George Kimball was the sports editor for The Boston Phoenix from 1972 to 1980, and a sports columnist for the Boston Herald from 1980 to 2005, where he became one of the world’s leading writers on boxing. He passed away in 2011. The following piece by George appeared on a handbill for Jacks Bar published in 1973.
November 5, 1973
One supposes that it all started nearly 4 years ago when Jack Reilly concluded that it might prove profitable to open his own saloon than to run somebody else’s, which he had been doing for enough years to make himself something of a legend in a town rather given to legends – Cambridge – in his own right!
Since the premises he inherited between Harvard & Central Square were the former province of a local prize-fighter, Jack wisely engaged the services of a number of one-time Harvard jocks to serve as bartenders. That they didn’t know how to mix drinks seemed to be of scant importance; charisma has been one of the bar’s selling points. Eventually he started dressing them up in striped rugby shirts with the result that Jack’s employees collectively resemble a bunch of limp-wristed refugees from a psychedelic chain gang.
Then, he started rounding up entertainment – among the early performers were a soft folk-rock group called ‘Sweet Potato Pie’, a Harvard student who would be heard from later named Reeve Little, and Spider John Koerner, who in one genesis or another veritably represented the by-then allegedly dead folk music revival of the 60’s.
Eventually this nucleus expanded to include many important figures of the music scene: Paul Geremia, Bonnie Raitt, Rosalie Sorrells, John Prine. By the time Jacks started booking bands, it was like, say, The Whiskey or The Troubadour in L. A. or The Scene in New York – the sort of ‘in’ place to perform; local- J. Geils – acts & out-of-towners in Boston for a concert – Danny Kalb, Patric Sky, Gordon Lightfoot – were dropping in to share a set with the James Montgomery Blues Band and the Road Apples.
So, unless you get there very early these days, you need a machete to hack your way in, because besides putting on stage the best local talent – and Jacks has become the local bellweather for up-and-coming acts – in the area, you never know who is going to turn up & play.
But the funny thing at Jacks Bar is the beautiful people have to stand in line like everybody else, to come & hear the music, and of course if you can distract the bartender away from his scrabble and/or chess game (the odds are he’s got both going at once) to get a drink . . . .
But when all ‘s said and done, there aren’t many factors that make one bar superior to another. One, of course, is the people. Although there are obviously too many of them on any given night, they’re there at Jacks for the same reason I am and they’re the kind of people I like to drink with! And the reason they’re there is to listen to music like this ….