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This Corporate Gig Rocks

This article is more than 11 years old.

For decades, rock music and corporate America have played to the beat of a different drum.

But now in Boston some high-powered executives are finding harmony between art and commerce: They're taking their gigs out of the boardroom and into the rock club. Here's WBUR's Andrea Shea with the story.


[Sound of speaker phone ringing]

ANDREA SHEA: This is the soundtrack to Ernie Boch Jr.'s day job.

ERNIE BOCH JR. (on the phone): 'Advertising.' 'Yea, is Paul there?' 'Nope. He is down near to you.' 'Well he's got some Improper stuff he wants me to look at and some art work.' 'Are you leaving Ernie or are you...?' 'Well I have a meeting at 12:30.' 'OK.'

ANDREA SHEA: Boch is President and CEO of Boch Automotive...a multi-state empire he describes as 'fairly large.'

ERNIE BOCH JR: We do about $1.8 billion in sales a year.

ANDREA SHEA: At night, though, Boch lets loose playing the blues.

[Music: Ernie Boch playing live at Berklee College of Music ]

ANDREA SHEA: Boch's the rhythm guitarist in his two year-old blues band, 'Ernie and the Automatics.' On stage, wearing a car mechanic's uniform, the CEO jams with some seasoned rockers. Barry Goudreau and Sibby Hashian are two former members of the multi-platinum selling band Boston. Boch says their resumes put him to shame.

ERNIE BOCH JR: I'm out of my league, I'm always scuffling to keep up, I've always been the worst guy in the band, and I think that's the best way to be, you know and also in business I surround myself with the best and the brightest. If I am the sharpest guy in this company we have a problem.

[Music: Ernie Boch Jr. and the Automatics live at Berklee]

ANDREA SHEA: As it turns out Ernie Boch isn't a rock and roll rookie. In his twenties he studied at Berklee College of Music. Boch's fifty now and a trustee at the school. This gig is actually part of an on-going concert there billed the 'Executive Sessions.'

TOM SIMONS: I was recruited by Berklee to put this together.

ANDREA SHEA: Tom Simons is President and Creative Director of Partners and Simons, a brand strategy firm in Boston. But he says he landed this the bands for the 'Executive Sessions'...because of his musical 'cred.' Simons' rock group 'The Loomers' competed in Fortune Magazine's 2004 'Battle of the Corporate Bands.'

TOM SIMONS: The fellow who runs the band worked at my company as a copywriter, the Comptroller plays bass in the band, we submitted some songs, made it to the semi-finals in New York City, played at the Knitting Factory and then went on to the finals and played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. And that's a real Wayne's World moment, I'll tell you.

[Music: 'The Loomers' live at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame]

ANDREA SHEA: The Loomers didn't win...but Simons, a guitarist, says the national battle made it clear his corporate band isn't alone. Some of the CEO rockers playing at Berklee are highly-paid higher-ups at Fidelity Investments and Raytheon. Simons says the fact that they've got money helps feed the habit.

TOM SIMONS: Every one of these bands is much better equipped than your average garage band. I play a James Strusart Rusty Steel Deville, I have a Les Paul I have a pimped out Paul Reed Smith guitar and those are just the ones my wife knows about.

ANDREA SHEA: Music critic David Wildman plays the guitar too...but says this in response to the new wave of CEO rock bands.

DAVID WILDMAN: Money can't buy me talent. (laughs)

ANDREA SHEA: Wildman says the convergence of anti-establishment art and commerce spells the end of rock and roll. He evokes Iggy Pop...who used to cut himself with razor blades and roll around in peanut butter on stage. Now, Wildman says, Pop's music can be heard in commercials for cruise ships.

DAVID WILDMAN: Rock music has become so a part of our lives and so prevalent there's really nothing about it that has the character of something that's shocking, that is revolutionary in any way, it's something that you can buy, something that you can surround yourself with.

[Sound check at rehearsal space — instruments tuning and 'One, two, one two' ]

ANDREA SHEA: Jon Cahill is surrounded by guitars, effects pedals and amps at The Jamspot rehearsal space in Somerville.

JON CAHILL: I guess there's a lot of kind of anti-corporate sentiment with some musicians but we all have to make a living.

ANDREA SHEA: Cahill makes his living as head of Stellio, a graphic design firm. On this night, though, he's lead singer for 'The Limitations.'

JON CAHILL: You know with us in this band it gives us an opportunity to let down our guard a little and not have to act so corporate and professional all the time.

ANDREA SHEA: The band's rhythm guitarist is a doctor. Jim Januzzi directs the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. He also consults for the Boston Red Sox. For Januzzi rock's therapeutic value is priceless.

JIM JANUZZI: I travel a lot, I teach, I speak so I'm constantly on the road, I'm working long hours in the hospital, and my patients will say, how do you de-stress? And I tell them I de-stress by putting on my Paul Reed Smith, turning on my Mesa Boogie to 8 or 9 and making the walls shake. (laughs)

[Music from The Limitations rehearsal]

ANDREA SHEA: And there's something to that. A recent study conducted by the International Music Products Association finds playing music counteracts the ravages of stress in the work place. The organization now sponsors a 'Weekend Warrior' program to get side-tracked musicians back on stage because it helps reduce employee depression, burnout and turnover.

So while some CEOs play golf...and some lawyers ride Harleys...these suits in Boston will keep moonlighting as rockers.

For WBUR I'm Andrea Shea.

[Music from The Limitations]

The Limitations are playing Thursday night at Berklee College of Music, as part of the "Executive Sessions" series. For details, pictures and video, click on the links below.

This program aired on May 22, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

Andrea Shea Twitter Senior Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.


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