The cool cat leaning on the vintage pick-up is Myles Connor. He’s decked out in dungarees, a gunner belt and a black leather jacket over his wife-beater t-shirt. The motorcycle cap on his head completes the look, as if he has just stepped out of a Marlon Brando movie.
It’s the cover of a 2003 CD called Myles Connor & Friends . . . “I was the one . . .”
In the lower left corner in small script is the word “Rembrandt”. And that, friends, is a big hint as to The Rest of the Story.
Open the jacket and there’s another picture of Myles. This time he’s sitting on the roof of the truck, proudly extending his middle finger to the world. Two of his “Wild Ones” band members lean against the fenders in a classic “assume the position” as the other two pretend to frisk them.
Myles J. Connor Jr. had a spotty career around Greater Boston in the 1950’s and into the late 1970’s, first with the “Wild Ones” and later as “The President of Rock ‘n’ Roll”.
But, as his producer Al Dotoli has said, “Every time we came close to major success, crime got in the way.”
Myles spent more time behind bars in those days than he did on the stage.
A lot more time.
His musical career started in 1958 at a sock hop in Braintree, MA, hosted by Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg. For a while in the ‘60’s the Wild Ones were a fixture at halls like the Lewis Ballroom in Revere Beach and the Surf Nantasket in Hull.
He could be heard on WMEX radio in commercials for Bay State Gas, imitating Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison singing “We love you, Bay State, ‘cause you’re a gas”.
In the ‘70’s his home base was The Beachcomber in Wollaston with The Myles Connor Rock ‘n’ Roll Review (sic).
However, Rock ‘n’ Roll took a back seat to his life of crime.
Over the years, Myles has been charged with everything from double homicide to stealing a bale of hay.
Assault, drug trafficking, shooting a police officer, rape, counterfeiting, receiving stolen property, the list goes on and on.
He was shot four times in a gunfight with a Massachusetts State Police Captain.
Sometimes he truly “was the one . . .” and sometimes he wasn’t.
He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in the stabbing deaths of two teenage girls in 1975. Two years later evidence surfaced that showed him to be innocent. Similarly, his conviction in the murder of Boston Police Officer Donald Brown in 1974 was overturned.
Myles has served time in Walpole State Prison for assault and attempted murder and he was put away on drug charges in Illinois. He put together a band called Dream McKean while he was doing a bit at McKean Prison in Pennsylvania.
And he was sentenced to 8-10 years for trying to sell an Andrew Wyeth painting to a government agent for $1 million.
It was his love of art that got him into the most trouble and gained him the most notoriety.
Connor claims to have planned the 1990 robbery of $500,000,000 worth of paintings including Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee” from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Twenty-six years later, that crime remains the world’s largest unsolved theft.
He was named as a person of interest in the case, but was never charged because he was in prison at the time for stealing works from the Mead Art Museum in Amherst.
In his book, The Art of the Heist, he talks about his thefts from the Metropolitan Museum in New York, The Museum of Fine Arts, The Smithsonian and others.
At age 18, he stole paintings from the Forbes House Museum in his home town of Milton, MA. Shortly thereafter he was arrested for robbing the Norfolk County Trust in Milton of $116,000.
In 1965, Connor was convicted of stealing art works from the home of a dead woman in Maine. He escaped from Hancock County Jail there using a fake gun he had fashioned from a bar of soap and shoe black. He remained on the lam for five days.
More recently, his criminal record has been limited to shop-lifting sunglasses, using a pellet gun to steal a cell phone during a drug transaction and lifting bales of hay from a farm in Mendon, MA.
Apparently, the hay was for some of his menagerie, which has been known over the years to include dogs, chickens, a cobra, various types of poisonous insects and an emu.
In 1975 and again in 1977, he played concerts at Walpole, MA, State Prison along with Sha Na Na members Lennie Baker, Dan McBride and Dave Ryan as well as bluesman James Cotton.
Among the tunes from those shows were “Thunder Road”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Riot in Cell Block #9”. One might sense a theme there.
So, at least some of the time, Myles Connor truly “was the one . . .”
When he sang “let me take your books home, baby” in the song “Hey, Little School Girl”, little did we know he was planning to take them to his own home and sell them for a profit.
(by Richard Mattulina)