ELLSWORTH — Proto-punk rocker Jonathan Richman, whose 1976 hit “Roadrunner” has been pitched three times to become Massachusetts’ State Rock Song, will take the stage with drummer Tommy Larkin at The Grand on Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m.
Raised in Natick, Mass., and inspired by the Velvet Underground, Richman formed and was the frontman-songwriter for The Modern Lovers during the band’s run through 1988. Its original members included bassist Ernie Brooks, drummer David Robinson and keyboardist Jerry Harrison. Robinson went on to join The Cars, while Harrison went with Talking Heads.
During his career, Richman has developed a cult following for his wry, joyful songs about small-town America, such as “Roadrunner,” his ode to Massachusetts. “She Doesn’t Laugh at My Jokes,” “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar” and other tunes have endured.
“Roadrunner” takes listeners on a nostalgic ride late at night along the Bay State’s Route 128 singling out the local grocery store chain Stop & Shop and other sights.
In recent years, Richman’s “Roadrunner” and Aerosmith’s “Dream On” have been in a battle to be named Massachusetts’ State Rock Song. Starting in 2013, “Roadrunner” has been subject of three bills, but state legislators remain divided and undecided.
The song’s last failure to pass muster drew the ire of New York-Maine humorist John Hodgman. The “Vacationland” author grew up in Brookline, Mass., and spends summers in Brooklin.
“This [‘Roadrunner’ campaign] was only the most harmless and perfect idea in the world until it was sideswiped by legislative weirdness and Aerosmith,” Hodgman wrote in his blog. “The latter I can understand; the former mystifies me. If you can’t get a straight up/down vote on a song, how can you even run a whole commonwealth?”
In the Farrelly Brothers’ 1998 film “There’s Something about Mary,” Richman sings the title song.
“He’s the Andy Griffith of musicians, because every time I see him, I laugh, and yet I always get a little misty, too,” Peter Farrelly told “Entertainment Weekly’s” Chris Willman in 1998. “I really believe he’s one of the great artists of the last half of the century.”
Tickets for The Grand performance cost $23 per person. To reserve seats, call 667-9500 or visit www.grandonline.org.