About Richard Vacca

Although I wrote The Boston Jazz Chronicles: Faces, Places and Nightlife 1937-1962 there is little in my background that pointed the way to that. I’m not a musician or a jazz journalist. I’m not even a Bostonian by birth. I’m a midwesterner, and I didn’t set foot in a Boston jazz club until 1982.

Photo of Richard Vacca, Sep 2020

Photo by Fred Bouchard

Nineteen eighty two was the year I moved to the Boston area and embarked on a 30-year career in technical communication and publishing. The software business and I finally parted ways in 2012, but by then my evenings and weekends were already given over to exploring my abiding interest in the social and cultural history of Boston and eastern Massachusetts in the 20th century. The people and places of Boston jazz were central to that, and I thought it was my good fortune that so little had been written about them. I started on a book, but the publisher who bought it shut down suddenly and I decided to publish it myself. I even started a company, Troy Street Publishing, to do it the way I wanted it done. The Boston Jazz Chronicles, my first book, was published in 2012.

It’s done fairly well. The Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) awarded the book a Certificate of Merit for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research in Jazz in 2013. Notable reviews were written by Nat Hentoff, Bob Porter, and Michael Steinman. I told the Boston Jazz Chronicles story at length to journalist Fred Bouchard as part of his Oral History Project interview at the Berklee College of Music.

A few fizzled writing ventures later, I met music impresario Fred Taylor of Scullers Jazz Club and went to work on the story of Taylor’s 60 years in the entertainment business. I was the “as-told-to” guy (a story in itself), and our book, What, and Give up Showbiz?, will be published by Backbeat Books in late 2020.

In 2019, I co-curated the exhibit
Jazz Scene in Boston: Telling the Local Story
at Boston’s Museum of African-American History.


In 2022, I assisted the curators at the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame in preparing a display of jazz memorabilia for their exhibit, Boston: A Music Town. Most of the items in that display were loaned from my personal collection.

Much of the music I write about is out of print and unavailable. But if I’m writing about it, you should be able to hear it, and my solution for now is elsewhere online. I maintain a YouTube channel where I post out-of-print or obscure recordings made by Boston jazz artists, or for defunct Boston record labels. And I’m sitting on a cache of reel-to-reel tapes of some really fine unreleased music from the 1960s and 1970s. I’m not sure what to do with all of that yet.

In 2017, I finally got serious about writing volume 2 of The Boston Jazz Chronicles, covering the years from 1963 to 1988. But there is more to this city than its jazz story. Nightlife of all kinds interests me, as do the stories of Boston during Prohibition and the Great Depression (my Boston 1930 project), the city’s newspaper wars, and the rise of the “New Boston” and the people whose lives it touched. There are more stories than there is time to tell them.

Prior to all of this, I earned a BA in Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and an MS in Technical Communication from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Finally, I am the sole proprietor of Troy Street Publishing, LLC, a Massachusetts corporation. It is part self-publishing venture, part small press…and mainly on life support. However, I am always looking for new ideas for it.

Troy Street Publishing logoIs there a Troy Street in Boston? There was. It was one of the New York Streets in the South End, running between Harrison Avenue and Albany Street. It disappeared from the map of Boston in 1955 when its buildings were razed in the name of urban renewal. As a publisher looking to remember things left behind in the twentieth century, I thought it was a fine street on which to virtually set up shop.

You can contact me by email at rvacca at richardvacca.com, or by leaving a message on the Contact page.

Thanks for stopping by!