Wright he was

MGM Records’ hotly-hyped Bosstown Sound promotion yielded up lots of recordings, from sorta soft-rock to just over the edge of psychedelia, but not a whole lot of sales: perhaps the biggest hit of the lot was “Can’t Find the Time to Tell You” by Orpheus, which on its second chart run managed to make it to #80 in Billboard. Still, if you could get around group names like Phluph and Chamæleon Church and Ultimate Spinach, you’d find some interesting ear candy, including this ’68 track by Beacon Street Union:

BSU made three albums before breaking up, and lead singer John Lincoln Wright decided to go in another direction entirely:

I remember seeing Wright and some grouping of his Sour Mash Boys one evening at a bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1973 (I think), a night when I was drinking too much Harp and working diligently to avoid being seen by the resident caricaturist. (The bunch with whom I was running had tried to talk me into actual Guinness, though I drew the line at ingesting anything that brackish-looking.) The sound, of course, was nothing like BSU, but Wright could sing up a storm, and we had a few words after the show. I’m reasonably certain he wouldn’t have recalled me, though.

Wright died last December at sixty-four, still a fixture in the New England country-music scene but far from a household word anywhere else. Peter Kinder posted this reminiscence:

The last time I saw Lincoln — as he was known, just “Lincoln” — play was at a dance in some North Cambridge hall. It must have been the late 90s.

He was drinking too much. But when he went on… The man could sing and that band could play and harmonize. What that deep, rich voice could do with lyrics meant for this listener the hall’s dreary half-light and aging and aged dancers disappeared into story and sound.

We didn’t have dancers that night in Cambridge, but otherwise, it’s the same story I could have told a quarter-century before. Says one-time Sour Mash Boy Glenn Shambroom: “John never got beyond being a regional act, because he wasn’t going to stop writing songs about New England and wasn’t going to be a cracker.” It might even be true; he never decamped for Nashville or Austin or any of the other cogs in the star-making machinery, country version.

I got thinking about BSU and Wright, in case you’re wondering, because of a message-board thread about a new CD release of some medium-level psychedelia from those days. Someone brought up an Ultimate Spinach epic, I cited a source for it, which happened to be a Bosstown Sound anthology containing the above BSU track, and, as the phrase goes, one thing led to another.

Random last-minute addendum: The drummer and occasional keyboardist for Chamæleon Church was Chevy Chase (and you weren’t).


  1. Peter Kinder »

    17 June 2012 · 2:25 pm

    Lincoln deserves to be remembered. Thanks for posting this and for quoting me.

  2. Roger Green »

    18 June 2012 · 2:24 pm

    Of course, Lincoln DID die young, or too young, especially as we get older.

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