The Asbury Park Rock n Roll Museum
In the current Broadway hit “The Million Dollar Quartet”, a single night is captured that saw 4 of rock and rolls greatest founding fathers all together in one place at one time. But us Asbury Park oldsters remember a certain night like this of our own.
On July 8 1986, a few of dozen of the Asbury Park rock scene’s founding fathers got together at The Stone Pony, to pay tribute to a museum that was opening in honor of all of those who had come before, all of those who had labored for years to create the “Asbury Park Sound.”
My band JP Gotrock started off the night with several crowd favorites. JP Gotrock (the second version) was comprised of former Bruce players Vini Lopez (“Rosalita”, “Spirits In the Night”), Vinnie Roslin (who plunked the bass with Bruce and Vini in Steel Mill), Hot Romance vet Don Erdman, the “Woodbridge People”‘s David Shearn, and a 28 year old Al-Vis on lead vocals and lead guitar.
The next few acts would use us as the backup- Sonny Kenn performing “Hoochie Koochie Man” and “You Can’t Catch Me”, Big Danny Gallagher doing “Worried About You Baby” with Billy Ryan on guitar, and Vini singing “Spider And The Fly”.
Jersey Dream, featuring Kenny “Mr Popeye” Pentifallo did an accappella set, and even Bob Killian, founder of the Clearwater Festival at Sandy Hook (later the Clearwater Festival at Asbury Park) got in a few songs.
Bobby Bertelson’s Z Band was next, and Bobby’s brother Donnie Bertelson of The Shots joined forces with Big Danny to sing the Jukes/Sam and Dave hit “You Don’t KNow What You Mean To Me”, with a full horn section and the great “Too Tall” Tom Dimock on guitar.
And the music continued- John Luraschi with Lance Larson, Rick Desarno, Steve Schraeger and Steve Rava in Cold Blast and Steel and Lorder Gunner. Margaret Potter with Big Bad Bobby Williams doing Chuck Berry’s “Carol”. JT Bowen, who had been performing in Clarence Clemmons Red Bank Rockers did his hit “Woman’s Got The Power”, and Cahoot’s John Oeser finished the night, with museum owners Billy Smith and Stephen Bumball in a rock and roll embrace that signified the comradierie of the night and of the era.
Many of these clips can be seen on my YouTube site:
The museum itself was a huge hit, and made a big stir in the media throughout the land. Several clips show interviews with museum owners Billy and Stephen, Mayor Fiorentino, developer Henry Vacarro, musicians Big Danny Gallagher, Steve Schraeger, Vini Lopez, David Meyers, Southside Johnny and JT Bowen. And many of these features draw a clear line from the music of Bruce Springsteen, whom many of these performers had worked with, and the current scene of 1986. Which is fitting since Bruce’s “Tunnel Of Love” LP had just been released, garnering him attention all over the world, and allowing him to sell out stadiums all over.
In watching these clips I am drawn to imagining what it would be like if the current crop of Asbury Park superstars were to perform together, all in one place and at the same time. Christina Martucci, John Eddie, Jo Wymer, Jo Wymer, Nicole Atkins, De Sol, Matt O’Ree, etc etc etc. With the great talent around today I’m sure the YouTube views of 2034 would find it as surreal and sublime as anyone would find these clips today, to have all of them performing in one place on one night together. There has been talk of a new Asbury Park hall of fame, so far just talk.
What a grand venue that will be!
Unfortunately the museum did not last past its original two-year lease. Asbury Park was in a steady state of decline- Mrs Jays closed in 1988, following the last arcade, and finally the original Stone Pony shuttered in 1992.
But for one night in 1986, when the world seemed smaller and the Asbury Park music scene was just starting to get national attention, it didn’t seem surreal at all, in fact it was very real. Looking at these clips of rock artists still here and those long gone, it seems as real and vital as rock and roll itself. And thanks to the continued generosity of owners Billy Smith and Stephen Bumball, along with the formidable talents of the musicians it heralded, it will continue to live on and on, as each new generation builds on the legacy of these “founding fathers” of the Asbury Park music scene.
Who’s Who in the clips
There are two sets of clips from the museum- one set from the grand opening show at the Stone Pony on July 8 1986, and another set of TV news and concert features over the next two years the museum was open (1986-1988).
Here , in no particular order is a partial guide to who is who in these clips. Feel free to add to or correct this.
Bobby Bertelson- One of the first singers I can remember going to see in Asbury Park, this Neptune native was well-known before even Bruce was a household word. Bobby’s previous band, White Kracker, was a staple at several mid to late 1970s AP venues, and his Z Band is immortalized in these clips. Bobby lives in Lake Como with his wife and kids and still performs at times.
Donny Bertelson- Bobby’s brother, who performed in The Shots, a spinoff of the Asbury Jukes featuring Jukes horn players Carlo Novi and Tony Paligrossi and Billy Hector, amongst other great performers. Donny passed away in the 1990s.
Tom “Too Tall Tom” Dimock- One of the all-time great Asbury guitar slingers, who performed with Big Danny, Bobby Bertelson and many others. Currently resides in the hills of North Carolina- still performing and recording!
Sonny Kenn- Sonny has been called the Godfather of the Asbury Park rock and roll sound, and this is justly deserved. Bruce idolized him in his early bands such as Sonny and The Starfires, and Sonny Kenn and The Wild Ideas were one of the most famous bands to ever come out of Asbury. You can still see Sonny, better than ever, at area venues such as McCloone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park.
Don Erdman- Lead singer and blues harmonica player for JP Gotrock in these clips, Donnie came to fame singing in the band Hot Romance with Steve Schraeger, John Luraschi and Billy Hector.
Vinnie Roslin- Bass player for JP Gotrock in these clips, Vinnie performed with Bruce in several early bands including Steel Mill. Vinnie also performed with Big Danny alongside Steve Schraeger, Ken Sorenson and Al-Vis.
Lance Larson- Singer-songwriter who currently runs the Wonder Bar with his wife Debbie. Lance’s band Lord Gunner included Tico Torres, drummer for Bon Jovi at one point.
Big Danny Gallagher- “The Round Mound Of Sound”, Danny was a poet, story-teller, musician, singer and riveting performer whom Al-Vis was proud to have performed with for a time back in the late 1980s. Danny passed away in 2007, leaving behind a huge legacy of music , musicians and fans the world over.
Vini Lopez- Drummer on the first two Bruce Springsteen LPs, and veteran of dozens of bands over the years. Vini was the drummer in my band JP Gotrock when this footage was taken.
Bob Killian- Bob was the founder of the Clearwater Festival at Sandy Hook, now at Asbury Park. He is a singer-songwriter, currently living in Florida, and was heavily involved with the Asbury music scene also. There are several clips of him on the tape that have not yet been released as of this writing.
Kenny “Mr Popeye” Pentifallo- Original drummer and singer for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. He performed with the doo-wop group Jersey Dream at the show.
JT Bowen- Lead singer for Clarence Clemmons and the Red Bank Rockers, JT performed several songs at the show with his own band. Believed to have passed away some time ago.
David Shearn- Keyboard player who was one of the so-called “Woodbridge People” when he joined JP Gotrock back in 1981. He also performed around the New York area with several blues acts, such as Sonny Rhodes and Frankie Lee. David passed away just a few short years after he played at this show, in July of 1989.
Steve Schraeger- Often known as “the other great drummer from the Asbury area”, Steve performed with dozens of bands over the years and performed nearly the entire show here. Al-Vis performed with Steve in Big Danny’s band, and you can still see Steve with bands such as Bocci and the Bad Boys. And some of the interview clips feature Steve.
Tony Amato- Tony plays keys on several songs at the show. He has been performing in the Asbury Park area for several decades, in bands with such giants as George Theiss and Joe Petillo.
David Meyers- Bass player in the Blackberry Blues Band (which featured Southside Johnny in an earlier version). David shares a couple of songs with Big Danny inside the museum.
Margaret Potter- Well-loved matron of the Asbury Park music scene for many years. Her husband Tom owned the Upstage Club, and Margaret was the founder of the musicians organization S.O.A.P. in the early 1990s. She is featured at the show singing on a couple of songs. She passed away in 1994.
Henry Vacarro- Asbury Park waterfront developer from this time, also the founder of the Kramer guitar company.
“Big Bad” Bobby Williams- Drummer in dozens of bands going back to the Upstage days. He passed away just a few years after the show.
John Luraschi- Another Upstage alumnus, John was the bass player in many of Asbury Parks greatest bands, from the Z band going back to Nicky Addeo. John and I performed together in the Disco Rejects, just a few years after he performed at this show. John passed away of cancer in 2009.
John Oeser- Lead singer in Cahoots, one of the best-loved bands of the 1970s in the Asbury Park area.
You can hear John sing in Timepiece at the Wonder Bar from time to time.
Rick Desarno- one of the best-loved guitar players ever from this area, Rick took my place in the Disco Rejects when I left for Chik-A-Boom in 1991. He does several songs at this show, including a note-perfect “Goin’ Home” with John Luraschi singing!
Steve Rava- One of the greatest bass players you will ever see- performed with the Shots and many other great bands from the 70s onwards. Performed with Lord Gunner at the show.