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

Super Tuesday Special: Dizzy for President

Photo of Dizzy Gillespie
“Goldwater was running against Johnson… but at the time, I didn’t think there was any choice. I was the only choice for a thinking man.”

So it’s Super Tuesday and the electoral circus has come to Massachusetts, and this year it’s brought along even more clowns than usual. We can’t keep the clowns out of the circus, but sometimes genuine humorists—Will Rogers, Gracie Allen, Pat Paulsen—make the trip too. Today, though, I’d like to remember one who brought us mirth, but with it a serious platform. That was John Birks Gillespie, and the year was 1964.

Gillespie was asked why he was running for President. His answer: “Because we need one.”

Dizzy’s campaign began when the Associated Booking Agency started passing out “Dizzy Gillespie for President” buttons. When one was visible on a prominent lapel during the 1963 March on Washington, a few people, including Gillespie, saw an opportunity to spread a message. Before long, there was a John Birks Society in California working to get him on the 1964 ballot. He had a campaign manager, Jeannie Gleason, and a campaign publicist, her husband, the journalist Ralph Gleason.

The Gillespie Platform

At the core of Dizzy’s campaign was the movement to bring an end to discrimination, and he believed economic pressure was one way to go about it. He advocated using widespread consumer boycotts: institutions otherwise indifferent to the plight of the disadvantaged would work to end discriminatory practices if their bottom line was jeopardized.

Dizzy also advocated lowering the income tax by instituting a national lottery. He wanted to legalize playing the numbers, since millions of dollars were already being spent on them daily anyway. He was ahead of the curve—New Hampshire passed the very first state-operated lottery in the U.S. in 1964, just months before Dizzy called for a national one.

Continue Reading

Share: