When Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards got arrested for assault in Warwick, R.I., just before they were scheduled to play Boston Garden, Boston Mayor Kevin White rushed to their rescue.
The baddest rock’n roll band in the world ended up speeding along the interstate with police sirens blaring, into the personal custody of the pinstripe-suited mayor
It was the Stones’ 1972 Exile on Main Street tour, when the band was at its height. During that tour, they typically opened with Brown Sugar, then rocked through Gimme Shelter, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Street Fighting Man and ended Mayor with Satisfaction.
Fifteen thousand fans waited for them in Boston on July 18, 1972, but Richards and Jagger scuffled with a photographer in Warwick. They had flown into T.F. Green Airport because fog shut down Logan. The Rhode Island State Police took them into custody just before they had to leave for their Boston concert.
Mayor White probably didn’t know who the Rolling Stones were, but he got on the phone and called Rhode Island officials, telling them a riot could break out at Boston Garden if they didn’t play.
It took some doing, but White persuaded the police to release the Stones into his personal custody.
Rolling Stones Make a Mad Dash
Then Kevin White rushed to Boston Garden, took off his suit jacket and claimed the stage in shirtsleeves and loosened tie.
“The Stones have been busted, but I have sprung them!” he told the audience. He also said he asked the MBTA to stay open late so the concertgoers could be sure to get home.
As the Rolling Stones raced up I-95 to Boston with a screaming police escort, White tried to keep the crowd calm, even throwing a football into the audience as a distraction. Opening act Stevie Wonder played a set described as ‘one of the longest in history.’
At 1 a.m. the Rolling Stones pulled up at the rear of the Garden, ran to the stage and played one of the best concerts of the tour.
Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry told the Boston Phoenix it was the best concert ever in Boston:
It was as amazing as you can imagine. And it was a combination of events that you just can’t orchestrate. It was the kind of thing that made the Stones what they are. I mean, the biggest rock-and-roll outlaws in the world get arrested and then make a mad dash to Boston with a police escort! And, I remember Mayor White throwing a football out into the crowd to keep everyone occupied. And, then, finally, they arrived: the street-fighting men with all the rock-and-roll lifestyle they had.
The feared riot never materialized. Kevin White suggested the Stones give a private concert to his family and supporters to thank him for his help. He never got it.
Four years earlier, Kevin White persuaded James Brown to calm angry Bostonians. Read the amazing story here.
Kevin White photo via Wikipedia. This story was updated in 2022.