Masonry in the News: Rock Musicians Join Mass. Lodge

Chris Hoddap’s blog Freemasonry for Dummies – a veritable clearinghouse for Masonic news worldwide – takes note of a story in the Boston Phoenix, an indie-urban entertainment newspaper (similar to Kansas city’s Pitch Weekly), “How the Boston rock scene grew up, got real jobs, and became Freemasons?” by reporter Eugenia Williamson.

Williams looked into some of the members of Amicable Lodge (which does not have a number) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and found that its membership are not old, out of touch men, but former rock and rollers.

The Masons of Amicable Lodge have tattoos curling out from under their button-down shirts. They wear giant rings and waist aprons that look like oversize satin envelopes. They wear ties and medals and amulets. They carry staffs. Each month, they gather to practice secret rituals in Porter Square.

Once, they played in Boston bands like Slapshot, Crash and Burn, Sam Black Church, Victory at Sea, the Men, and Cradle to the Grave. Back then, none of them would have dreamed of joining the Masons. Masonry — a fraternal society that dates back to the 1700s — has not, heretofore, been associated with rock and roll.

But people get older and settle down. They get married. They have kids. They get jobs. They join the Masons.

The article alludes to the seemingly poor fit of rock and rollers with the ideals of Freemasonry, but one of the lodge members disagreed.

“I think a lot of people’s misconception of the fraternity is that it’s a bunch of stodgy old men,” says Master Mason J.R. Roach. Roach, 41, is a big dude with black hair and a couple of tattoos that he keeps covered up. Once he was the drummer for Boston stalwarts Sam Black Church and played with KISS, Ted Nugent, Motörhead, Black Sabbath, and Dio.

“There’s a saying in the ceremony that basically says the organization will not regard any man for his wealth or appearance. So it’s a very interesting mix of people. You go to Lodge and the reverend of your church could be sitting next to a guy with really long hair, and nobody cares. Everybody’s considered equal.”

Taken as a whole, the article portrays Freemasonry in a very positive light.  As Hodapp notes, many of the brothers featured in this story were also the subject of a story – along similar lines – that appeared in the Boston Herald in 2008, which also portrayed the fraternity in a positive light.

Stodgy lodges, traditional initiations and secret handshakes would seem to be the antithesis of punk rock.But a diverse group of Hub rockers are embracing centuries-old fraternal ideals to become the new face of the Freemasons in Boston.

“It’s not a religion, and it’s definitely not a cult,” said J.R. Roach, drummer for Sam Black Church and bassist for The Men, who also is master of the Masons’ Cambridge Amicable Lodge. “Everything is supposed to be dignified. There’s no hazing. We’re all brothers. It’s a movement for guys trying to find a deeper meaning in their lives.”

A new breed of Freemasons has surfaced locally, filling seats occupied for decades by community leaders, politicians and executives. Some join because their fathers or grandfathers were Masons. Others come for the male camaraderie or the intellectual challenge. And some simply want to get out of the house and go somewhere other than a rock club.

“It’s kind of like a history class that no one else can take,” said Dave Norton, drummer for Victory at Sea and The Men. He believes his membership in the fraternal organization will be especially rewarding when he tours Europe later this year.

“I can go anywhere in the world and find a brother,” he said.

A visit to Amicable Lodge’s web site will confirm that it continues to defy stereotypes – its web page is clean, well designed and timely updated, and the webmaster features the Boston Phoenix story front and center on the lodge blog.