling Stones story about Boston. This was initially meant to be a little sidebar in 50 Licks but it grew into an entire chapter. This happened during the riots of 1972, possibly the worst week in Boston until this past week, notwithstanding October 20-27, 1986.

Here’s how it all went down:

One of the Stones most memorable run ins with the law happened on the ‘72 Tour.

Robert Greenfield: Again, we’re back in the times. Boston is under siege. It has undergone three days of race riots and the entire police department is deployed in the ghetto.

Steve Nazro: My boss Eddie Powers, who was president of the Boston Garden, wanted to see me in the office. He said, “The Stones, because of the fog, could not land in Boston, and they were diverted to Green Airport in Rhode Island.

Robert Greenfield: Andy Dykeman, the photographer for the local rag is there taking pictures . Mick and Keith are standing there waiting for their bags. Andy’s too close, snapping photos. Keith said, “Get the fuck out of here man.” For whatever reason Keith doesn’t take kindly to Andy Dykeman’s response. . .”Fuck you” and he smashes Andy’s camera. Andy called the police, and they come and they put the grip on Keith. Now Mick, he’s not going to let Keith get arrested without him getting arrested. So Mick makes enough trouble, enough shit that they have to arrest him too.

Peter Rudge: One minute I’m going through the yellow pages of the Rhode Island airport trying to look for a bail bondsman to get us out of there, then the next I remember the Mayor calling me saying “Peter, I have a city on fire. The Stones have got to get here or there’s going to be a full scale riot.” I said, “Do what you can to help us. We can’t get Keith out. We can’t move. We’re trapped here.”

Robert Greenfield: Mick and Keith are fucking delighted because they have immunity. They know that they’re supposed to be in Boston Garden starting a show at 8 o’clock at night and everything these cops do to fuck this up is going to come back to them. Now we get the Stones lawyers. One thing about the Stones, they are lawyered up with guys that are so powerful they only have to make two phone calls. Peter Rudge is having a mental breakdown.

Don Law: At that point, I got a call from Peter Rudge who said, “We really screwed up this time. Keith kicked a photographer. The police hauled him off to jail.” I said, “You should sit tight. We’re going to see if we can get you out of there because we’re not going to give up the show.” So we got on the phone and we started calling people.

Mike Martinick: I was standing fairly close up to the stage. It was stiflingly hot and very humid. The smell of sweat, sandalwood and marijuana just permeated the place.

Steve Nazro: Stevie Wonder had already played. There was a break and people hadn’t been notified yet. They asked Stevie Wonder to play again, and he did.

Robert Greenfield: We now have 18,000 stoned, angry, long haired white kids, who can’t get home and would probably like to break a few windows and set fire to a few buildings in downtown Boston…

Don Law: One of the people we called was Kevin White who then was able to call the Governor of Rhode Island, who reached back to the police station and said, “We have a public safety issue. You have to release these guys.” And that got them out and they sent them up with an escort to the Garden.
Robert Greenfield: Kevin White, in what I still believe to be an extraordinary act, walked out on stage. The crowd reaction was “Fuck you!”

White would come to be known as “The Rock and Roll Mayor.”

Don Law: Kevin White, who still had serious national political aspirations, came out said, “My city is in turmoil tonight and I need to pull the police out of here. But I have bad news: The Rolling Stones were fogged out of Boston, had to land in Rhode Island, and were arrested.” The whole place boos. Then Kevin White said, “But I called and we’ve gotten them out and they are on their way.” There was so much cheering it was like the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. The problem of course was we then had a couple hours to waste while they made the trip up.

Robert Greenfield: The Stones are famous for being late; they never go on stage on time. Everybody knows this. For a while Chip Monck is stalling, reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull to the crowd.

Don Law: We wound up getting things to throw around: Frisbees, footballs, beach balls. Nobody got thrown out.

Peter Rudge: We got into the old Boston Garden and they announced “The Stones are here”. Everybody just went crazy. It was just something amazing.

Steve Nazro: I was most impressed by the fact that we had no arrests. Everybody had paid to see the Rolling Stones and by God they were going to see the Rolling Stones. It took close to an act of God, but things worked out. Watching the show, you’d never know there was something wrong. They were magnificent; they were energetic; they played to the crowd; they gave a wonderful repartee back and forth. I was never a big Stones fan before then but I became a Stones fan that night

Mike Martinick: They released an atomic bomb of a show. One of the highlights of was an incandescent rendition of “On Down the Line.” To bring the whole thing full circle, many years later I was at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and I happened to notice…Kevin White. I said, “Mr.Mayor, you don’t know me, but years ago I was at the Rolling Stones show when you got them out of jail. You made that show happen.”

Don Law: Kevin White was in his glory and I remember the next night, the Stones sent Kevin a personally signed poster which he prized and had prominently displayed.

You can see the poster on page 160 of the book. Disappointed I didn’t post it here? C’mon, man, I can’t give the whole book away for free. But here’s a hot “All Down the Line from Texas on the ’72 Tour.

On This Date in Rock History, Ronnie Wood Joined the Rolling Stones


Here’s an edited excerpt from 50 LICKS.

When the Stones were looking for a replacement for Brian Jones, young Ron Wood was among the possibilities after he was let go by The Jeff Beck Group. Ron had a passing acquaintance with The Stones and recalled a visit with them in 1968:

Ron Wood: “I went to Olympic Studios in London when they were doing Beggar’s Banquet and I saw little odds and ends going down and I was very impressed then. And I met Brian then. Nicky Hopkins introduced me to Brian and I used to think he was a very nice character, very outlandish, he was wearing all these brilliant colored clothes and floppy hats, feather boas and I used to think, ‘Christ this guy gets away with murder.’ He was a great character.”

brian jones

So, if he’d been invited, would Ron Wood have joined the Rolling Stones? We’ll never know. Here’s why:

Ron Wood: “I must put in another bit here. . .before the Small Faces started with Rod and myself in the lineup, Ronnie Lane very nicely said no to the Stones before they got Mick Taylor because apparently they’d asked me then but I knew nothing about it. Ronnie Lane said, ‘No, Ronnie won’t do it. He’s gonna stay with us.”

“That was thanks to Ian Stewart, occasional member of The Stones, and he’s like the old sixth Stone going back many years. He said, ‘Why don’t you get this guy Ronnie Wood. Let’s give him a try.’ So he rang up Laney (who) said no on my behalf. I don’t blame him. I had a fantastic time with The Faces. And chronologically everything took it’s own form and shape.”

Years later, after Mick Taylor left the band, the Black and Blue sessions became the Great Rolling Stones Lead Guitar Search. Just think if Simon Cowell had been making shows in 1975. . .

To no one’s surprise, Ron Wood was once again high on the Stones’ wish list. But they didn’t just give him the gig.

Keith Richards: “Black and Blue was auditions for guitar players. That’s why you’ve got three or four tracks with Wayne Perkins and two or three tracks with Harvey Mandell and at the end, it was one of those weird coincidences that seem to happen with us all the time that just as we were desperately looking for another guitar player, an English player, because that’s what we are. Wayne Perkins is a lovely guitar player, [but] we’re an English rock ‘n’ roll band and we just had to own up that there’s something about having an American guy that we’re just not common in our upbringing and our culture that would eventually widen…And Woody came in and the Faces just happened to break up at that very moment.”

Ron Wood: “At the time they were also recording Black and Blue with Harvey Mandell and Wayne Perkins, and Jeff Beck had come and gone, and Eric Clapton had been approached. All kinds of things were going on. I still get ribbed by Eric Clapton. He says to me, ‘I could have had that job, you know.’ I say, ‘Ah no, sorry Eric, you haven’t got the personality.’ I just rib him about it. Basically, the Stones wanted to remain an English rock n roll band. Eric was already successful in his own right. All the other lovely English guitarists like Jimmy Page, they were doing their own things. When I finally did join, they all expressed that they were really rooting for me and they said that they were really pleased that I did it.”

So when did it all happen?

Ron Wood: “I had said to Mick, only ring me if you get desperate. They’d been trying all these guitarists, Stevie Marriott, all the ones I said -even more…When I was ill after one of the Faces tours, I was bed-ridden in LA. I was really feeling down. The phone rings and it’s Mick. And he says, ‘Woody, remember what you said about getting desperate?’ And I said,‘Well, I see. I’m going back to England when I get better so I’ll call by and see you in Munich.’ And he says ‘OK then,’ and then I went there and I cut Hey Negrita and a couple of other tracks for Black and Blue. And they checked me into the hotel in Munich sandwiched between Harvey Mandel on the left and Wayne Perkins on the right. So it was like a whole string of guitarists. I walked in the studio and Charlie says to me ‘Christ, out of all these guitarists who’ve walked in here, Woody walks in he starts bossing everybody around, we’ll do this that and the other.’ It was no surprise to him that I did get the job just because I was a man after their own heart. Another silly Englishman.”

There was still one last obstacle to hurdle before total commitment to The Stones became possible:

Ron Wood: “At the time, Rod still hadn’t folded up the Faces. So I still didn’t say that I was joining. I said ‘I’ll do your ’75 American tour, I’d love to, but before that I have to do a Faces tour and straight after it, I’ve got to do another one.’ So that year I played like three horrendously big tours. I said to Peter Rudge, ‘If you don’t get me in The Guinness Book of World Records for the most overlooked person who has played in front of more people than anyone in one year…’”

The definitive word about the transition from Mick to Woody comes from Keith, though. Of course it does.

Keith Richards: “I’ll tell you the difference between playing with them two. The roles were much more fixed. With Mick [Taylor], either I was going to play lead on one number and that was accepted as that, or Mick would which is what he was good at. And when somebody is as good as Mick Taylor, they tend to not realize how good they are and they tend to desperately want to get into other things, they want to sing, write songs, produce. Which is what Mick wanted to do, wants to do and probably eventually will do. At the moment he hasn’t done anything. Everything that he’s done since he still could have done and stayed with us. I’m sure it will eventually in perspective it will fall into place and probably a period to turn things over to do what he wants to do next.

“While he was with the Stones he very much got into playing drums, playing piano, playing bass. Almost like Brian did. Once they got to a point with an instrument, very much didn’t even realize how good they were at what they were doing and rather would learn all those other things whereas with Ronnie there seems to be more of a knowledge of what we can do, what we’re good at and how we can play together. It’s Super-Sympathetic, whereas with Mick it was sympathetic. It was quite a rigid role to play, much more so than with Ronnie where we can cross lead to rhythm backwards to forwards in a number.”

Muddy Waters, The Painter

muddywaterspaintingWelcome to the blog for my book 50 Licks: Myths and Stories From Half A Century of The Rolling Stones. A couple of weeks ago on here, we talked about rock and roll urban legends. Last week we talked about Muddy Waters. Today we merge the two topics. Because, of course, there is a Rolling Stones rock and roll urban legend about none other than Muddy Waters.

On their first tour of America, the Stones got their chance to visit Chess Studios. They were in need of a boost. Their tour wasn’t going exceptionally well (the whole story is in the book on page 28). They recorded fourteen tracks in two days, including “It’s All Over Now.” Famously, Keith Richards insists he saw none other than Muddy Waters himself up on a ladder painting the ceiling! The implication being that the Chess brothers were such cheapskates that they put the talent to work in other ways as well.

Marshall Chess: I’ve laughed in his face many times as he’s insisted he saw Muddy up a ladder with a paint brush in hand. I guess people want to believe that it’s true.

Keith Richards: Marshall was a boy then; he was working in the basement. And also Bill Wyman told me he actually remembers Muddy Waters taking our amplifiers from the car into the studio. . .I know what the Chess brothers were bloody well like – if you want to stay on the payroll, get to work.

[Chess Producer] Norman Dayron: Marshall is right, Keith is wrong. And if Muddy Waters was helping carry anybody’s amplifiers – which isn’t likely – he was doing it out of courtesy.

Buddy Guy: I was the new guy. If anybody would have been painting the ceiling, it would have been me.

OK, so that’s Keith on one side, Marshall, Norman and Buddy on the other. Sorry, Keith, you lose. We’re going to put this one in the MYTH column. But there’s no doubt it’s a funny story/image and there’s a reason it’s persisted, even if mostly in Keith’s imagination

Marshall Chess: It says something about how unfashionable the blues had become at that time. By ’64 nobody really wanted to know. White people had never bought blues records. The audience had always been black. A new generation of black people looked down on the blues. They saw it as slavery music. Instead they were listening to Motown and Stax. It was bands like The Stones and The Yardbirds who introduced the blues to a white market.

Keith Richards: The most bizarre part of the whole story is we turned American people back on to their own music. And that’s probably our greatest contribution.


One From the Vault: Tom Harkins Interviews Pete Fornatale in 1994

K-Rock’s Pete Fornatale – Much More Than a CD Babysitter
(Originally written as a “Personality Profile” class assignment for Dr. Yvonne Stam at Kingsborough Community College’s Journalism and Print Media Program in 1994.)

By Thomas Edward Harkins

Since the day he first manned the microphones at Fordham University and projected his friendly voice forth in search of an audience, Pete Fornatale has been a familiar, comforting presence on the New York City airwaves. From his professional debut at WNEW FM 102.7 in 1969, Fornatale has provided an escape for his listeners, in four hour increments, as he’s guided them through an often tumultuous quarter century that has seen six presidents, two Woodstock festivals, two “wars”, thousands of albums, concerts, benefits, bands, and more births and deaths than anyone cares to remember. Through it all, Fornatale, and the music that he loves, grew and prospered.

One of Fornatale’s first professional radio assignments was a commercial for the original Woodstock festival. Listening to that voice from the vault today, one can hear that although the cheerfulness has remained, the youthful exuberance of the summer of ’69 has been replaced with the seasoned veteran’s knowledge and wisdom. Pete, as mellow as he’s always seemed, has mellowed further still with experience. At 49, Fornatale is much more than a disc jockey. He is a devoted husband and father of three upstanding and personable sons. His wife, Susan, is a schoolteacher who is as devoted to her work as Pete is to his. He is a thrice-published author, a lecturer, as well as a board member and lifelong devotee of Harry Chapin and Bill Ayres’ charity organization, World Hunger Year. He is also one of the most vocal proponents for the preservation of folk music in the country.

Spending time relaxing with his family is every bit as important to Fornatale as his work, and that is where we spoke with him last. We were sitting in a second floor room of his sister-in-law’s home in Port Washington, Long Island. Laughter and good smells came wafting up the stairs as his large family gathered in anticipation of their traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The irony and pressure of interviewing a man who makes his living interviewing some of the biggest names in rock n’ roll weighed upon me, but Fornatale soon put this novice interviewer at ease, reminiscing over framed family snapshots before getting down to the business at hand.

So, we wondered, how has the role of professional disc jockey changed over the last 25 years? In the golden days of vinyl, disc jockeys were “much more involved in the selection of the music” than they are in today’s pre-programmed world of computer printouts and laser discs. The hands-on selection and freedom of musical choice is clearly an aspect of radio that Fornatale misses. “Sometimes I feel like I’m just a babysitter for the CD player”, he says. It sounds sad, however, Fornatale still finds enormous satisfaction in the putting together of his weekly program “The Sunday Show”, which he tapes on Thursday afternoons, right after his normal 10AM – 2PM slot.

Years ago, radio stations played a much wider range of musical styles than today’s specialty stations. The Top 40 lists of years ago were all-inclusive; you were just as likely to hear the crooning of Frank Sinatra, as you were the blistering rock piano of Jerry Lee Lewis or the melancholy blues of Billie Holliday. Today we have radio stations that cater to every imaginable musical taste: hard rock, soft rock, easy listening, country, classical, as well as all-talk, all-sports, and all-news. We asked Fornatale if this was a trend he saw continuing, or would there be a reversal? “Yes,” he said, definitely continuing. “It’s an economically driven, ad driven trend.” In fact, the whole focus of radio has changed so much, the term “broadcasting” is no longer applicable. “We used to call it broadcasting,” said Fornatale, “today we call it ‘narrow-casting’.” Because, he explained, radio stations are targeting narrow, select audiences, and gearing their advertising toward particular demographic groups.

We wondered if a man who loves rock n’ roll music as much as Fornatale ever had the urge to pick up an instrument and add to the pool of rock n’ roll himself. Fornatale says he “just missed his opportunity”, when he toyed with the idea learning the piano at age 19. He never learned, he says, because at 19, he felt it was “too late” to pick up the skills. “Just think,” he says, “I would have been playing piano for thirty years now!” A distinct possibility, when you consider that Fornatale’s sons have shown evidence of musical talent. “Mark is an excellent guitar player,” he says of his 18-year-old, though “the working of a guitar is still very much a mystery to me.”

From its very beginnings, rock n’ roll has been attacked by the establishment from every angle. Religious fundamentalists and so-called “moral majorities” have pointed their fingers, calling rock n’ roll, by turns, wild, overtly sexual, drug oriented and even satanic. On the other hand, from Bangladesh to Live Aid to Farm Aid, we have seen the good things rock is capable of. We asked Fornatale if rock n’ roll was a unifying force for goodness, inherently evil, or just entertainment. “It depends,” he told us, “on the purpose of the event, the group, or the writer.” Just as in every other form of expression, Fornatale says there are examples of rock n’ roll he feels are “destructive”, negative, but he says that it is wrong for critics to make “blanket statements” about any art form. Clearly, for Fornatale, the goodness in rock n’ roll greatly outweighs the negative aspects. “Bruce Springsteen,” for example, he says, is a positive force in rock n’ roll”, citing Springsteen’s legendary generosity to noble causes, including World Hunger Year. Every year, “The Boss” donates one of his autographed guitars to be auctioned off for the “Hungerthon”, as well as a substantial amount of cash to WHY.

Rock n’ roll isn’t the only fish in the musical sea, though. There is a musical form that’s been around almost since time began, and is as close, if not closer to Fornatale’s heart, and that is folk music. We asked Fornatale why folk music is so important for those of us who’ve passed through “the television age” and entered the computer age. “Because, more than anything else, it’s the music of the people,” he said. “It is the best example of the ‘melting pot’ concept that we have. It’s like, what was it that David Dinkins used to say . . . ‘a gorgeous mosaic.’ Folk music”, says Fornatale, “encompasses musical influences from the four corners of the world.” Fornatale grows nostalgic as he cites the examples of the values and traditions that were passed down from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger to Arlo Guthrie, and to his children and Pete’s grandchildren.

Of the many hats worn by this musical historian, the hat of author is one he has donned three times over the course of his multi-faceted career. His three books are “The Rock Music Source Book”, “Radio in the Television Age”, and “The Story of Rock n’ Roll.” Naturally, we were curious if Fornatale was getting that urge to write again, as it has been seven years since he last published a book. As it turns out, Fornatale does have a few irons in the literary fire, but nothing definite or immediate. Among the ideas he’s kicking around is a book based on his old, nationally syndicated radio feature, “Rock Calendar.” He also expressed a desire to collaborate with his good friend Bill Ayres on a book of “The 100 most important songs; not the most financially successful songs necessarily,” he says, “but the songs that have had the most significant impact on their audience.” He said they would explore the issues surrounding the songs, the people who wrote and performed them, and the effect each song had on the listening public. If all this sounds very serious and “heavy” to you, fear not. Fornatale does have a sense of humor about him too. In the days preceding Woodstock II, Fornatale was marketing a humorous t-shirt called “Dogstock”, which depicted a festival of canine rock n’ rollers. “It was supposed to be called ‘Woofstock’, but someone beat us to the copyright,” he said. Nevertheless, Fornatale plans to re-issue the shirt “once the warm weather returns.” And this man, who professes a low tolerance for puns, is actually considering doing a rock n’ roll history book written in “dog terms.” We bet “The Beagles” and “Joe Cockerspaniel” can hardly wait. It’s enough to give men “paws.” Enough!

We had seen the history, literature, family values and nostalgia of Pete Fornatale, now we wanted to know about the charitable, crusading side. We asked Pete about WHY, and his relationship to the group’s co-founder Bill Ayres. “In the beginning, the mid-seventies, WHY survived because Harry Chapin would donate the proceeds from every other concert to the cause. It was a fifty-fifty split.” Fornatale said that when Chapin passed away, WHY almost went under. “They don’t accept donations indiscriminately,” says Fornatale. “If a group’s philosophies are not in keeping with the ideals of WHY, they will decline the donation.” Fortunately, WHY co-founder Bill Ayres had made a pact with Harry to continue the organization for as long as one of them was still living. Happily, in the years since Chapin’s passing WHY has grown steadily, and the annual Hungerthons, which followed Fornatale from WNEW FM 102.7 to 92.3 FM K-Rock, have taken in more money each year. “Hungerthon ’94 was the most successful ever,” says Fornatale. “We took in $450,000, just $50,000 short of the goal hurdle half-million, but $125,000 more than last year.”

25 years, we reminded Fornatale. He has been a friendly, familiar presence in the homes, automobiles, and workplaces of generations of listeners for over 25 years. In all that time, we wanted to know, what were some of the highlights? What made him proudest, and how long did he see himself continuing in his medium? As long as Dick Clark or Casey Kasem have in theirs? Rock n’ roll isn’t just for teenagers anymore. At the mention of Clark and Kasem, Fornatale rolled his eyes and pretended to bury his head in his hands, laughing. Then he grew thoughtful.

“It’s been a real privilege to be involved and identified with a group like World Hunger Year,” he said. And, as for defining moments, “Introducing Crosby, Stills, and Nash to the General Assembly of The United Nations. Standing at that podium, I could just feel the history in that room.” Going a little further back, “Introducing The Beach Boys’ free concert in Central Park in 1978,” a concert which Fornatale co-organized with the late Dennis Wilson. And more recently, Fornatale says, “hosting Paul Simon’s free concert in Central Park on HBO in 1991,” was another highlight. Fornatale says he’s not as knowledgeable about, or “emotionally connected to” some of the newer rock n’ roll, but he feels that classic rock as it stands will “follow us right off the planet.” He allows that “the possibility exists” that he’ll keep doing what he does well into senility,” though he isn’t entirely sure. “I’ll be 50 soon,” he says, “and you reach a point where you have to consider what you’d like to do with the time you have left. There’s still a lot to be done with World Hunger Year.”

25 years in the public ear, and a lifetime of memories to show for it. Pete Fornatale is clearly a man with a few rows left to hoe, a few stones yet unturned [ed note: no pun intended!!], and all the indications are there that he, and the classic rock and folk music that he loves, will be with us well into the next millennium; a friendly voice for the future, the future of New York radio, the future of freedom, and the future of the spirit of rock n’ roll.

The Story of Rolling Stones Records


Welcome to the blog for my new book, 50 Licks. This past weekend marked the anniversary of the founding of Rolling Stones Record (April 6, 1971).

Bill Wyman: We’d got fed up with going through other ways of putting records out basically. We had lots of problems, lots of restrictions. Like with Decca not letting us use the album covers we wanted. The problems of getting the rights to do this and do that. It was very, very difficult. So we thought, firstly, not to do a label that we could use for other artists at that time, but just that we could control our own destiny with the music.

The label name seems like it should have been obvious, but it wasn’t.

Bill Wyman: It was very difficult to choose a name as well. We all made selections of the Top Ten names we could think of, like Race Records or Funky Records. And when we all put them together, Rolling Stones Records came out on top! Because none of the others really made it so we just thought we’d pick the most obvious, boring name.

Rolling Stones Records would be distributed by Ahmet Ertegun and Atlantic Records. To head up the label, the Stones reached out to an old acquaintance. Designer Craig Braun is a lifelong friend of Marshall Chess. He picks up the story:

Craig Braun: Chess Records was the roots of English rock and roll. That’s how the connection was made. Marshall was very involved in the label and he felt that when the time came, his father would pass the baton to him. He knew the whole business by the time he was in his mid to late 20s. The Chess brothers then got involved in owning a radio station and they sold the label. I guess it wasn’t unbeknownst to Marshall but he was certainly not happy about that sale. Even though he ended up being the president of Chess records, he was now dealing with a very unsophisticated, industrial, duplicating company called GRT. There was a major showdown and Marshall got out of his contract and that left the door open for other opportunities.

Marshall Chess: Then, completely unexpectedly, my father died of a heart attack. He was 52. If he’d possessed a crystal ball, he’d never have sold Chess Records. He wasn’t to know how historically important and how valuable that music would become. No-one knew.

Everything unraveled at that point. Not only did I lose my dad but I also lost a fortune. I’d been promised a lot of money from the sale of Chess to start my own label. But my father died without signing his will and I never got the money. The problem with the will meant that 70% of the proceeds from the sale of Chess went in tax. The people who bought Chess had no idea how to run it. They made me president of the label after quite a struggle on my part. But it was never going to work out. These people didn’t know the first thing about music. The first indication of the nightmare to come was that they called me in to discuss forecasts. They expected me to predict the kind of profits the shareholders could expect in the next year. It had never worked like that. To us, it was simply a question of making the next hit record. So they sent me to management school in New York for a week. I hated it. During all my time at Chess it never felt like a job. It was a joy. Suddenly it was a different ball game. For the first time in my life I felt I was at work rather than doing what I enjoyed. It was drudgery. That was a tough time for me. There was a lot of psychological turmoil. I really didn’t know what I was going to do next.


Then there was some divine intervention – or something like that.

Craig Braun: I was with my girlfriend and Marshall was with his wife and we took a week’s holiday in the wintertime in Jamaica and one of the things we did when we were there – I don’t know why – was to look for witch doctors. We wound up making a long and arduous trip up the side of a mountain there. When Marshall came out he told me, “I don’t think I went in there to see the witch doctor, I don’t think I shared his interest.” He was in a state of flux at that point, not really working, looking for guidance. He was given this regimen by this very shamin-like, wise witch doctor where he’d light two yellow candles one day and one blue candle the following day and two red candles the day after that. He told me, “As soon as I get back to Chicago, I’m going to do it.” And he did it for a about a week, and then he called me and said, “After I started doing this candle trip, I got a call from Mick Jagger and he wants me to run their label.” We were incredulous! And a few months after that we got together to work on Sticky Fingers, their first release.

Marshall Chess: He invited me round to his house in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. It was a slightly bizarre meeting. I sat on the sofa and outlined my idea of running The Stones’ new label and Mick was dancing around the room to Clifton Chenier’s “Black Snake Blues.” Straight after that I walked up the road to meet Keith Richards. He was sitting at this big psychedelic yellow piano, jamming with Gram Parsons. First thing Keith does is remark how badly dressed I am. In the Chess days we were always sharply dressed because the artists respected that. I always wore a suit and tie, a ring on the little finger. Now I looked like Al Pacino in the Serpico movie – scruffy jeans, t-shirt, long hair. Anyway we shook hands on a deal and I was now the founding president of Rolling Stones Records.

Shattered: The Stones, the City, and Me (Guest Post By John Hendrickson)

John Hendrickson is a freelance writer, guitarist, and, as you’re about to read, one very lucky bastard. He is also the guy who won the very first 50 Licks free book contest. I’m handing the blog over to him today for a guest post. He’s been obsessed with the Rolling Stones since he was 9 years old. You can find him at

Shattered: The Stones, the City, and Me

The Stones blow Maccarvana -- and everyone else -- off the MSG stage on 12/12/12

The Stones blow Maccarvana — and everyone else — off the MSG stage on 12/12/12

The Rolling Stones and New York City have been inextricably linked for almost 50 years. The Stones opened their first U.S. tour in 1964 with a photo op in Times Square and wrapped it up at Carnegie Hall. The mid-’60s saw the Stones hanging out with the Warhol crowd, riding out the 1965 blackout with Dylan, and raising hell at the Academy Of Music, the Palladium and Forest Hills. The live peaks of the Stones’ fabled “Golden Era” are indisputably their stands at Madison Square Garden in ’69 and ’72. As the seventies hit full swing, the Stones seemed like as much of a New York band as the Ramones and the rest of the downtown upstarts. From announcing the ’75 Tour Of The Americas from the back of a truck on 5th Avenue to Mick & Bianca at Studio 54 to the Some Girls/Emotional Rescue/Tattoo You trilogy, the Stones became ubiquitous with NYC, and vice versa. They lived and recorded here – the city was their adopted home base. New York City was at its most bad-ass, and the Stones were here to feed off of it and mythologize it.

By the time the ’90s rolled around, both the Stones and the city had become far more respectable. The band paid New York lip service by kicking off tours at such underground hotspots as Grand Central Station and the Brooklyn Bridge and would only play at venues with the surname “Stadium”. New York might as well have been any other tour stop – the relationship between the Stones and NYC was based almost entirely on past glories. And that’s when I moved down here.

Immediately after arriving, I managed to score a pass to a Bridges To Babylon listening party at the Tribeca Theater on Varick St. I thought I was destined for the inner circle – instead, I watched a bunch of music journalists absolutely decimate the open bar before we were all herded into the theater to listen to the album while watching a bunch of weird Japanese anime. Suffice to say, there was not a Stone on the premises. Not even Ronnie, which I figured was a given what with the open bar and all.

A week or so later, my plans to drive up to Port Chester and try to get in to the MTV Live At The Ten Spot taping were curtailed when I had to run interference between a friend and a supremely disgruntled ex-girlfriend. As I was crashing on his couch at the time, I couldn’t say no. (I found out years later that the theater was letting everybody without a ticket into the theater – that still hurts.) The Stones and I finally crossed paths on a freezing cold night at Giants Stadium. I was on the 50 yard line… in the very top row. But hey – that night we got the second-ever live airing of “Factory Girl”, so it was somewhat historic. And the heat from the flames that shot up during “Sympathy” was actually quite welcome. Regardless, my NYC/Stones experience was off to a slightly inauspicious start…

1998 rolled around with the Stones scaling it down and playing three nights at MSG. Yes, the Stones were back at the site of their finest moments – this was a must-see. As I was barely employed at the time, a hawked Fender Telecaster financed a floor seat for the first night. It was well worth it – that show remains the finest gig I’ve ever seen, bar none. I had to go back two nights later for the next show. I braved the cold to try my luck with the scalpers, figuring that once the band hit the stage, they’d be practically giving away their tickets. Turns out I wasn’t far off the mark. While my initial offers of $25 (the sum total of my life savings in January ’98, thank you) were justifiably scoffed at, the Stones hit the stage right around the time the novelty of a 25 year old kid pathetically groveling for tickets wore off. A kindly old tout took pity on me and actually gave me a ticket. I didn’t prostitute myself, I swear. I was in my seat, right above the B-stage, by the end of the “Satisfaction” opener. Highlights included the finest version of “Out Of Control” they ever played as well as an impromptu “Little Red Rooster” on the B-stage while waiting for someone to come fix Ronnie’s guitar, during which I’ve never seen Charlie Watts happier. The Stones at MSG lived up to the legend.

Surprisingly, ’99’s No Security tour skipped NYC altogether (thank God for Boston, Hartford, Philly, D.C., and Chicago). Aside from Mick & Keith turning up at the Concert For New York City in October, 2001, the turn of the century was pretty quiet Stones-wise. The band’s 40th anniversary found me cordoned off in a park in the Bronx, watching the band arrive at their tour announcement in a gigantic yellow blimp. Was it worth the trip up there from Brooklyn to see them for about 15 seconds from a distance of 500 feet? Hell yes. Not only did I witness Stones history but I got interviewed by a German news crew, too.

After catching the Licks tour opener in Boston (my hometown and the site of such adventures as “Fainting At Steel Wheels” and “Sneaking Up To Their Hotel Floor ’94”), karma got me back – hard – at MSG in September ’02 when I was taken for a $100 ride by a scalper and unceremoniously mocked by the ticket-takers. Ouch. Standing outside the Roseland with about a hundred Japanese Stones stalkers and listening through the walls more than made up for it, though. Four months later, the Stones were back at the Garden for a live HBO broadcast. A friend of mine worked at one of the surrounding sports bars. She stashed me in a basement room with a needle and a spoon (OK, some wings and a few bottles of Bud) and told me to sit tight. I watched the first few songs on a wide-screen TV. This wasn’t so bad, actually. At the start of “Angie”, she came bursting in the room, screaming “YOU’RE IN! YOU’RE IN! GO! GO! GO!”. I grabbed the ticket, made a mad dash up the block, and was in the arena by the start of “Let It Bleed”. I stationed myself directly above the stage and watched Mick, Keith, and Ron gather around Charlie’s drum kit to start riffing on “Midnight Rambler”. I had a birds-eye view of the ultimate alchemy. You can’t put a price on something like that, so it’s just as well that I got in for free.

All was calm until one gloriously sunny day in May of 2005 when I found myself standing with a couple of hundred people outside at Lincoln Center, staring up at a balcony. Rumors had been swirling for days. When promoter Michael Cohl’s voice came booming through an unseen PA system, we found out the rumors were true. T magic words – “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones!”. The stampede commenced just as Keith hit the intro to “Start Me Up”. “Oh No Not You Again” and a stripped-down, absolutely vicious “Brown Sugar” followed. I saw the top of Mick’s head for about three seconds. It was the greatest lunch hour ever.

Seeing the Stones kick off the Bigger Bang tour at the home of the defending world champion Boston Red Sox that August was the best of both worlds, but scoring a last-minute ticket for MSG the following January made for a far better show. Especially when they knocked off “Love Is Strong”, “Rocks Off”, and “Worried About You” all in a row. They were back in NYC a few more times that year – a charity show at Radio City, shooting Shine A Light at the Beacon, and one final go-round outside in East Rutherford, NJ. I had to settle for some cool photos of iconic marquees for the first two and Keith’s weird moustache kept me away from the third. What the hell was he thinking, anyway?

And once again, the Stones went on ice. Ronnie wrote his book (more of a pamphlet, really) and did a signing at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. We had a mutual love fest – me because I was shaking Ron Wood’s hand and him because I described his guitar playing with the Faces as “filthy”. That tickled him. I wondered how a body that small could support a head that large. No such luck when Keith published Life and held court at the New York Public Library, however.

All was quiet for a while, barring a couple of screenings of their ’72 and ’78 tour documentaries. Mick was pissed off at Keith, the vaults were finally being opened… it had to be the end, right? Oh well – no regrets. I continued to get my rocks off with a Ronnie Wood solo show in Atlantic City and Charlie Watts playing boogie at Iridium, just outside Times Square. And Mick killed it on Saturday Night Live. Hey – if the Stones breaking up meant that I could see individual members play clubs as well as watching Mick Jagger do sketch comedy, life could be worse, right?

Charlie plays Iridium

Charlie plays Iridium

And then rumblings of rehearsals in Paris started spreading around the internet. And then they all showed up at the Museum of Modern Art for a 50th anniversary exhibition, which really chapped my ass as it was two blocks away from my office – and I didn’t even know about it! Then – live shows. First, secret gigs in Paris. Then London gigs with Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman. And then the bomb dropped – one show in Brooklyn and two in Newark. I was 40 and they were all hovering around 70 but it was time to mobilize.

Brooklyn almost seemed too easy. I figured I’d see how things played out there and then come up with a plan. No regrets about skipping that one – it was apparently the worst show of the mini-tour. A few days later, they were a last minute addition to the 12.12.12 Sandy benefit show back at their living room, MSG. I got in. I’m still not quite sure how it happened, but I got in. That said, on what might have been the biggest collection of rock & roll stardom ever collected in one room, they made everybody else look like amateurs. Paul McCartney? Nice try, Macca, but you’re gonna have to come up with something better than fronting a reformed Nirvana to compete with the Stones at MSG.

Less than 24 hours later, I found myself too tired to question how I fell into a situation where I was gorging on free beer and hot dogs at the Prudential Center before winding up in the 15th row for two hours of what can only be described as controlled excellence. I saw the Stones focus on nothing but their own legacy and they pulled it off with dismissive aplomb. It was utterly ridiculous how good they were – they eclipsed every show I’d seen since the ’90s.

Stones sax-man Bobby Keys played a bar in Brooklyn the following night (no Stones sat in with him but everyone had a blast, anyway) and then it was the grand finale Pay-Per-View show and the houseparty that accompanied it. Those were the victory laps of an unexpected and unprecedented reunion between the greatest rock & roll band in the world with the greatest city in the world… and the obsessives like myself who follow them.

The Stones announced another round of live dates for 2013 this week. No New York shows were included. However, there is a week-long gap between Boston & Philadelphia. Stay tuned…

Rock Calendar for April 4: Happy Birthday Muddy Waters

220px-Muddy_Waters_(blues_musician)-croppedOn this day in rock in either 1913 or 1915, McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, was born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi or Jug’s Corner, Mississippi. Why the uncertainty? The former information comes from the man himself, the latter from what recent research suggests. In any case, Muddy Waters was a major inspiration to generations of rock and rollers. Muddy affectionately referred to his rock and roll admirers as “his sons.” In an interview I found in my dad’s archive, Muddy listed some of his better known “children.”

MUDDY WATERS: Johnny Winter, the Rolling Stones, Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield. All of the my boys. The Stones, they the ones who put a nice shine in my armor, you know. They did me a big favor for recording my records. And they made the point, “This is from Muddy Waters. That’s where we got it from.” Them the kind of sons I like!

And the Stones liked Muddy Waters enough to name the band after one of his songs:


While I can’t tell you beyond a doubt as to what year or when, I can say proudly that Muddy Waters was born on this day in rock. Here’s a clip of an incident described in greater detail in my new book, 50 Licks of when the Stones jammed with Muddy Waters at the Checkerboard Lounge in Chicago in 1981. Good stuff.