As I look back over the years and think about the individuals that paved the way for New Jersey musicians and fans, multiple memories come rolling in. I fondly recall the opportunities I had to meet and associate with guys like Emmy Award-winning songwriter Billy Chinook, a phenomenal guitarist and Tom Dowd protégé. Chinook took the time to talk to me about music at a career timeline when he could have just blown me off. The same went for the iconic Clarence Clemons, a world-famous musician that offered pointers and encouragement back in the days of Big Man’s West when we all know he could have just brushed us to the side on his way out the door. And I can’t forget Shoreworld journalist Chris Barry.
Chris was instrumental in shedding light on so many bands that took their raw, rock and roll sound into the present time frame of fame and fortune. Dramarama, Fountains Of Wayne, Goo Goo Dolls, Monster Magnet and others came up in his journalistic gymnastics. Whether it was through his outlandish and somewhat eccentric writing style or from a slap on the back after a great show, Barry was always in the trenches cheering for the underdogs. He made it possible for me to write this column.
To me, those were moments that proved these individuals had much more than just notoriety on their minds. They had the gift of selflessness, and took great pleasure paying it forward to the many that would use that knowledge to make a difference in their own lives.
These are just a select few that come to mind in the overall picture of Asbury Park’s music scene past. There were many I never had the chance to meet, and several that I probably would not have had the opportunity to know about if it hadn’t been for this next organization’s attention to outspoken announcement and detail.
The Asbury Angels is a memorial invented to pay tribute to those musicians and trailblazers of the Asbury Park community that are no longer physically with us. I say physically because, with the help of Asbury Angels and their call to duty, the spirit of those unique individuals will remain inside all who hold their accomplishments special.
Founded in 2012, Asbury Angels have left no stone unturned in their search for pioneers that should never be forgotten for their contributions to the legend and lore of Asbury Park.
This year’s inductees were selected by a panel of industry professionals and historians that live and breathe music in the Monmouth County area. The Asbury Angels’ criteria combines length of time spent in the music scene, the significance of their contributions, and the lasting impact they leave on the community. Those eligible for induction this year and in future years include musicians, songwriters, disc jockeys, writers, technical support staff and club and venue owners. One unfortunate downside to being part of this exclusive club is that members must be deceased for at least one year.
Past inductees include Clarence Clemons, Danny Federici, Tom and Margaret Potter, Big Danny Gallagher, Phil Petillo, Kevin Kavanaugh, Moe Septee, John Luraschi, Joe Major, Terry McGovern, the Aquarian’s Chris Barry, club owner Leo Karp and so many, many others.
Their press release states that for the first time this year, “the Asbury Angels project will also honor a ‘Guardian Angel,’ a person who had a significant influence on Asbury Park’s music scene and its evolution, even though they were not actual members of the city’s musical community.”
John Hammond, the famed music producer that signed a young Bruce Springsteen to Columbia Records, will be the first “Guardian Angel” to be honored. Hammond had a legendary career in the music business, also signing Count Basie, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Leonard Cohen and several others to Columbia. Other interesting facts about Hammond are that he was the great-grandson of the extremely wealthy William Henry Vanderbilt, and although he came from a powerful family background, he was at the forefront of underground musical styling.
Hammond knew no color barriers, and while the Vanderbilts relaxed to the sounds of Mozart and Brahms, he could be found in the family’s mansion kitchen rubbing elbows with servants and listening to blues and jazz. He was also a regular face in Harlem during a time when whites were scarce in the clubs and music rooms of the black community. Hammond learned much in New York. At one point, it was said that he convinced Benny Goodman and Fletcher Henderson to “swing” their jazz sound, thus contributing to the visibility and explosion of that music form during its most popular moments.
2014 inductees from the Asbury Park area include Donnie Bertleson; Jim Giantonio, who booked original music as well as national acts at the Fast Lane nightclub; soul singer Delores Holmes, who performed with various Shore-area bands, including the Bruce Springsteen Band; Jim McDonald, a lighting director and stage manager for venues throughout Asbury Park and beyond; Odyessy Moore, a former city police officer who owned the Orchid Lounge; Carlo Novi, original tenor saxophone player for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes; Joseph, William and Albert Rediker, who brought Big Bands and the first rock show to Convention Hall; bass player Vinnie Roslin, a member of many Jersey Shore bands, including Steel Mill, The Shakes and The George Theiss Band; and vocalist Bobby Thomas, a pioneer of R&B vocal group harmony in the city and a mentor to many players from the city’s West Side.
The new inductees will be recognized at Light Of Day’s “Salute To The Asbury Angels” at The Stone Pony on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, during a special show held as part of the activities during Light Of Day weekend in Asbury Park. There will also be a ceremony on the boardwalk in May, at which time the nine inductees will be honored with plaques on the “Boardwalk Of Fame.”
Asbury Angels founder Tony Pallagrosi had this to say about the event: “The Asbury Angels Project is near and dear to my heart, and I am so happy that the Light Of Day Foundation as well as the Asbury Musical Heritage Foundation, APP, and Quincy Mumford support the project as sponsors. As you know, our mission is to honor and memorialize the lives and history of these special individuals, and by keeping that mission simple and to the point, we can handle this labor of love in a most effective manner. The introduction of the ‘Guardian Angel’ concept will ultimately broaden the reach and increase the depth of the Asbury Angel Project without taking away from our stated focus.”
Come join musical talents such as Joe Grushecky And The Houserockers, Bocci And The Bad Boys, Slim Chance And The Gamblers, Matt O’Ree and many others as they pay tribute to the great individuals that have helped make this music scene one of the most famous in the world.
Tickets for Light Of Day’s Asbury Angels show are $25 in advance and $30 on the day of the show. They are available online at ticketmaster.com, through Ticketmaster charge-by-phone, 1-800-745-3000, Ticketmaster outlets, and at The Stone Pony box office (732-502-0600).
The Light Of Day Foundation (lightofday.org), which raises money to fight Parkinson’s disease and other neuromuscular disorders, is one of the co-sponsors of the Asbury Angels Project, along with the Asbury Park Press (app.com), the Asbury Park Chamber Of Commerce (asburyparkchamber.com) and the Asbury Park Musical Heritage Foundation (asburyparkmusiclives.org).