Arts and Leisure

Boston Mayor Frees Rolling Stones From Rhode Island Police

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

Rolling Stones Keith Richards and Mick Jagger

Rolling Stones Keith Richards and Mick Jagger

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.

Kevin White

Kevin White

“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 2020. 





  1. Clare Silliman

    July 18, 2014 at 11:13 am

    I love this story. Long live Rock and Roll

  2. Dana McPhee

    July 18, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I was at this concert and the 1969 concert here, with B.B. King – he too played an extra long set because the ‘boys’ took forever to go on-stage for some reason (all good)…

  3. Molly

    July 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Very wise decision made by Mayor White in my opinion. It doesn’t take much to start a riot these days unfortunately.

  4. Owen Hartnett

    July 18, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    I was there at Boston Garden that night. You have some facts wrong. The Stones did not play in Warwick, RI the night before. The plane they were taking to Boston got diverted to Green Airport, which is where they allegedly punched the photographer. The police did not “find drugs on them.” Keith Richards was the one who threw the punch, and was arrested for simple assault, while Jagger was arrested for obstructing a police officer. Kevin White’s speech to the crowd included a line about how his “Puerto Rican section of Boston was on fire tonight — please go home peacefully from here.” Stevie Wonder did play a very extended set. There were numerous footballs and frisbees thrown around the Garden that night. The Stones came on about 1 AM and played their full concert (I think until about 3 AM that night). Amazing show.

    • Bill

      July 18, 2015 at 11:38 am

      Maybe the Historical Society will make the necessary corrections.

  5. New England Historical Society

    July 18, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    ^Dana, Was the concert as good as Joe Perry said it was?

    • Michael Ruggelo

      February 16, 2018 at 11:17 am

      I was there as well. IN my memory the Stones played what I thought was a short set. Stevie Wonder was amazing, playing drums and every other instrument. He came to my school the next day (Malden High) and I got to meet him.

  6. Dana McPhee

    July 18, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Yes! Was a long wait, but as I said, all good – love Stevie Wonder especially on harmonica…

    • Dawn M. Connors

      July 21, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      Do you know if they stayed at the HOward Johnsons the next day?

  7. Lisa Pollack

    July 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    This is the mayor talking to the crowd at that show; I have it framed and hanging on my office wall!

  8. Janet Malm

    July 18, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    I wasn’t there but remner it well like it was yesterday

  9. Susan Holmes

    July 19, 2014 at 9:37 am

    I was at that concert on Boston Garden!! It got ugly waiting for them!!!

  10. Janet Malm

    July 19, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Sue, I went to the Rolling Stones with you. Was this the one? It was very HOT that night!! Awesome for us though

  11. Susan Holmes

    July 19, 2014 at 11:05 am

    No this one I went to with The Rum Pot Rustlers… That s why it got so ugly waiting….. We went to another one… I saw them a total of 7 times. They put on the best concerts Evah!!! Still tied with Beatles as my fav band!!!!

  12. Susan Holmes

    July 19, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Remember Stephen Willgauck thought he was Mick Jagger?? He did a pretty good impression !!

    • Marilee

      September 29, 2018 at 10:04 am

      I was at this concert it was amazing but I do remember the long lines for the phones kids calling their parents..We took a cab home as I don’t remember the trains still running..A night to remember

  13. Jerry

    October 7, 2014 at 9:03 am

    My dad was at this concert before he left to go to Vietnam. The 2 things he ALWAYS tells me about this show are: 1) It’s the LOUDEST he’s ever heard the Garden and 2) if you weren’t high when you went into the show, you were when the Stones started playing “Sympathy for the Devil”.

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  17. Terry C

    September 21, 2015 at 10:41 am

    I WAS there! I have talked about this concert for more than 40 years as one of the coolest, and I saw the Beatles! Stevie Wonder was amazing and he brought a young kid with him who did all the early Little Stevie Wonder songs. The cops were out of control in the Garden and the Mayor pulled them out and they threw out balls and left the kids alone. Everyone played until the concert started, once the policing stopped. This is also the place I saw the most brutal police act I ever witnessed in person. After dragging this poor kid out by the hair, four cops held him down while another jumped on his groin. I had a birds eye view of this and will never forget it. BTW. The T closed and we had to walk or thumb a ride back to our cars. But the concert was indescribably awesome!

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  22. Paul Gleason

    August 12, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    I went the night after July 19, 1972.
    Stones were at their best. I’m told Kevin White was at his best with his sleeves rolled up when and I quote ” MY CITY IS IN FLAMES” and I need your help .
    Stones were arrested but I called and got them out.
    White had the MBTA stay open and he took some of the police from the Garden.

  23. Abu Nudnik

    August 19, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Clear abuse of power. Even for a good cause, it’s wrong. It’s how power grows. It appeals to the good. It always ends bad.

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  26. Sheila

    May 8, 2018 at 1:12 am

    The author made some big factual errors here, an insult to history and to the truth.

    1. The Rolling Stones were not arrested for drugs at Green Airport in Providence in 1972.

    It is well documented, and easily checkable with a Google search, that the Stones and some of their party were charged with assault and obstruction of a police officer for roughing up Providence Journal photographer Andrew Dickerman, who had gotten a tip that the band was landing at PVD, T.F. Green airport in suburban Warwick; he showed up and shot pictures of them in a public hangar there. Their bodyguard tried to rough him up and Mick and Keith joined the scrum.

    2. They were not in Warwick because they had played there the night before. There was no place in Warwick big enough for the Stones to have played. And… nobody flies from Providence to Boston — it is 50 miles away, and faster to drive it. They had been diverted to T.F. Green airport in Warwick because Boston’s Logan Airport was socked in by fog. They were just passing through.

    If you’re going to publish on a history site, get the facts right.

    • Leslie Landrigan

      May 21, 2018 at 8:36 am

      Thank you for pointing out the errors. They have been corrected.

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