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

Election Special: Wild About Harry

Let’s take a break from the insults and name calling of the 2016 presidential campaign to recall a lighter moment from the Dewey-vs-Truman campaign of 1948. It involves Thomas E. Dewey’s motorcade through the streets of Boston, Nat Pierce’s band, and Harry S. Truman’s campaign theme song, “I’m Just Wild About Harry.”

Photo of Dewey supporters
Dewey was the favorite, but the people were Wild About Harry

This all starts with David X. Young, the abstract expressionist painter and proprietor of the legendary Jazz Loft in New York City. He lived in Boston in the late 1940s, and was a devoted fan of Nat Pierce’s jazz orchestra.

Young wrote the liner notes for a 1975 album that collected the work of that band. (Nat Pierce Orchestra 1948–50, Zim Records ZM-1005, out of print) He mentions a 1948 incident where unnamed musicians serenaded Dewey with Truman’s campaign song, “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” as Dewey passed by on Boylston Street. He noted that Dewey listened “glumly” as confetti rained down. When, I wondered, did this happen?

Truman and Dewey each made one trip to Massachusetts after their respective party conventions, both close to election day. Truman delivered a fire-breathing speech before an enthusiastic crowd in Boston on October 27, and his Democrats were positive they were going to win. Boston mayor James M. Curley said Truman would carry the state by a hundred thousand votes.

Dewey on the Trail in Massachusetts

Dewey arrived the next day. Dewey’s campaign train crossed the state from west to east and ended its trip in Boston, where the Republicans staged a major rally at the Boston Arena (now Northeastern University’s Matthews Arena). October 28 thus has to be the date of our Dewey serenade.

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