Joe Perry says Aerosmith benefited in the early days from being surrounded by hard men on the wrong side of the law.

All five members shared an apartment in Boston in 1970 as they tightened up their act and looked for career opportunities. Perry said some people might not have welcomed a rowdy rock group moving in next door, but they felt welcome in their neighborhood.

“It was a great time to live in Boston,” he tells Classic Rock. “It’s a college town and we lived in this student ghetto. We fell right into that – same age group, only we had a different vision for what we wanted to do with our lives.”

Their “closest friend and associate was the building manager, Gary Cabozzi. He was this 250-to-300-pound ex-Vietnam vet who lived in the basement with his wife and kid. He was pretty greasy; he was missing teeth. His neck was pretty red, but he loved what we were doing. He was a big James Brown fan, and we were playing James Brown songs.”

Perry described Cabozzi as Aerosmith’s “guardian” and cited one example of what that could mean. “I'm still not sure of all the real details, but there was a suitcase found outside the apartment, and someone had supposedly gone through it. … There had supposedly been a couple of thousand dollars and a couple of bags of pot in this suitcase that wasn't there.”

The band members were relaxing in their apartment when they were visited by a group of armed men demanding to know where the money was. “We’re shaking our heads, looking at each other, and they pulled a gun.” Then Cabozzi “came crashing through the back-stair doorway with this old sword. He said, ‘Motherfucker, either you use that gun or I’m gonna fucking separate your head from your shoulders’ – and they backed down.”

Aerosmith’s first manager, Frank Connelly, was reputedly connected to local mobsters – which Perry more or less confirmed. “It was never said in so many words, but we got the vibe that was what was going on,” Perry explained. “He wasn't really a manager, but he took us under his wing.”

There was a problem, though: “He was also sick [with cancer] at that point. He didn’t tell us, but he knew he didn't have long left on the planet. He’s the one that introduced us to these guys in New York, [management firm] Leber Krebs: ‘Listen, these guys, they’re the ones that will be able to help you with your career.’”

Connelly “was an interesting guy, a real character,” Perry added. “With me, he turned into a kind of father figure. I spent a lot of time at his place. He taught me a lot about life.”

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