“We have set a goal to sell 5,000 copies of Can’t Stop Now,” exclaims Jo Bonanno, vocalist and visionary of one of the Jersey shore’s hottest horn bands, Jo Bonanno & The Godsons, about their newly recorded CD. “Our last CD sold 2,000 copies. We want to more than double that.”
The group had its genesis in one of Jon Bon Jovi’s first bands, a group patterned after Southside Johnny & The Jukes called Atlantic City Expressway. “The band was a spinoff from members of Atlantic City Expressway,” Jo explains. “Midnight Thunder was formed in the summer of 1979 when Atlantic City Expressway broke up, with myself and the horn section and now with Ed Horne.” The band also includes Dennis Miele on guitars, who was formerly in the Cloverhill Band; Ed Horne on bass, who was in with both Atlantic City Expressway and the John Bongiovi Band; Bob Nelson on drums, who played with Phantom’s Opera; Bruce Marson on keys; Louie Felipe on congas, timbales, washboard, and glockenspiel, from the Tattoo Rose Band; and Dave “G” Gonos on saxophone.
Together they have performed at venues ranging from Giants Stadium, The Wachovia Center, The Izod Center, and Camden Yards, to shore clubs such as Martell’s Tiki-Bar, The Headliner, The Osprey, The Stone Pony, The Cove, and The Tradewinds. They have also played for charities such as the New Jersey Special Olympics and The Light of Day, and casinos such as Trump’s Marina, The Borgata, Harrah’s, The Atlantic City Hilton, Resorts International, and the Boulder Station Casino in Las Vegas.
“My musical influences are Elvis, Roy Orbision, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, and Springsteen,” says Jo. “Our music style is very soulful, but at the same time energetic and intense. Writing songs for me happens in spurts. I spend a lot of time driving, and when a strong melody or catchy phrases pop into my head, I try to record them on my hand held digital recorder. Then I’ll sit with my guitar and record these ideas and hopefully come up with something good to record with the band. Our process of recording Can’t Stop Now was making demos with just myself and Dennis on guitar and letting Jon Leidersdorff produce the album.”
The recordings were actually the first utilizing an outside producer. “Here’s the Leidersdorff story,” Jo relates. “I heard the last CD from the Latin rock band De Sol and was blown away from the sound of it, the clarity, the punch, and the in-your-face style recording. I then said to myself I needed to do an album with him. We got together to discuss his work style and what we wanted to achieve—the rest is history. We made the best album I believe we could have. But I still believe the next one will be even better!”
The album includes a guest appearance from a certified Jersey shore legend, Gary U.S. Bonds. “I met Gary in the early ‘80s, backstage at a Springsteen show in Long Island,” relates Jo. “It’s a pretty funny story. As a friend was introducing him to me I thought, wow, what is Johnny Mathis doing at a Bruce show? When we were working on ‘Every Note I Play,’ the track on which Gary sings a duet with me, I had to tell Gary the Mathis thing. He just started cracking up and said, ‘I still get people coming up to me and thinking I’m Johnny Mathis!’ Over this past winter we were doing a benefit together and I asked him about doing a duet on my new CD, and he said, ‘Why not?’ Here’s a true rock and roll icon that should, and better be, in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame!”
Can’t Stop Now is being put out on the band’s own label. “The CD has been released independently and is available at all live shows, CDBaby.com, iTunes, and most local record stores under the Sharkskin Records label,” says Jo. “We just started getting some air play on WBJB and a few South Jersey radio stations. They’ve been playing the track with Gary Bonds, and ‘Lisa’s Daddy’s Place,’ one of my favorites on the album. We’ve been getting a huge response live with ‘Don’t Ya Close This Bar Down.’ It’s been a great closer.”
To celebrate the release of the new album, Jo and the band will be doing a CD release party at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 9 p.m. “Another big event for the band will be Music Fest in Union County, NJ, on Sunday, Sept.13,” adds Jo.
For further information about the new album, as well as upcoming shows, check out jobonanno.com. You can also order the CD through Sharkskin Records, 400 Commerce Road, Linden, N.J. 07036.