Local Noise: Ernie White Band and Friends Christmas Benefit Concert

Ernie White came out of Trenton with blazing guitar in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and quickly made a name for himself on several major label releases with various bands. He also maintained his local legend with continuous shows in and around central Jersey.

Ernie first hit the national stage with a group Sam The Band, which released an album on Casablanca, the label best known for unleashing Kiss, The Village People, and Donna Summer on the music world. After that ran its course, he formed the group Aviator, which signed a recording deal with RCA Records and a management deal with music industry mogul Tommy Matolla. Ernie not only played guitar, but fronted the group as well. The album didn’t make a lot of noise upon its release, but was re-released in the ‘90s in the UK to an enthusiastic response.

Since that time Ernie has maintained a solid solo career. His first release, Scenes From America, was produced by Grammy nominated producer Tom Marolda. He opened his own studio, Le Blanc, and released a number of CDs, including Rude Awakening, Unplugged, and Rock And Rarities. He also found time to pen a song for Richie Sambora’s solo album, Undiscovered Soul, as well as to contribute tracks to TV shows and mini-series such as 21 Jump Street, Falcone, and Catch A Falling Star. He sang in the Sylvester Stallone movie Avenging Angelo and most recently contributed to the Lifetime TV network movie Northern Lights.

But one of his favorite pet projects is something that has become an annual tradition in Ernie’s home town of Trenton, the Ernie White Band and Friends Christmas Benefit Concert, which will take place this year on Wednesday, Dec.23. It has grown to such proportions that this year it is moving to the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial, an 1,800 seat venue that over the years has hosted the likes of Electric Light Orchestra, Blues Traveler, David Johansson, Bill Cosby, Duke Ellington, Patti LaBelle, B.B. King, Wynton Marsalis, Bruce Springsteen, Sarah Vaughan, and even Frank Sinatra. “With the show getting bigger crowds every year we needed a bigger venue,” explains Ernie. “It’s gonna be more of a concert with more production this time.”

This year’s cast, as in most years, will include the cream of the crop of central Jersey musical royalty, including blues greats Joe Zook and Paul Plumeri, keyboardist/producer Tom Reock from the Reock & Roll Revue, guitar virtuoso John Bushnell, drummer Mark Sacco, bassist Frank Wirtz, guitarist extraordinaire Joey Kramer, famed blues and R&B vocalist Billy Hill, bassist Jerry Monk, singer/guitarist Joe Vadala, former major label recording star Duke Williams, rising star Lisa Bouchelle, bassist Jody Giambellucca, guitar great Ed Wilson, Honey Spot Boulevard, singer/songwriters Sandy Zio and Jessica Paris, drummer/vocalist Joe DeAngelo, keyboardist/vocalist Ed Wall, guitar gunslinger Charles Laurita Jr., drummer (and Ernie’s son) Michael White, who toured extensively with the hardcore band Shelter, and a full horn section led by Joe Grillo.

There will also be background singers and a host of others, including some surprise guests. Prior years have included appearances from Glen Burtnik, Dan Lavery of Tonic, Bobby Bandiera, The Grinch, and of course, Santa. What’s in store for this year? “I would tell you, but then it wouldn’t be a surprise!” laughs Ernie.

In past years, the event has raised thousands of dollars for local charities, with all the money going to the cause, and all the musicians donating their time without any compensation. Proceeds have benefited organizations such as the Trenton Head Start, the Mercer Street Friends, the New York Times 9/11 Fund, the Hamilton Elks Handicapped Children’s Fund, Casa, Contact (a Suicide Prevention Hot Line), The Arc of Mercer, The Boys And Girls Clubs Of Trenton, Home Front, the Children Of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund, and the musicians of New Orleans. This year, all monies raised from ticket sales, donations, and the photography auction will once again aid Trenton’s helpless and neediest, by being donated to the Trenton YMCA Fund.

Ernie counts his influences as God, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles and Jeff Beck. The first one obviously plays a role in his presenting this show every year, while the other influences will be showcased at the concert. You will hear rock, jazz, R&B, blues, and classic Christmas songs, played and sung by many of the top musicians in New Jersey. It’s definitely a show not to be missed. For further information and to find out about obtaining tickets to the event, check out Ernie’s website at erniewhite.com.