with a band in Hopedale, started around 1964.
Growing up with Joe? It was all like "Leave It To Beaver." We spent lots of time together. When
he visited my home he always greeted "Mr. and Mrs. Wright." And likewise when I visited his, I
greeted "Mr. and Mrs Perry." When he started to grow his hair, Nana and Papa [Tom and Betty
Malloy. Tom was the chief of police in Hopedale from 1943 until 1963] still welcomed him
because his manners were impeccable. As long as the manners were ok, one was welcomed.
They couldn't figure his hair or mine, but as long as it was clean, they just scratched their heads
and said, "OK."
The first band that I was ever in was called "The Chimes of Freedom." In the Aerosmith
biography, the members of the old band were misnamed... I got left out. It was Joe's first band
as well. So in 2001, when Aerosmith played in Charlotte, NC, I brought the book. I told Joe, "I
have a bone to pick with you." He said, "Bill, you and I never had a harsh word in our lives." I said,
"Okay, read this." He said,"This is not true." He crossed out the mis-information, corrected and
signed it. I no doubt own the only accurate version of that book in the world. In 2001, I had two
frames from a 1966 video reduced to a photo. I had them copied, matted and framed. It was
Joes 50th birthday. One, I signed to my old friend Joe for his 50th birthday. I had another made
for him to sign. We have the same photos hanging in our homes. He signed mine "To Bill, the
first great step in a wonderful journey..all the best, Joe Perry."
The funniest part is that my date was 22 year old. When Alex Oneschuk's wife saw the pictures,
she called and said, "For the love of God, Wright, can't you wait until they get their braces off?"
Funny part was, I just wanted to see my old pal Joe. I don't care how famous he is...and when he
sees me, he doesn't act famous. Now, the 22 year old wanted to meet Steven Tyler. Here is
where the story gets funny. In the early '70s, my old band opened for Aerosmith. Long story, but
Steven and I got into a shoving match. Fast forward to the present. Wendy (22) said, "Will we
meet Steven?" I told her that I had no clue. I just wanted to say hello to a friend of 45 years. Well,
we were backstage. I gave Joe the picture, he pointed me out to his wife and she said, "Oh my
God, that's Bill, the guy you always talk about." Well, the rest of the band was flying; Joe and his
family were using a bus. And the NC State cops wanted him to get rolling, they had to escort him
to the highway. So Joe apologised for making it a short visit. I asked him the way to the men's
room. He pointed the way and took off. As I was walking back down the hall toward Wendy,
Steven passed me. I said, "You're a long way from Hopedale." He stopped, looked, hugged me
me and said "*#*% #*&*, it's Bill *%&#^ Wright....what the *%#* are you doing with a cane?" Well,
there's some stories, pardon the language, but that is the way that it was.
In all seriousness, the guys and I have put some music together. One song celebrates
Hopedale...and I would rather play a Wednesday night Band Concert than Madison Square
Garden. There are four songs that celebrate being raised in New England textile towns. There
are a few venues back home that we want to play. Lowell, Hopedale and wherever the
Blackstone/ Slatersville stage is.
E-mail number 2, the next morning.
I should never answer emails after a long night of shooting pool with the guys. To get more
detailed about Joe/Hopedale/Bands, well, there really isn't a whole lot of detail. I don't expect that
our lives were much different than yours was. Hopedale was a nice place to be raised, plenty to
do in the summer and winters we just walked back and forth to each others houses, hung out
and "batted the breeze"...more than likely about hating school. Things changed a bit when the
whole Beatle thing happened...several of the guys got instruments so we had an activity. Jam
sessions were held at the Alden house. Winters up on the third floor, big room in the front....
summers in the barn outback That all probably started in 1964-65 and lasted perhaps a couple of
About that time or shortly thereafter Joe got shipped off to Vermont Academy to finish high school
(he didn't, but that was the plan) and his folks had a place in Sunapee, NH. So by then we saw
less and less but wrote letters (wish I'd saved them) and he'd pop in when he was in town. He
spent a little bit of time in town when I was in college. He was working in the foundry but that was
about the last I saw of him on a regular basis. I guess that the real message is we were all just
plain old kids being raised in Hopedale. These days when I see Joe, I don't see a rock star. I see
a guy I've know for forty-five years. He doesn't talk about the band much, just inquires about old
family and friends. He's just a kid from Hopedale who leaves his rock 'n roll persona on stage.
We're just a couple of middle aged men sitting on a sofa, sometimes with a couple of guitars.
Most people would find us as dull as watching geese poop on the shores of Hopedale Pond.
E-mail number 3, a few hours later.
Aerosmith did play at the Town Hall. It was late 69 and early 70 and 71. I remember because
Joanne and I were dating, but after we were married they played a couple of times as well. Joe
would come over to 37 High Street after the gigs for a couple of beers. I can remember that
because Billy had been born and I had to show Joe, "Lookie what... I've got...a kid." He had no
clue as to what to do with one. But, that leads to another story. I hadn't seen Joe for many years. I
was backstage with him when he excused himself (these were the Joe Perry Project days). He
excused himself, went to shoot up and came back. I was pretty disgusted and Ginny and I left.
One night Billy, Keith and I were at Lowell's Dairy having supper...back in the days when the juke
box selection things were at the tables. Someone had played an Aerosmith song and Billy
started saying ,"These guys are so awesome," etc. I told Billy that Joe used to bounce him on his
knee. "Dad, you don't know those guys." Well, I wasn't going to engage a 16 year old in an
argument, and let it go.
Around 1989, my mother sent me an 8mm movie that showed Joe, John and me horsing around
in the snow, and the rehearsal of the Chimes of Freedom. Dave Meade owned a video store and
had the technology to convert movies to video. Well, I sent a copy to the Aerosmith office. A couple
of days later I got a phone call from Joe. "Where did you get this thing?" he asked. It was his first
band. "We're playing Great Woods. I'll send 4 tickets and backstage passes."
I called Billy and Keith and told them that we should go out on such and such a night, though not
where, and Dave as well. When I handed the kids the tickets and backstage passes, they said,
"Where did you get these?" I just said, "Ask Joe when you meet him." Mary Perry [Joe's mother]
almost had a stroke that night when I saw her and she found that my kids were 15 and 17. She
figured it was a "gimme" when she saw Dave with me.
Seeing Joe is fun. But it is no more or less fun than see Dave Meade, Tom Lipsky, Al
Oneschuk. Cripes, when Dave and I see each other we hug like long lost lovers. We're all just
friends now with a decades long history of friendship and experiences. Without regard for fame
or income or whatever, we're just, "The Guys." Middle aged men referring to one another as, "The
kid I hung around with." That's all we ever were and all we ever will be. But I miss Papa more
than any of them.
A friend of mine, Buzz Tremblay, and I have been working on a CD. The name is "Rivers and
Looms and Going Home." I'll be sending it to Dave Meade by next week. One of the tunes is all
about being raised in Hopedale. Our goal? I've talked to the old band. We want to play a
Hopedale Band Concert. This band has opened for Aerosmith and Arlo Guthrie. You cannot
imaging what it is like to play for 14,000 people.
Please feel free to use any of this. The ramblings of someone who will never forget home,
family and friends. [At this point Bill mentioned that Sleepy Little Town could be heard through the
CAOS website, and I had a link to it here for a few years. However, that site seems to have
disappeared, but I put it on YouTube with a slide show of old Hopedale photos. Here's a link to it.
Sorry to hear of Elaine's aunt. Those old fragile bones. Though Papa had cancer and that is, I
believe, his official cause of death, it was a broken hip that did him in. One night when I was at
the hospital with him, it was the day that he found out that the hip was inoperable and he would
be bedridden, he looked at me and said, "I ain't living like this, confined to a bed...sorry Billy, but
it's time to go." I really think that he willed his death. You can't imagine how I miss him. My house
is like a "Papa Museum"...pictures in every room, some of their old knick-knackery around as
well. He was quite a guy. Billy and Keith want their kids to call me Papa. That's even scarier than
when I went sky-diving a few months ago. His shoes are huge to fill. I used to dream of him all
the time. This story is weird and I swear I was stone cold sober. On the morning that Abbie, my
first grand-daughter was born, it was 4:00 AM. I felt a hand on my shoulder, shaking me awake.
Someone was saying, "Billy, Billy, wake up" I sat up on the edge of my bed, turned on the light and
there he was. He said, "Good morning, Papa"...laughed that funny laugh of his and just drifted
away. There I was on the edge of the bed when the phone rang. It was Billy saying ,"Good
morning Papa, Abbie is here". All I could say is, "I know"."Rocked my world. Oddly, I have never
dreamt of Papa since. Never told that story to anyone until about a year ago. I told my mother. She
believed me. It seems that one day she and your Dad went to visit Papa in the nursing home. He
said, "Oh hi, Johnny Byrne just left." My mother said ,"Daddy, Uncle Johnny has been dead for
years." He said, "I know that, but he was just standing at the end of the bed talking to me." Lot
flakier than rock and roll stories.
Best to all, Bill
Click here to see Bill with Joe Perry in a pre-Aerosmith band. Click here to read about Bill's
Rustic Bridge wedding. Click here to read Bill's memories of the Great Blackout. Here for a
page about Aerosmith, and here to go to Bill's song about Hopedale, Sleepy Little Town. Here for
Dave Meade's memories of Hopedale and Milford rock bands of the seventies, including
Left to right - The Unknown Keyboardist, Bill Wright, Joe Perry