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Malden today, tomorrow and yesterday – John Coughlin remembered

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  A renowned filmmaker out of Gloucester, Henry Ferrini, spoke from the heart about his long history working with Jack throughout the North Shore, many of those stops at Sandy’s Jazz Revival in Beverly. Boston rock legend Willie “Loco” Alexander gushed on about his good fortune of eventually meeting Jack through a mutual friend and spending many nights side by side with him banging out some hot foot stompin’ boogie-woogie, much to the delight of the congregation. Author and Rounder Records founder Bill Nowlin stepped up to the plate and hit a Preacher Jack grand slam! I spoke of my time while I was in Jack’s world. I came late to the party – 1990 Blue Star Bar & Grille – but caught up quickly, and by the time it was all over I was “managing” Jack’s career and was his sometimes babysitter.

  Jack adored his grandmother (and mother, Esther) and spoke of her/them reverentially through our years together. One night as we road-tripped home after playing a set of music between movies for organizer Rick “Biskit” Roth at the Pawtucket Film Festival, Jack told me a (tall?) tale of a long-ago night spent at the grave of Grammy Beda. First off, Jack was one of the most honest men I have ever met in my life, so I lean more towards this tale being more on the truthful side. So, the year is 1976 and Jack’s residency at the Shipwreck Lounge on Revere Beach is starting to gain momentum. He has started to become a fan favorite at the Shipwreck with his manic personality and wild, unpredictable piano playing. There was a buzz on the nights he played in the old lounge and a line out the door. Ownership loved him. He drew patrons from all walks of life. Mobsters tipped him a double sawbuck to hear their favorite Jerry Lee tune. Bikers lined up out front, drank like Vikings and loved Jack’s Chuck Berry. George Thorogood would sit to Jack’s left and watch him work his magic while Jack ran through his Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, “Papa” Jimmy Yancy catalog. Thorogood even convinced Ken Irwin and Bill Nowlin to sign Jack to Rounder Records, where his vinyl offerings went straight to the cut-out discount bins, where they reside to this very day.

  I digress. Jack rode hard back in his Revere Beach days. So, on one of those hard riding nights in 1976 (he did not give up the “nectar of Satan” – as he once described it – until 1979), Jack gets his usual load on but because Jack was never a good drinker the 24 Bud’s he inhaled that night clouded his judgment, once again. Needless to say, the night ended badly. His famous 24 Bud temper was in full effect. At closing time he maniacally stormed out of the Shipwreck (he told me the reason why was forgotten three decades ago) determined to get home by any means necessary. Jack started his walk home to Malden during inclement weather. By the time he hit Saint Anthony’s it was a full blown nor’easter pounding the coastline. Long story short, Jack soldiered on. For reasons unknown his last stop deep into the night was Grammy Beda’s grave site at the Forestdale Cemetery. The wind still howling, the drenching rain not letting up, and with the temps rapidly plunging, Jack dropped to his knees, recited The Lord’s Prayer, then passed out – waking up the next morning none the worse for wear.

  “What you have just read is a matter of human record. Explain it: we cannot. Disprove it: we cannot. We simply invite you to explore with us the amazing world of the Unknown … to take that One Step … Beyond.”

  Rest in peace, Jack.

  Yet more “Musings” from the inimitable pen of the late John O’Brien, whose wit and wisdom endeared him to generations of Malden High School students, Maldonians and faculty members alike. Here are a few more witticisms from his iconic “Musings” column from a biweekly newspaper from 1973 called the “Malden Sun-Times” (their motto: “In Malden for Good”). John was a rabid sports fan, and in this column he is disillusioned with the underachieving 1973 version of the Boston Red Sox. You’ll have to have experienced the ’73 season and have to know your baseball history from the last 50 or so years to get most of these Musings. Enjoy anyway…

  “I knew Yaz was a swinger, but did he have to join the singles club?”

  “Woody Allen should manage a professional track team. His athletes could take the money and run.”

  “Goodbye to the Red Sox, goodbye to Detroit, goodbye to the Yankees, they are all maladroit.”

  “Under the fluttering Fenway flag one Reggie Smithy stands. The Smith, a mighty man is he, of strange and tricky knee.”

  “(Rick) Miller catches flies faster than flies catch millers.”

  “The Red Sox lost face and a pennant race.”

  “(Ken) Tatum serves taters.”

  “Yaz grounds out weakly daily.”

  “At their best (Tommy) Harper and (Luis) Aparicio batting one and two compare with Dom (DiMaggio) and (John) Pesky.”

  ‘If the (George) Foreman will not come to Muhammed (Ali), Muhammed will go to the Foreman.”

  “Give a manager a (Bill) Freehan and he’ll catch a Tiger.”

  “(Eddie) Kasko must go.”

  “This is the end, beautiful friend; this is the end, my only friend, the end” – “Hard to believe it’s been five years since Malden Police Detective Sal Gennetti was awarded the Law Enforcement Medal of Valor at the Massachusetts Association of Italian American Police Officers Awards Banquet. While on duty one night in 2017, young Sal performed an “outstanding act of bravery with perilous risk to his life…” Sal is a stand-up guy (and a Son of Edgeworth) with deep roots in Ward 2 and Malden. His dad (current police commissioner) Salvatore “Butch” Gennetti served 37 years on the Malden Police Force before becoming Top Dog. Let’s go right to the written record: Detective Gennetti was on a routine patrol near Stearns Street just after noontime when he saw smoke coming from a three-family house. He called in the fire then raced into the building. Malden Police Captain Marc Gatcomb stated at the time, “A few seconds could have been the difference between a man’s life being saved and a fatality,” he continued. “It’s a credit to Detective Gennetti and his fast response.” Sal went to the third floor and when he opened the door, air rushed in and caused a back draft effect. That fed oxygen to the flames along the walls and smoke inside, reducing the time available to get the man out. Sal was aware of one of the occupants and that the man was lying on the floor under heavy smoke. Sal then called to the man, the smoke being too thick to see, then instructed the man to crawl to the sound of his voice. After making hand contact, they were able to make their way down the stairwell and out the building before flames and smoke worsened. Four residents of the three-family eventually made it out of the building unharmed, including a woman and an infant baby. Sal was also unharmed, although he was taken to a local hospital as a precaution. Sal’s bravery that day saved the life of a fellow Maldonian. Thank you, Sal. Thank you Chief Molis. Thank you MPD.

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