If you visit the Asbury Park boardwalk and look at the benches directly across from the Stone Pony, you’ll see plaques of the Asbury Angels. People like Clarence Clemmons, Vinnie Roslin, Kevin Kavanaugh, John Luraschi, Bobby Alfano, Big Danny Gallagher and on and on, who put the city of Asbury Park on the musical map of the world, and are no longer with us.
As one who performed with so many of these great people (a very humbling yet sobering thought), it feels good to sit at one of these benches and reflect the memories that we shared. And it is a very humbling and honorable feeling to be associated with a scene with people such as these.
But there is another side to this.
Many of Asbury Park’s most storied, most legendary, most famous and most highly accomplished performers are still among us, and still performing.
I would strongly urge those who take the time and energy to honor those who have passed on to also remember those who are STILL ACTIVE.
From the great blues guitarists Paul Whistler, Billie Hector, Tom Dimock and Sonny Kenn, to the great singer songwriters Carolyne Mas, Laura Crisci and Lance Larson and on and on, there are so many artists who are still out there giving their all.
I would like to take a few paragraphs here to pay tribute to them, in hopes that others might make an effort to get out and see these people while you can, and not as some piece of metal on a bench on the boardwalk.
For those I have neglected to list here, I will likely do a future piece. And there are so many others:
Ken “Stringbean” Sorenson
Tony “Bocci” Amato
and many others come to mind.
But here’s a first pass- I hope you all can make a special effort to check out some of these artists, either by seeing them locally or just visiting their sites and keeping in touch from time to time.
Ten Performers from Asbury Park’s Golden Era Who Are Still Active
With a career stretching back to the 1960s and a resume includes performing with The Shangra Las, as well as some of the greatest Asbury Park area bands ever, Paul Whistler is a true “legend” in every sense of the word.
Paul has been living out in the Seattle area for the past decade or so (because he “followed the music” to there) but is back in the Asbury Park area now, and has recently performed at The Stone Pony for their 40th year reunion show.
A top notch blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Paul has let his own bands for many years, with some of the Asbury Park area’s greatest as members: Mike Scialfa, Vini Lopez, Tony Amato, Steve Cottrell and on and on and on.
You can hear his music on his Reverb Nation site:
As well as find out where he will be now that he is back in Asbury Park (to stay we hope!).
Calling herself “The prodigal daughter of Asbury Park” Laura grew up right across the lake in Loch Arbour. Playing at all of Asbury Park’s hots spots from early in her career with RockinOn, she also formed a great band called “Live Bait” with Vini Lopezin the late 1980s, and another band “Stone Hill”, which featured several other Asbury Park veterans, including Danny Federici and Garry Tallent from the E-Street Band, Tico Torres from Bon Jovi and the great bassist Steve Rava.
A prolific songwriter, you are likely to hear many catchy originals at one of Laura’s shows, hear her tell funny or moving stories, and also do great covers by Dylan, the Grateful Dead and others.
A Laura Crisci show is something to behold, whether its with a full band (with great players like Gary Olyer, PK Lavengood, Vini Lopez, Gene Boccia) or solo- she ALWAYS gives 100% and I promise you WILL be entertained.
Her excellent CD “All Is Well With The World” has loads of great material and she releases new material regularly on YouTube. She is in fact a prolific songwriter, and her originals have been frequently requested at her shows.
She did move to Nashville for a few years but has been back in this area a while, and while facing the challenges of a single mom to 2 kids she still finds time to perform. She even toured Europe a few times.
The best place to her and experience her music is her YouTube site:
And you can buy her music here:
Before Melissa, before Sara, before Alanis, there were just a few pioneers who cleared the way by going against the stereotypes of the female singer that were part of rock music at the end of the 60s and 70s. Artists such as Joan Jett, the Wilson sisters and Asbury Park’s own Carolyne Mas paved the way for those who came later, by enduring crushing record industry prejudices, radio station indifference, etc etc.
Mas had even one more hurdle. Early on she was dubbed the “female Bruce Springsteen”. Being tagged as any version of Bruce is unfair and a career thrasher- being tagged a female Bruce, especially in those days, was a double-blast.
But she overcame all of that, made her mark, became huge, and went on to help redefine what a woman’s role in rock music could be. And she continued to perform until a few short years ago.
She still has a web site and some of music is still available. I am posting this link as a tribute not just to a great, trailblazing female artist, but to one of Asbury Park’s own immortal contributions to rock history.
Rock on, Carolyne, others are doing just that because of the road you helped pave.
One of the most highly acclaimed and highly accomplished on this list, Billy Hector has been a local and national favorite now for decades.
Even a partial list of is acclamations is impressive, and it goes on and one from there:
Winner of the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation’s “Lifetime Achievement” award. Winner of the Asbury Park Music Awards “Best Guitarist”, “Best Blues Band” and “Living Legend” awards. Two-time winner of the East Coast Rocker’s “Best Guitarist” award. Two-time invitee to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s American Music Masters Series celebrating the music of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters with Charlie Musselwhite, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Vaughn, Vernon Reid, Dave Alvin, Sonny Landreth, Double Trouble and others. Touring guitarist with Hubert Sumlin and Joe Louis Walker.
One of Billy’s earliest bands, The Shots, was a horn-driven R&B group that took over the house band role from Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes at the renowned Stone Pony. He moved on as lead guitarist for Hot Romance, a band based at the infamous Mrs. Jay’s biker bar in Asbury Park that also began receiving New York City radio airplay for its original songs.
In the mid-80’s, drawn back to earlier musical roots, Billy Hector formed the five-piece blues/rock band The Fairlanes and, co-wrote and released three independent albums on the Blue Jersey label.
By early 1993, Hector regrouped as a power trio and renamed his band The Billy Hector Band. The band’s present lineup is guitars/lead vocals Billy Hector, drummer Sim Cain and bassist Tim Tindall. The Billy Hector Band also performs acoustic blues in multiple personnel configurations.
A prolific songwriter/composer, Billy Hector has fourteen albums to his credit, most on the independent Ghetto Surf label. And with over thirty-five years of performing under his belt, Billy Hector is recognized as one of the hottest guitarists and songwriters playing the original circuit and serves up what more than one reviewer has called “one of the best shows you’ll ever see”.
Tom “Too Tall Tom” Dimock
Not only known as possible the greatest slide guitarist to ever come out of our area, but one of the best all-around artists and a spectacular songwriter, arranger and producer, Tom just keeps evolving and creating with every decade that goes by.
Another of Asbury Park’s prodigal offspring, Tom moved into the mountains near Asheville NC several years back and qucikly became an integral member of the Asheville scene until removing himself from the live scene and focusing on his studio work. He has record upwards of eleven albums of his music.
An award-winning Adjunct Professer of Electronic Music and recording engineer, the lists of acts he has performed with is a who’s who of the local Asbury Park music scene:
Screaming Neil, Periphery, Honkey, White Kracker, Zotz, Krackit, Side-To-Side, Shore Shot, Paul Whistler & The Jersey All Stars, Big Danny & The Boppers, Z Band, Renegade Blues Band, Bob Killian Band, South Seventh, The George Theiss Band, Rude Awakening, Blackberry Blues Band, Chuck Beattie & Blues By Design, True Blue, Slide Glide and more.
He writes and records with his long-time wife Suzi Dimock, also a long-time fixture of the music scene, and their studio plays host to dozens of recording artists every year.
You can hear his music here:
and buy it here:
Before there was Bruce there was Bobby Bertelson.
When I first ventured onto the local Asbury Park scene in the 1970s Mr S was NOT yet the cultural phenom he would go on to be (this was before Born To Run). So his presence in Asbury Park was felt, but he was not yet king of the hill.
That accolade would have probably gone to Bobby Bertelson. Bobby was packing clubs left and right in the 1970s, and the sky was the limit for a time. His hot-stepping, big-jiving stage presence made him a local fixture and his popularity was immmense, into the 1980s and beyond.
Bobby has not been as active in the past few years, settling down to raise a family. But he still performs and you can catch his big-band sounds especially at his Christmas Show in Asbury Park. His brother was the great singer Donnie Bertelson, known locally as “Bird Man”, another highly regarded showman who passed away a few years back.
Bobby’s sidemen have included some of the very best in the biz- players like keyboardist Rich Mitchell, guitarists Too Tall Tom Dimock and Bruce Wacker, horn players Tom Labella, Vic Cappeta and Mel Taylor and many many others.
He hasn’t recorded as much as others but you can hear his music by doing a search on his name on YouTube for some classic performances caught from over the years, including my site http://www.YouTube/Alvis1515.
Stormin’ Norman Seldin is the legendary pianist, singer, bandleader, composer, and promoter who has appeared or recorded with Roy Orbison, Bo Didley, The Allman Brothers, Freddy King, Roy Buchannon, The Temptations, Clarence “Big Man” Clemons, The Brooklyn Bridge, The Rascals, Bobby Rydell, Larry Chance and the Earls, Mr. Popeye, Tony Orlando, Max Weinberg, The Five Satins, Doc Holiday, Shep & The Limelights, The 5 Satins, The Dovells, Jimmy Clanton, Gary Tallent of the Bruce Springsteen Band, Gary Bonds, Del Shannon, The Platters, Pearl Mc Kinnon & The Teenagers, Waylon Jennings, Cornell Gunther & The Coasters, Lenny Welch, Earl Lewis & The Channels, Danny & The Juniors, Del Shannon, The Drifters, Johnny Thunder, Bobby Lewis, The Duprees, The Chambers Brothers, Chuck Berry, and over thirty other national attractions across the United States.
He has performed at such hundreds of Asbury Park area and national venues over the years, including some of the biggest and best concert halls and clubs around.
Seldin is particularly well-known as the act where Clarence Clemons was plucked from the local scene and jettisoned into rock and roll history with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
You can get his music here:
and listen to a lot of it on his personal web site, which also lists the many places where he still performs in the Asbury Park area:
By far the most famous of all the people on this list (having performed on two of the greatest LPs in rock history, “Greetings From Asbury Park” and “The Wild, The Innocent…”), Vini Lopez would have merely been one of the most important drummers in the history of the Asbury Park music scene even if he hadn’t performed with Bruce.
From Sonny and The Starfires, to the Shakes to Cold Blast And Steel, Underdog, JP Gotrock, Bill Chinnock, Steel Mill, Big Danny, The Disco Rejects on thru to his current stint with the exquisite License To Chill, Vini has never let up in his pursuit of great rock and roll.
I got to play in front of his passionate, highly-recognizable and skillful playing in several acts, including JP Gotrock, Big Danny and the Disco Rejects, and there is no doubt to me that he is one of rock’s greatest, right up there with BJ Wilson, Charlie Watts, Ginger Baker, Hal Blaine etc etc etc.
And – he is a also one of rock’s great singing drummers. Vini’s voice blends perfectly in three part harmony with his License to Chill, and yes that’s him on Rosalita, Kitty’s Back, etc.
Recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars for tickets to see one of rocks greatest ever- just come to one of his gigs in the local bar scene here in the Asbury Park area! And check out the CD’s of Steel Mill Retro and License to Chill when you get a chance also- you won’t be let down.
Photo credit: Rose Montana
Many people are aware of Lance Larson from his association with Asbury Park’s great rock venue The Wonder Bar, now know around the world as “Lance and Debbie’s Wonder Bar”.
Lance has been thrilling audiences for many years, in bands such as Cold Blast and Steel and Lord Gunner. His songs have been featured on TV and in the movies and one of his BFFs, Bruce himself, often stops by the Wonder Bar (which by the way is one of the greatest places around for live music, anywhere in the world, esp here in the Jersey Shore area) to chat with Lance’s wife Debbie and check out the local talent.
Lance still performs on occassion at The Wonder Bar and other venues. In 2007, Larson completed a new project he had been planning for some time: Songs for the Soldier. The featured track, “Song for the Soldier” is a tribute to his father who fought in WWII, and to all service members and veterans.
Known as the founding father of Jersey Shore rock and roll, Sonny Kenn has been burning up the Shore music scene since opening for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1965. He has performed with and influenced nearly every musician who’s passed through the scene since.
Sonny and the Starfires, featuring future E-Street Band drummer Vini Lopez, and Sonny Kenn and the Wild Ideas, whom Bruce peformed with several times.
You can still walk into any number of local venues and catch Sonny with a duo, trio, etc several nights a week- and he still knocks people out with his soul-drenched blues licks. Catch him if you can- his web site is here:
For some more clips and photos of the Asbury Park music scene in its Golden era visit my Four Decades page on Facebook:
For some awesome videos of the best performers of Asbury’s Golden era, check out my YouTube site:
My regular Facebook page has even more rare photos:
My home page:
And tune in to http://www.40FootHoleStudio.com for the Kat ‘n’ Al Internet Radio Show, where we interview guests from back in the day during our “Four Decades” segment.