Steve Martin was the creative force behind Congress Alley.  Martin's dream was to bring together artists who could enjoy "absolute creative freedom of expression."
James Dempsey, Worcester Telegram & Gazette '99
Clockwise from lower left:  Stephen B. Martin, Walter Green, Alex McGinnis, Frank "Pasquale" Caricchio, Norman Shell, Marie Green, Michael "Gitch" Jackman, Kathy Woodbury, Manasha Bilsey

Congress Alley has been immortalized in song by its "poet laureate."
Jack Tubert, Worcester Telegram '68

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE ANYWAY?
© 1999 David Nader

I've wanted to write about the ignored and maligned Congress Alley for the last fifteen years but, like many of the individuals I mentioned it to, I did not believe there were many people from the original community still around.  And if they were around they would not be in any condition to speak intelligently about it.  I ran the idea past local musician Bob Jordan.  In the past he has written about the history of the Worcester underground music scene so I thought this might be a place to inquire.  He immediately referred me to traditional folk music supporter, Ken Jordan.  Now I thought Bob was truly deranged.

Come to find out, Ken was the motherlode.  He pointed me in the direction of the people I would need to contact.  I found the major players in this passion play and they were alive and quite well.  The dynamism of the personalities and their present preoccupation's overshadowed the story itself.  I did not think I was going to have this much fun.

Ken Jordan, recently passed away in 1998, was the second person to move into Congress Street.  He like many who established the community were veterans of The Y-Not Coffeehouse.  After the Alley's demise, he visited a number of alternative scenes including  ones in Boston, Greenwich Village, the West Coast and Mexico.  Ken settled down by the end of the Seventies, got married to long time friend Kathy, raised a family and continued to support folk music in Worcester. He was most notably associated with John Henry's Hammer Coffeehouse, WCUW Community Radio and recently Worcester County Traditions (a local folk music society sponsoring house concerts at John and Linda Henry's home on Vernon Street).  He supported his family by working for Millbrook Distributors where he was head of the plant's Teamsters Union. Ken's untimely death, due to natural causes accounts for him being a missed fixture in Traditional American Folk Music.

According to Ken, Steve Martin was the first folkie to move into that little slice of hip Worcester.  Do not confuse him with the comic/movie personality of the same name.  Steve is the writer who penned the tune Congress Alley for the group ORPHEUS (MGM) who recorded it on their first album. He was an on and off again performer and member of that group which recorded thirteen other compositions of his.  His musical bio includes his pieces being recorded by CLEAN LIVING (VANGUARD), JAIME BROCKETT (CAPITOL), and a soul-r&b group CONGRESS ALLEY (AVCO) that named itself after the song.  After leaving Worcester in 1973 he moved to San Francisco where he remained for fourteen years. During that time he wrote and performed with cult rockers CHARLES BISCUIT BAND and RESCUE along with country singer Rebecca West.  1983 marked a time when he became politically active with counter-culture icon Wavy Gravy.  He was arrested with Wavy, Jackson Browne and hundreds of other protesters blocking the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.  Martin migrated back to New England in 87 where he has been pursuing a career in market research.  His artistic forays continued with a country-blues-folk recording, RECIPE, in 91 with Norman Shell and Bruce Mackay.  In 95 there was an independent effort titled BALLPEEN PLATTER (NOISY REVOLUTION RECORDS) issued on green vinyl.  He has since been involved in community access television around the South Shore.  Steve is credited with helping conceive and nurture the Congress Alley community.  Now in his early 50s, he divides his time between work, family and the arts.

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