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.

The Boston Jazz Chronicles Cover
Click here to buy The Boston Jazz Chronicles on Amazon now.

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.

This 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. Check back often to see what’s new.

—Richard Vacca

The Troy Street Observer

Andy McGhee and Could It Be

Visit Andy McGhee Part 1

Photo of Andy McGhee in the late 1970s
Andy McGhee, late 1970s

Andy McGhee was back in Boston in fall 1966, off the road after three years of bus rides with Woody Herman’s orchestra. Count Basie heard he was available and offered him a job, but McGhee declined. McGhee, with a family to support, wanted to stay home.

Fortunately, a door opened for McGhee, and the man holding it was Lawrence Berk. It was the door at 1140 Boylston Street, the brand-new home of the Berklee School (not yet college) of Music. Just inside that door was McGhee’s old friend from the late 1940s, Charlie Mariano.

Exit Charlie Mariano, Enter Andy McGhee

Mariano was teaching at Berklee, but he was tired of it—so tired he planned to quit immediately, rather than wait until the end of the fall term. Where, in mid-semester, could Berk find a suitably qualified instructor to replace him? Charlie himself recommended Andy McGhee, an opinion seconded by Andy’s bandmate with Woody Herman, Phil Wilson. Wilson told me, “They were in different orbits musically by then, but Charlie loved Andy. Those were big shoes to fill, though. The students respected Charlie. He spoke from the heart, and he spoke the truth.” Big shoes or no, Berk hired Andy.

McGhee’s immediate challenge was to get settled. He told the Boston Globe’s Bob Blumenthal in 2002: “I wasn’t worried about my playing when I got home. I was worried about getting my kids through college, and about all the dues my wife had paid while I was on the road. The transition was easy because Charlie had all of the top players in his ensemble. My problem was proving myself to the best students.”

Continue Reading