Thursday, September 13, 2007


I had left World's End. I was still dealing blackjack a couple of nights a month, and I would soon begin a new job with Prudential Insurance, working in a warehouse of theirs in Allston. I’d seriously take up the bass guitar in a little while, giving myself a real shot at being a paid musician. I’d be spending one summer driving a cab and another summer working for the City of Boston, supplementing those incomes via gambling (legally and profitably) and by dealing drugs (also profitable, though certainly not as legal.)

A busy time was ahead for me after leaving that band. In the midst of this, though, I had one more gig to play. I would have rather not had to play it.


There are some dates you never forget because they were the time of tragedy shared by millions of people - 9/11, for example, or for an earlier generation, December 7th, 1941. Then there are those dates that were a time of personal tragedy. The world doesn’t know them, but you never forget them. We all have them. May 24th, 1976, is one of mine.

That was the day Chuck Marotta died.


Chuck was my bandmate in World’s End. He was a drummer, and one heck of a good drummer he was, too. A real sweet... kid. He was just a kid. We all were. The rest of us got to become men. Chuck didn’t.

He was a backseat passenger in a car that was totaled when a drunk driver ran a red light. Chuck died instantly. He never knew what hit him.

(At least, if there’s a God in Heaven he didn’t.)

He was 17. His high school graduation was one month away.


I had left the band, as I say, and the remaining members gave it a go for a short while and then drifted off into other pursuits. Chuck, as well as Wayne Shockley (another member of World’s End, who joined them after I had left) had formed a new band, Destination. Chuck was on drums, of course. Wayne played the bass, and there were two guitarists. Chuck was also the singer.

I was in touch with the guys from World’s End, off and on, but with all of my other pursuits of the time, not nearly as much as I would have liked. I hadn’t spoken to any of them in over a month when, while watching the news at 11pm with my Dad, a report similar to the following aired.

“...and in Malden tonight, two are dead in a traffic accident. The two were teenagers, passengers in a car hit when another car ran a red light. Killed were Charles Marotta of Malden, and...”

I didn’t hear anything else. My stomach went hot and my head swam. I said, “Holy shit, no, oh, fuck.”

My Dad said, “What? What’s the matter?”

“I think... shit... I think it was Chuck, from the band... in that accident. Oh, fuck! Damn it! GODDAMN IT!”

I was coming unglued quickly. My Dad tried to keep me calm.

“Well, find out for sure first. Don’t get so upset until you know.”

He was right. I called Duane, our guitarist. The line was busy. I hung up and immediately my phone rang. It was Duane.

He said, “Red, did you see the news on Channel 7?”

“Yeah. The accident?”


“Was that Chuck? Our Chuck?”

“I don’t know for sure. I’ll try to find out and I’ll give you a call back.”

He called me back. He had found out. It was our Chuck.


I had had other people in my life die. My grandmother - my Dad’s mother - died when I was 9. She was the first person I had known who died, and it took me a couple of days to really wrap my head around the fact that someone I knew and loved was gone forever. Aunts and uncles had died, as well as my grandfather from my Mom’s side of the family. This was a totally different feeling.

This was the first person from my own age group who had died. This was the first friend whom I’d never see again. It wasn’t right, not at all. He was more than a year younger than I was. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had kept a thought of Chuck being the drummer in another band with me. That would never happen.

I called one of our bass players, my good friend, Sean. I broke the news to him. He took it very hard, sobbing loudly. He had stayed in touch with Chuck more than I had recently. Duane had talked to his brother, Mark, our other drummer, and then he called the other folks who had played with the band at one time or another. There was nothing else for me to do, no one else for me to call. I went to bed.

I always listened to the radio when going to bed, usually music or a ballgame. This time I listened to the news station. I heard about it again, and then again twenty minutes or so later. It was still unreal, no matter how many times I heard his name.


As with some of the other unhappy events from this period in my life, I have trouble recalling some of the exact details. I have very vivid snapshots of certain parts, but blanks for others. As to the exact details of the funeral, I have only bits and pieces of it - all extremely sad.

I have no recollection of the church service, or of how I got to the cemetery. I assume that I got a ride from Duane and Mark. I recall – God forgive me for my selfishness – I recall being upset that I wasn’t asked to be one of Chuck’s pallbearers. I had assumed that all of us from the band would be asked. Well, of course, Chuck had many friends and family. I hadn’t considered his life outside of our group.

At the cemetery, prayers were said and tears flowed. There were perhaps a hundred of his classmates and friends there, as well as his immediate family. As the casket was about to be lowered, Chuck’s poor mother collapsed on her knees towards the grave, crying loudly and saying, “My baby, my baby...”

He was her only child.

The Priest tried to gently clear us from the scene, while Chuck’s Dad helped Mrs. Marotta to her feet. We were all in shock, and the tears flowed without embarrassment.

We walked back to our cars. I grabbed Duane in a hug, saying through my own sobs, “We’ll always be together, right?”

He hugged me back and said, “Yeah, Red, of course.”

Mark and the other band members joined us in the embrace.

After Duane gave me a ride to the train station at Sullivan Square, I rode back to Dorchester in my black suit, eyes red and puffy. Duane and I saw each other again perhaps two or three times after that embrace. That's the way it goes. We all decide on different paths to travel. Duane's and mine just stopped intersecting.


Destination had been booked to play a concert on July 4th. It was the Bicentennial year, so it was a huge deal. With Chuck dead, the remaining members of the band looked to replace him on drums and vocals for this gig. The plan was that they would play the concert and then surprise Chuck’s Mom and Dad, donating all of their pay to put towards the funeral costs.

They asked Mark and me if we’d fill Chuck’s spot, with Mark on drums and me singing. We were honored, of course, and said yes.

We were able to get together for three or four rehearsals prior to the gig, enough time for the two of us to learn our parts passably. The other band members were nice guys. They pretty much had to be; Chuck wouldn’t have been with them if they weren’t. Although it was a somber time overall, it was still fun being active in a band again.


The concert took place as scheduled, on July 4th, at Trafton Park in Malden. There was a very large crowd, easily the largest I had ever performed in front of to that point. I’d estimate perhaps a couple thousand were there, both for the band and for the fireworks. The show went off without any major glitches. I growled, shook, screamed, gyrated, climbed on the furniture, and did all of the other stuff that passed for singing on my part. The band was hot. I had a blast, and the crowd dug it.

I hope Chuck liked it.

The day after, we collected our money and rode over to The Marotta’s house. We gave the cash, in a white envelope, to Chuck’s Mom and Dad. They were extremely touched by our gesture, but didn’t want to accept the cash. However, we insisted and they relented.

(I’m not positive of this, but I think they might have used the money to fund a small scholarship to Chuck’s high school.)


I have no idea if the driver who killed Chuck is still living. As I understand it, he received a suspended sentence for manslaughter. He did no time. He may still be out there driving.

Chuck has now been dead for close to twice as long as he was alive.

Yesterday, I googled Chuck. Nothing.

Now, at least there’s something.


david mcmahon said...


There is so much affection in that tribute.

And the fierce determination to give Chuck his spot on Google.

That is the ultimate eulogy from a peer.


Barbara said...

I'm glad Chuck is here, in the internet, now. You made me cry Suldog.

Melinda said...

I'm sure he loved watching you guys play for him... and I'm positive that he's proud of the person you became today.
beautiful post Sully...

Thimbelle said...

There isn't much more to say.

Wherever he is, I'm sure he's smiling.

Suldog said...

Thank you, friends.

Mushy said...

You did good in posting his name and about will be a memorial for years, if not forever.

I did that for a couple of guys who died at DaNang when I was there. It's the least we can do.

Great touching post Sul!

Michal said...

very touching and real. thanks for telling us about chuck. he deserves it. i'm glad he'll show up on google now.
isn't it remarkable how certain, specific moments can truly come to shape our identity and our perspective?

Anna said...

I cried when I read this. It's good to know Chuck is remembered. The way you wrote this, I almost feel I lost a friend, too.

Emon said...

Great tribute to Chuck, Jim! I sometimes wonder how I'd feel if a friend or parent or son was killed by a drunk driver.

The part that eats me up inside is "suspended sentence for manslaughter. He did no time." Goodness, how do parents live with that knowledge!

Maybe it's just how I am sewn together, but I'd want to know if he - the driver - sleeps well at night.

Merisi said...

At the wrong place at the wrong time. Chance. My brother's life ended at age 23 on a foggy November evening, because a farmer woman used the road without cleaning the dirt from the fields off her rearlights. She was found guilty, but got a suspended sentence and a 600 Dollar fine. 600 Dollars for a person killed out of laziness and carelessness.
She lives still in the neighborhood and not once did she write or say she was sorry to my mother.

Suldog said...

Again, thank you! It's so nice to know that I got it right.

yak said...

I was the last guitarist to play with Chuck & Wayne in Destination. I had some great times with them. Chuck instantly made me feel welcomed in the trio and as a friend. He was a gentle soul with no tolerance for mean-spiritedness. He passed the day after MC graduation on his way home from work at Zayres. I was a pall bearer at the funeral...I turned 18 that day. I came to know many of his friends after his death. Chuck remains in my memory to this day...I will never forget him. I played the 4th at Trafton Park that year with Mark Sullivan on Drums, Wayne Shockley on bass, Joey Pompeo on guitar, and a vocalist (Suldog) whom I barely knew. We rehearsed one time & played the gig...there were more people than we could count. Someone came out of the crowd & played wama-jama on the harp. The love & positive energy that once was Charles Marotta is with me today. Rock-on!

Suldog said...

Yak - Thank you so very much for commenting! I greatly enjoyed my very brief time playing with you guys, although I certainly wish the circumstances had been different. God bless!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim and Yak,

I got this blast on my Blackberry unexpectedly this afternoon with the headline " Chuck Marrotta". well that grabed my attention and in between meetings, I opened the message and read it. Yes, I remember Chuck, and I do remember when he died.

I was an MC classmate of Chuck and yes, I do remember you Yak. In the 70's, we were all trying to look hard and make our way. Chuck and I were both from Medford, rode the same bus/train combiantions over the years, and shared the same homeroom minimally in freshman year. Chuck was always the guy drumming with his fingers HARD and LOUD on the desk to a song inside his head as the announcements or some other such nonsense was comming over the speakers or being read in the front of the room.(If you knew him, you can picture it). I remember the Sullivan brothers, and his close friend Steve Grandy, who looked easily 20 or so with a mustache, longish hair, and a beard that could have used a shave every fifteen minutes or so. All good guys, all deeply shaken by this. I remember the wake in Medford Square and the long line stretching for blocks outside. MC people, Medford people, music paeople, random people...all friends.

I was not a close friend of Chuck's, but a friend none the less. Chuck had his group certainly, but he could sit and talk with anybody, and was always welcomed to do so.

Yak, I thank you for reaching out. Chuck and the incidents surrounding his untimely death have never left my memory even after all of these years.

Suldog, I don't know you, but you write very well and elicited a response from me, a normally very private person.

Best to both of you...and Chuck Marrotta Rocks!

Bill Donahue

Suldog said...


Thanks for the comment. It is truly appreciated.

My intent in writing this piece was to make sure that Chuck wouldn't be forgotten. I see, from your comment and from Yak's, that he has been remembered - and fondly - all along, with or without my words. That makes me happier than I can possibly express. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Chuck and I were classmates and teammates at MC. By our senior year neither one of us were playing basketball anymore ...probably a skill thing, lol... but our friendship continued. I used to tease him about getting a haircut since he wore his hair long.
We were all stunned by his passing. We were confused, bitter, disappointed. While walking out of the cemetery all I could think of was his mother having to live the rest of her life with a hole in her heart. Thats what really set me back.
I think of him often, less than my younger years, but still think of him...and look towards the sky when I feel I needed help from above.
So yes Chuck we will always remember you...Save a spot up there for all of us and while you are at it get your hair cut
Joe Tringale

sarge_usa said...

I too remember Chuck.
He died on my 18th birthday.
I still recount our loss of Chuck to my nieces and nephews and the boys in my Scout Troop as a sad lesson I learned at 18, I can honestly say that I have never climbed behind the wheel of a car after drinking.
I could never live with the guilt of taking someones life in that manner.

Chuck was a great guy and I am glad to see that so many others remember him.

and I want to thank Paul IaCadoro an d Face Book for the link to your tribute.

Dan Appleton, MC 1976

sarge_usa said...

I too rememger Chuck and the terribly sad circumstances under which he was taken from us.

I recount that tragedy to the young people in my life, nieces, nephews and my own children as a hard learned life lesson about drinking and driving.

Chuck was killed on my 18th birthday,
I remember where I was and how I found out about the accident.

I have never gotten behind the wheel after drinking in large part because of the loss of Chuck and several other friends to drunk drivers.

I want to than Paul Iacadoro for letting me know about this tribute.

Chuck lives on in the memories of his friends and family as forever young.

Dan Appleton MC class of 76,

Suldog said...

Joe, Dan - Thank you very much for reading, and especially for remembering. I'm glad what I wrote has maybe kept Chuck's memory alive a little bit more.

Denyse said...

I've read all of the lovely tributes to such a great kid. I didn't really "know" Chuckie as most of you did. I was one of the "wanna-be" girls who were thrown into a trance whenever he was around. He a senior, I a chance! He was so very sweet to me though...a chubby groupie that sang in the Folk Group at St. Francis in Medford. I recall searching desperately every Sunday through the parishioners at the folk mass for his big brown eyes and long soft hair.

On the night of 5/24/76 I was looking for him at Zayre's, but he had left early with a few other kids...think of it every year as many of my friends do. As a result of that accident there is now a turn signal at that intersection on Rte. 16. Such a waste...all it may have taken to prevent it was a traffic light.

I too recall the long lines to see him just once more at the wake in the square. His poor devastated parents...I had made a bracelet with his name on it and Mrs. Marotta let me place it beside him. I was able to bum a ride from some of his friends who saw me sobbing as everyone was leaving the church...I too will never forget his Mom that day.

I visited them on Circuit Road for a few years after that and would bump into his Dad at WoodLawn Cemetery...I had taken the bus to get there and Mr. Marotta drove me home. I think I still have his yearbook picture handy...

Thanks so much for immortalizing Chuckie in this way. Your writing has impacted me very much and I thank you...God Bless

Suldog said...

Denyse - Thank you so very much for sharing your memories. That I've reached so many people with this does my heart good, for sure. Truly, thank you.