| Steve Martin was the creative force behind Congress
Alley. Martin's dream was to bring together artists who could enjoy
"absolute creative freedom of expression."
James Dempsey, Worcester Telegram
& Gazette '99
from lower left: Stephen B. Martin, Walter Green, Alex
McGinnis, Frank "Pasquale" Caricchio, Norman Shell,
Marie Green, Michael "Gitch" Jackman, Kathy Woodbury,
Congress Alley has been immortalized in song by
its "poet laureate."
Jack Tubert, Worcester Telegram '68
WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE ANYWAY?
© 1999 David Nader
I've wanted to write about the ignored and
maligned Congress Alley for the last fifteen years but, like many
of the individuals I mentioned it to, I did not believe there were
many people from the original community still around. And if they
were around they would not be in any condition to speak intelligently
about it. I ran the idea past local musician Bob Jordan. In the
past he has written about the history of the Worcester underground
music scene so I thought this might be a place to inquire. He immediately
referred me to traditional folk music supporter, Ken Jordan. Now
I thought Bob was truly deranged.
Come to find out, Ken was the motherlode. He pointed
me in the direction of the people I would need to contact. I found
the major players in this passion play and they were alive and quite
well. The dynamism of the personalities and their present preoccupation's
overshadowed the story itself. I did not think I was going to have
this much fun.
Ken Jordan, recently passed away in 1998, was the
second person to move into Congress Street. He like many who established
the community were veterans of The Y-Not Coffeehouse. After the
Alley's demise, he visited a number of alternative scenes including
ones in Boston, Greenwich Village, the West Coast and Mexico. Ken
settled down by the end of the Seventies, got married to long time
friend Kathy, raised a family and continued to support folk music
in Worcester. He was most notably associated with John Henry's
Hammer Coffeehouse, WCUW Community Radio and recently Worcester
County Traditions (a local folk music society sponsoring house concerts
at John and Linda Henry's home on Vernon Street). He supported
his family by working for Millbrook Distributors where he was head
of the plant's Teamsters Union. Ken's untimely death, due
to natural causes accounts for him being a missed fixture in Traditional
American Folk Music.
According to Ken, Steve Martin was the first folkie
to move into that little slice of hip Worcester. Do not confuse
him with the comic/movie personality of the same name. Steve is
the writer who penned the tune Congress Alley for the group ORPHEUS
(MGM) who recorded it on their first album. He was an on and off
again performer and member of that group which recorded thirteen
other compositions of his. His musical bio includes his pieces
being recorded by CLEAN LIVING (VANGUARD), JAIME BROCKETT (CAPITOL),
and a soul-r&b group CONGRESS ALLEY (AVCO) that named itself
after the song. After leaving Worcester in 1973 he moved to San
Francisco where he remained for fourteen years. During that time
he wrote and performed with cult rockers CHARLES BISCUIT BAND and
RESCUE along with country singer Rebecca West. 1983 marked a time
when he became politically active with counter-culture icon Wavy
Gravy. He was arrested with Wavy, Jackson Browne and hundreds of
other protesters blocking the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.
Martin migrated back to New England in 87 where he has been pursuing
a career in market research. His artistic forays continued with
a country-blues-folk recording, RECIPE, in 91 with Norman Shell
and Bruce Mackay. In 95 there was an independent effort titled
BALLPEEN PLATTER (NOISY REVOLUTION RECORDS) issued on green vinyl.
He has since been involved in community access television around
the South Shore. Steve is credited with helping conceive and nurture
the Congress Alley community. Now in his early 50s, he divides
his time between work, family and the arts.