Lance Larson – The “Soul” Survivor Turns 60 – The Wonder Bar – March 2

Lance Larson has always been on the verge of greatness. His association with music was not some flash in the pan. From his devilish early days with his grade school band, the Spartans, Larson knew that music was his calling. Influenced by Brit rockers The Dave Clark 5 and the Beatles, Larson jumped head first into learning all he could. Along the way, he taught himself saxophone, organ, and even the drums. This was also the time when another friend and youngster had a band called the Castiles.

The Castiles, of course, was Springsteen’s notable band, and Larson grew up side by side with names that blasted into the stratosphere of stardom.

But Lance Larson has a pretty wild story of his own. After years of playing out in California, he returned to New Jersey and an ambitious new series of events. 1973 marked the year that Lance Larson was asked to join the Monkees organization. According to his bio, Larson had taken a night gig as sound mixer for a band called Cahoots. Davy Jones’ wife had heard some mixes that Larson had done and immediately mentioned it to her husband. Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones allegedly hired him on the spot to work with the band as a sound engineer. But as Larson told me, that only lasted a short time before he was unceremoniously canned for being busted by Davy smoking a joint with Jones’ little sister.

It was also around this time that he began his stint with Cold Blast Steel, a band that included Southside Johnny. This was the turning point and the first Larson band that played packed houses all over New Jersey.

Larson eventually went on to form his own group, concentrating on original music with the band Lord Gunner. Lord Gunner was the vehicle that would take Larson from the Jersey Shore to the West Coast of A&R bigwigs and even a stint at Neil Young’s estate. Lord Gunner contained relevant and historic players such as Ernest “Boom” Carter, the drummer on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run.” The group would go on to employ John Mulrenan on the organ, and Carter would be replaced first by another Springsteen drummer, Vinnie Lopez, and later by future Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres.

It’s the stories I hear that make me laugh at the tenacity of this guy. Once again, on the cusp of getting signed, Larson was the victim of unscrupulous luck. His manager had been double dealing the band and used their dime to get the opener looked at. Lopez lived up to the nickname “Mad Dog,” tearing up Traxx and getting the boys in blue to escort him out of the club. Larson soldiered on, doing a few solo songs before going up to the microphone and asking the A&R reps to give up their seats so that long-time fans could sit up front. This didn’t go over well and resulted with label honchos vacating the premises. But Lance did it his way all the way.

Larson’s never-ending contact list was always fascinating as well. I especially like the early ‘80s period, when a good friend, Sly Stone—how the hell do you get friends like that?—got Lance an audition to replace Steve Marriott in Humble Pie. It was also during this formation that Humble Pie had Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix) in the band. He also logged audition time with Foreigner’s Ian McDonald, among others. Larson’s history is rich indeed.

I was again part of it when Larson released his 2008 album, Song For The Soldier. The title-track was written for his father, a World War II vet who saw action in the field. Actually, he says it’s for “all service members and veterans,” but the idea started with his father. SFTS was a monumental undertaking, recorded at City Lights Studios with an A-list of players. Musicians such as Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, David Bryan, Tico Torres, Buddy Cage, Jack Scarangella and Jimmy Leahy were all vital in the making of this disc. This album was Larson’s payback disc to guys like Warren Zevon and Steve Earle, artists that influenced him and drove him to creative apogees.

In between Larson’s creative work as a musician, he also managed to rekindle Asbury Park’s historic Wonder Bar with the able help of Debbie DeLisa. Since the early 2000s, Lance and Debbie have been instrumental at bringing a style and sound to that tavern by the sea. Through the early days of non-alcoholic shows to the burgeoning rock and roll nightclub that it is today, the pair has been tireless when it comes to protecting this vital room and keeping Asbury Park’s image on the map.

Over the years, Lance Larson has weathered the storm and created some terrific music that will never be forgotten. I want to wish him a happy 60th birthday, and we hope to see him on stage for many years to come.

Joining Lance for his birthday bash on March 2 will be Eddie Testa and the Cruisers, another Jersey Shore name that should ring more than a few bells. For more information on this riveting Jersey icon, go to lancelarsonmusic.com. For tickets or show info, head over to thewonderbarasbury.com.

 

Boob-A-Palooza – The Wonder Bar – March 16

The girls of rock and roll are pulling out their best assets in order to raise money for a breast cancer cure. That’s right, artists such as The Aster Pheonyx Project, Christine Martucci, Devi, Goodbie Amy, Virago and Bonnie Boland will be baring their musical talents on Saturday, March 16, over at Lance & Debbies famed Wonder Bar.

The night will be hosted by Aster Pheonyx and photographer Beth Achenback. Pheonyx, Achenback and company are counting on high attendance numbers and generous donations in their quest to cure the breast, and they’ve spared no creative avenue for rewarding their participants with lots of delicious raffle prizes. Giveaways include two tattoo gift certificates valued at $200 and $150, a motorcycle riding course, two Mets tickets in the Delta Sky360 Club ($350 value), art, jewelry, a signed bass guitar by the Pheonyx Project, three months of music lessons and many more, as well as a 50/50. And, of course, all of the money raised at this show goes to the Avon Breast Cancer Foundation.

But for Pheonyx, it doesn’t end there. She will also be doing the 40-mile Avon Walk For Breast Cancer in Washington, D.C., on the first weekend in May, to raise awareness of a disease that takes roughly 45,000 lives a year in the United States alone.

The Avon Foundation’s motto is unadorned but poignant: “The more of us who walk, the more of us survive.” The money raised goes towards treating, preventing and finding a cure for breast cancer. Martucci sums it up when she says, “Cancer sucks, it just does. I don’t know anyone that has not been affected by this terrible disease. I am angry and tired of cancer, and I could do a million benefits and it wouldn’t be enough until this terrible cancer is cured!”

For more information about the Avon Foundation For Women, check out avonfoundation.org and for information on this worthwhile show, go to thewonderbarasbury.com. You can help Aster Pheonyx raise money by visiting her at facebook.com/asterpheonyx.

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