Chuck Berry Once Incited A Riot In Boston; Rock Music Banned

By Rami Abou-Sabe

On May 3rd, 1958, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis played back-to-back sets at the Boston Garden. The show was hosted by rock n’ roll DJ Alan Freed, who was repeatedly asked by cops to quiet down the raucous crowd.

RELATED: Chuck Berry Dies at 90

When Jerry Lee Lewis took the stage, Boston rock fans began dancing in the aisles. The police, tired of making unheard requests to calm the crowd, would repeatedly turn on the house lights to quell the problem.

By the time Chuck Berry kicked off his set, the crowd was on edge. When the audience rose from their seats and began to dance, one police officer chose not to turn the lights back down. Freed, frustrated with having to interrupt the show turned to the microphone and announced, “I guess the police in Boston don’t want you to have a good time.” Shortly thereafter, a riot broke out and Berry ducked behind his drummer to protect himself as chairs and fists flew. In total nine men and women were reportedly hospitalized.

“These so-called music programs are a disgrace,” Mayor John Hynes told Variety after the show. “They must be stopped and they will be stopped here – effective at once. As far as the City of Boston is concerned… if the kids are hungry for this kind of music they’ll starve for it – until they learn to behave like citizens instead of hooligans. Boston will have no more rock and roll,” Hynes declared.

This story comes from Bruce Pegg’s Berry biography, “Brown Eyed Handsome Man: The Life and Hard Times of Chuck Berry.”

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