Ford Theatre

555_FordTheatre_1From: Milford, MA, USA

Ford Theatre evolved out of the Boston band the Joyful Noise, and were signed by Bob Thiele of ABC Records after Thiele had been contacted on their behalf by a DJ at Boston’s WBZ. Thiele produced Ford Theatre’s first album, Trilogy for the Masses, which was centered around two lengthy multi-sectioned pieces, “101 Harrison Street (Who to Belong To)” and “From a Back Door Window (The Search).” Their second and final album, Time Changes, was constructed around more conventionally-timed pieces, and was an early production by Bill Szymczyk, who went on to produce the Eagles. Ford Theatre guitarist Harry Palmer is the uncle of underground cult musician R. Stevie Moore.  ~ Richie Unterberger

Ford TheatreAn Interview With Jimmy Altieri from (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Jimmy Altieri (JA): I started playing music the accordion when I was eight. I took lessons for five years then changed to the bass guitar when I was 14.I played in a band called The Continentals for five years. It was the same guys in Ford Theatre: Bobby (Tamagni), Mazz (John Mazzarelli), Butch (Arthur Webster) and me.

60s: Where and when was Ford Theatre formed?
JA: Ford Theatre was formed in 1966. It was the same guys as The Continentals plus Harry (Palmer) and Joe (Scott). Harry Palmer – guitars and songs; Arthur “Butch” Webster – guitars; John Mazzerelli – keyboards and vocals; Bobby Tamagni – drums and vocals; Joe Scott – lead vocals; and Jimmy Altieri – bass and lead vocals.

60s: How did you hook up with Harry and Joe?
JA: We met Harry years before (he joined) Ford Theatre. We did some of his songs. He was going to school in Boston and was working with a Boston record company. Joe was a singer in a band in Milford. We knew him so we asked him to join and he said okay.

60s: How does the band Joyful Noise fit into all this?
JA: Joyful Noise was a name we had after The Continentals. Our manager picked it out; he said The Continentals was too plain for the day. That band was Bob on drums, Butch on guitar, Mazz on keyboards and Damon Hollender and I on guitar.

60s: What happened to Hollender?
JA: He left, I think, to join another band.

60s: The Joyful Noise recorded some unreleased acetates (‘Known The World Over,’ Something Of A Change,’ ‘Good Thing,’ and ‘Stop’)…
JA: We did not have a record deal but we did some studio later with just the four of us.

60s: How would you describe the band’s sound? What bands influenced you?
JA: Our influences included The Kingsmen, The Beatles and The Byrds; you name it from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

60s: What are your opinions on the Bosstown sound?
JA: We were not part of the Boston sound. We were on our own. Back then the bands in the Boston sound were not that good and were on the MGM label. We were on the ABC label.

60s: How did the band come to sign with ABC Records?
JA: We signed with ABC Records the night we opened for Procol Harum in Boston. It was their first trip to America. Their amps and organ had different wall plugs here and they couldn’t use their own equipment so we offered ours. They were nice guys; the rep from ABC was there and he talked with our manager and we had a contract offer. We accepted it in two weeks.

60s: Where did the band typically play?
JA: We played everywhere around New England, and at many colleges, high schools and private gigs. We worked almost every weekend for years.

60s: Did you play any of the local teen clubs?
JA: We played teen clubs: Lakeview Ballroom, Escape Lounge and maybe 20 others from our local area.

60s: How far was the band’s “touring” territory?
JA: We played everywhere around New England and New York City. We played some Midwestern cities including St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, etc.

60s: Did Ford Theatre participate in any battle of the bands?
JA: We played many battle of the bands. We always scored no less than third but we won most. We competed against bands like The Rockin’ Ramrods, Thunder Train, Daytonas, Wildcats and many more.

60s: How did you hook up with your manager?
JA: Fred Cennedella was our manager. He was a good manager and very aggressive. He was from Milford but we met him at the University of Massachusetts and played many gigs there. He promoted the band all the time.

60s: How popular locally did Ford Theatre become?
JA: Ford Theatre is still remembered locally. We were the most popular band in Massachusetts.

60s: Where did Ford Theatre record your two LPs (Trilogy For The Masses and Time Changes)?
JA: The first album band tracks were done at Fleetwood Studios in Revere, Massachusetts. It’s still in operation now. The vocals were done at Capitol Studios in New York City. The second album was at the Hit Factory in New York City.

60s: Who was the band’s primary songwriter?
JA: Harry Palmer.

60s: Do any (other) ’60’s Ford Theatre recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings, or unreleased tracks?
JA: Yes. I have the third album, unreleased recordings, a live show and more.

60s: Third album?
JA: The so-called third album was recorded in Winchester, Massachusetts and Decca Studios in New York City. ABC dropped our option so we were trying to get another label interested. We came close with Decca but the stuff was never released.

60s: Did the band make any local TV appearances?
JA: No local TV, just Upbeat in Cleveland and some around New York City, I think.

60s: recently obtained a promo film for the song, ‘Wake Up In The Morning’ from the personal collection of Upbeat’s David Spero. What are your recollections of the filming?
JA: I remember most of it. We were the hit of the town while we were filming it. It was shot in our home town of Milford.

60s: What year and why did the band break up?
JA: We broke up in 1971. We played out the name and just called it a day. We are all still good friends. We tried to get a record deal but it was hard so we broke up.

60s: Did you join or form any bands after Ford Theatre?
JA: I’ve been in many bands since. My latest is Goldrush. We do classic rock, southern rock and country. We work almost every weekend. I’m 61 and still rockin.’ I love it. I had my own band for 12 years, The West River Band, and spent seven years with Jenny and The Stop Lites.

60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with Ford Theatre?
JA: Ford Theatre was the best band. I’d do it all over again. We met some great people along the way— some still performing today and some in the business end of rock and roll.

Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From the 1968 album Trilogy For The Masses
Ford Theatre - Trilogy For The Masses

  • Theme For The Masses

From the 1969 album Time Changes
Ford Theatre - Time Changes

  • I Feel Uncertain
  • Time Changes   (Original 45 Label: ABC-11192, B)
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • I’ve Got the Fever