Boston and the surrounding area is rich in history, from the colonial era forward, and I appreciate all of it. But I am particularly interested in Boston in the 20th century, and have researched the middle years of that century extensively. My extreme interest in certain aspects of the city’s cultural history led me to form Troy Street Publishing as a vehicle for sharing ten years of research and writing.

My first endeavor was a seven-year labor of love, The Boston Jazz Chronicles, which I published through Troy Street in 2012. It was early in the self-publishing game and I thought the prospects and possibilities of that game were endless. I still do, and my goal is to publish the projects described elsewhere on this site.

The Boston Jazz Chronicles, by Richard VaccaThis website, and its blog, The Troy Street Observer, are the primary outlets for telling my stories, but there are others—public speaking, walking tours, and a YouTube channel that puts some of the historic but out-of-print recordings back in circulation.

What’s in it for you? On this site you’ll find content about Boston people, places and events that you won’t find anywhere else. I’ve opened a window, and through it you’ll hear some of the not-so-common stories of Boston. I suggest you check back often to see what’s new.

—Richard Vacca

The Troy Street Observer

Ray Santisi’s Box of Tapes

When someone dies, we sometimes hear a tongue-in-cheek comment regarding the disposition of the departed’s worldly possessions: “You live, you die, your stuff goes out on the curb.” There are too many stories of lifetime LP collection ending up in a thrift shop donations bin, or of old scrapbooks being thrown away. When the time came for the family of pianist Ray Santisi to empty his apartment, they asked drummer Don McBride to help them ensure that none of Ray’s musical artifacts accidentally landed on the curb.

Photo of Ray Santisi, 1959
Ray Santisi, 1959

McBride and Santisi went way back—Don had known Ray for close to 60 years, from the time of the original Jazz Workshop on Stuart Street. Naturally he said yes, and some things of musical interest did turn up.

They found, for instance, a big box of reel-to-reel tapes, dozens of them, mostly from the 1960s, in the back of a closet. I’m sure Ray had planned to do something with them someday—many of us have rainy day projects that we never seem to get to. McBride looked at the tapes, recognized them for the treasures they were, and with the family’s blessing, took them away.

Don tracked down a tape deck, but then he got busy—he runs Fabola, a vintage furniture shop in Cambridge—and when he realized the tapes were becoming his rainy day project, he asked me if I could help him sort them out. All he had to do was tell me what was written on the backs of some of the boxes, and I was hooked. I had to hear them.

A few days later I hauled Don’s tape deck and about a dozen of the Santisi tapes up the stairs to my apartment. And what a haul it was! This music fills gaps in the audio history of Boston jazz, and none of it has been heard by anyone for decades. Many of the musicians are gone now, making this music all the more important to those of us interested in the local scene.

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