Music Hath Charms That Rouse the Red Sox Souls
By Bill Smith
At September’s end, the Red Sox Nation was rattled down its foundation with the implosion of our beloved team. Much negativity has been created and gloom is the word of the day. A bright spot in the ruins is music. The Red Sox, more than any other major league team, is identified with certain songs which are so ingrained in the Red Sox way of life, it would be difficult to imagine life without them; so let’s have a little history lesson on where these songs came from and why are they so important to the team and us.
It began in 1902, with a song from a Broadway musical, The Silver Slipper. The song, Tessie (You are the only,only, only) was written by Will R. Anderson. It was a song from a girl to her parakeet, Tessie. Enter Michael “Nuf Ced” McGreevy. He owned a watering hole, known as the Third Base Saloon. (It was the last place to go, before you went home.) His sobriquet came from his method of saloon disputes over the Boston baseball teams. He would bang of the bar and snarl “enough said”, which, when delivered, came out “nuf ced”. When spoken, the words calmed the disputants. His saloon was the gathering spot for a group of ardent fans of the Boston Americans (One of the many names of the team that ultimately became the Red Sox). Tessie was a very popular song in its own right, but this group of fans known as the Royal Rooters adopted it and adapted it as their paean to the team. One of its loyal members was Honey “Fitz” Fitzgerald, the grandfather to John, Robert and Edward Kennedy; this was not a group to be treated lightly.
The group gained its spot in history during the 1903 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. At that time the Series was the best of nine games and Boston was down 1-3. The Rooters used songs to rally their team, and Tessie had the most success in rattling the opponent; in fact, the Royal Rooters went to Pittsburgh and hired a band to play Tessie to aggravate the Pirates and fans at the Pirate’s home field. The Americans won the next three games, and the Series. Tommy Leach, a Pirates’ outfielder, said his team’s loss was due, in part, t0 “that damn Tessie song.” Nuf ced. The Rooters rattled Series opponents with Tessie through 1918, the last time Boston won the Series until 2004.In 2007, Ken Casey, the bass player of The Dropkick Murphys, opened a new McGreevy’s, decorated to replicate the original.
As the Sox found themselves in the 21st century, there came new ownership and vitality; a championship team was being built. Hopes were high and an always charged fan base had actual hopes of breaking the curse of the Bambino. Back in the eary 1900s, the then fan based rallied around Tessie, the 1902 Broadway hit. Tessie was a faint memory in 2004. It was 102 years old and not exactly of blood stirring caliber based on today’s rather loud, raucus music.
To go further into the music of the Red Sox, I have to take a small detour here. In 1996 a group of working class lads who traced their roots to the auld sod formed a heavy metal group called The Dropkick Murphys. Their music was loud and vocals were primal screams. Ken Casey, the last founding member along with Al Barr, who joined the group in 1998, supplied these vocals. Casey also played bass. Being good Irish Bostonians (they were actually from Quincy, but it’s close enough), they were hard shell Red Sox fans. The name Dropkick Murphy came from the name of a rehabilitation clinic in Boston in the early 1900s.
From 1996 to 2004 the group gained local notoriety, cut some records and began enjoying modest success.To say the least, Irish heavy metal, , is an acquired taste, but it was just the thing on which the blue collar Bostonians thrived. They’re popularity with sports fans was, initially, with the Bruins, in light of the type of music they played.
The band in 2004 , decided it would create an anthem for the crowd to rally round and it was only naturual to take look at Tessie. As I referred to earlier in this article, Tessie was first adapted to fit the then situation, when the team was known as the Boston Americans, in 1903. The Dropkick Murphys crashed into it in 2004 and the Murphys and friends including a sports writer, updated th song again. After it was written the band gave it to the Red Sox, saying that if it was listened to, the Sox would win the World Series. No one took that too seriously but the song was included in the movie Fever Pitch, and it caught on. The rest is historyThe version heard here was used because the chorus consisted of many of the players from the 2004 championship team.
14 Tessie (Bonus Track) . (Click on Track to Hear)
Another older song that was moderized by the Murphys was a song written by Woody Guthrie. Guthrie was a dust bowl communist who roamed around writing songs that fit the situation. His most famous song is This Land Is Your Land. You might also know his son, Arlo, of Alice’s Restaurant and City of New Orleans fame. The particular song I refer to is I’m Shipping Up To Boston. This song found itself in the Red Sox Juke Box by a certain pitcher whose name escapes me. He thought he was a hot shot closer and used it as his entry music. It was also in the sound track of the move The Departed, another cheerful expose into the Irish mafia in Boston. Like the movie the song is dark and violent.
11 I’m Shipping Up to Boston (Click on Track to Hear)
On a lighter note, 1969, a little known singer-songwriter, in a Memphis hotel, knocked out a sweet song about Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter. The song writer was Neil Diamond and the song was Sweet Caroline. This song is played at the bottom half of the eighth inning and, if you have not been to Fenway for a game, let me assure you that it is silly, tacky and spiritual, all at the same time. A lady named Amy Toby started playing it off and on in the late 1900s between the seventh and ninth innings. When John Henry’s group took over in 2002, the song became fixed at the bottom of the eighth inning. The lady in charge of playing songs during the game, Megan Kaiser, the current song mistress, has not changed a thing, except to stop the song at certain selected spots so when the crowd takes over. That version of audience participation is used today by Diamond, himself, in concert. It is magic. I have heard it at Fenway. I have heard Neil Diamond, in person,sing it in concert and at Fenway; and every time I heard it there, and even now, when I hear it, I feel horripilation (that’s goose bumps to most of us, but I had to add a little class to an otherwise uninspired article). It is something that you must put on your bucket list.
01 Sweet Caroline (Click on Track to Hear)
Boston is on the banks of the Charles River, as we all know. It is clean now, but not so long ago, it was very polluted and dirty. In the early196os Ed Cobb, a tourist, along with his girl friend, was mugged while there. In tribute to this unpleasantness, Cobb who was also in the music business, wrote the song Dirty Water as a semi jovial dig at the polluted river and the city of Boston. The song refers to some of Boston’s less desireable attractions, e.g. the Bostson Strangler. In 1966, a group known as the Standells recorded Dirty Water, which went platinum; that was a good thing for the Standells since they were basicially one hit wonders. In the 80s the Patriots began playing the song at their games; the Bruins followed in the 90s and in 2001, the Red Sox picked it up. It is now played at the end of every home victory followed by Tessie. The version I have here is by the Standells in concert. This is what is played at Fenway; I refer you to a lesser known but better version by Bronson Arroyo, a pitcher/musician for the 2004 Sox; again the chorus is comprised of players.
06 Dirty Water ((Click on Track to Hear)
Today, in 2011, it is difficult to say which song is more important to the Red Sox. I’m Shipping Up To Boston may fall by the wayside because whatshisname, the closer, shipped off the Philadelphia. I hope not. Its’s a good rousing song, sung by non Brahmin Bostonians and its stirs the soul. Time will tell. I find it interesting that each of these songs, has a unique story attached to it, and each one is honestly owned by Boston. Sweet Caroline, you will recall, was the great granddaughter of one of the original Royal Rooters in case you wondered what the Boston connection was for that song.
While the Red Sox have their peaks and valleys, as we all do, we, citizens of the mighty Red Sox nation, are comforted and en-heartened by our songs and when we hear these melodies, no matter what the venue, our thoughts go to Boston, Fenway and the Red Sox.
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