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Still Havin’ a Party: The Stone Pony Turns 40

by Tim Donnelly on February 12, 2014

Photo by Debra Rothenberg

New Jersey has been in the spotlight lately: the cultural flashpoints that are The Real Housewives of New Jersey and MTV’s Jersey Shore, the devastation of Superstorm Sandy and fall-out from the botched recovery, the sudden passing of the beloved James Gandolfini, the Great Seaside Boardwalk Fire, the bully ways of our governor and his confounded bridge and oh yeah, the friggin’ Super Bowl.

But hey, oh, we don’t give a flying you know what.We LIKE the attention; we take to the limelight like Silvio Dante to Sunday gravy. But honestly, we’re never ones to turn down a dance under the red hot party lights.

So this month, there’s finally a good reason to celebrate down the frozen Shore, because the world famous Stone Pony is 40.

It is one of the last of a dying breed: the long-standing rock n’ roll club. Like The Troubadour, The Belly Up and Tipitina’s, all are houses of music worship that still stand in an ever-changing world of entertainment choices.

When you live around the corner from one of the most famous rock n’ roll clubs in the world, like I do to the Stone Pony , you’ve got to know it’s history, as well as you know the door man and bartender. Like great tales of yesteryear (and believe me, people around here know how to spin a good story) the legend of The Stone Pony reads like a tragedy and a comedy, a time worn tale of ultimate redemption.

It was doomed since the beginning.On opening night it snowed seven inches; the heat broke as the winds howled off the ocean across the street into the club. Legend has it that the bar rang a total of one dollar for the evening. They played disco music. Less than a year in, they had to do a fundraiser to keep the doors open.

Since then, The Stone Pony has always seemed to be either on the edge of closing, bankruptcy, selling, moving, expanding, but most of all, just being there.

“The Pony” (as locals call it) is a place where generations of fun seekers and music lovers have experienced an “epic night.” With that kind of notoriety and decades of world class partying runs inherent risk of the fairy tale outweighing the facts.

For example, Bruce Springsteen did not get his start at The Stone Pony. Nope. He honed his craft for years all over the Jersey Shore and up and down the Eastern Seaboard before the Ocean Ave. club opened on February 8, 1974, a year and a month after his debut, Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ was released and five months after he dropped his follow-up, The Wild Innocent and The E Street Shuffle.

However, The Stone Pony was the venue where the future of Springsteen and The E Street Band, a group comprised made of local musicians, would soon unfold, as it quickly became the gathering space for the only-in-Jersey characters who made up the burgeoning early 70’s original rock n’ roll scene in Asbury Park.

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Comments

So many memories from the Stone Pony. It made me who I am today. Long live the Stone Pony!

By Lori Spector - 02/12/14

Great article, but very little props to the actual artists that live and perform here. wow Relix. I’m glad they used Mike Black’s photos and not some guy from New Brunswick or Jersey City’s ...that’s true Asbury. and you mentioned Nicole Atkins….she’s from here too- which is awesome—- but there are SO many others in our community here that have helped build the Pony and surrounding with their art and music and they didn’t get a mention because they aren’t “national acts”. History is very rich here. Perhaps next year you should send a correspondent to the Asbury Music Awards and see a better and more accurate picture than just Bruce Vegas history.

By Raspberry Park - 02/12/14

that first photo with Levon Helm is my friend Debbie Rothenberg’s from her book “Bruce Springsteen In Focus 1980-2012.” I was at that show.

Mark

By MusicMan Mark - 02/12/14

you’d think that Bruce Springsteen was the only musician to ever play Asbury Park. What about ALL the others? Lazy writers-how do you keep them on staff?

Carol Stover

By Carol Stover - 02/12/14

So many guitars. What about the House/Techno scene in Asbury park? Many DJs deserve respect for turning out 500+ people at the Stone Pony every Thursday night from 94-95.

By Shaggy - 02/12/14

Carol..Lazy? No.. I did not want this article to be a list of names, Who should I mention Lance Larson? Rasperry Park- Asbury Music Awards? No national attention needed for that sham. Shaggy- Sorry. Techno at The Pony? It’s alike Heavy Metal at The Empress.

By Tim Donnelly - 02/15/14

Yep, everyone in Bumbleville Illinois gives a crap about the lame hipster band that drew flies at the Pony during last weeks Kyle Pile or at the Razzberries. Kudos to you Tim, for balancing why someplace like the Pony stays in business (national acts) while still giving props to a local “scene” that gives it a heartbeat without playing the name game.

By me - 02/15/14

If you dont “get” the article, then you don’t “get” the Stone Pony, and you sure as hell don’t “get” rock ‘n roll. Try D’Jais a few miles south on Rte. 35….

By SMiller255 - 02/15/14

There was a kind of ad hoc circuit of venues for the acts you’ve captured so well in this article ... Of which the Stone Pony was a jewel as it still is. I’m thinking of The Peppermint Lounge, City Gardens in Trenton, JC Dobbs in Philly and the 930 Club in DC. If you had an up and coming band like John Eddie and the Front Street Runners, The Hooters or Pretty Poison, and you showcased in those venues, you were going places.

By Miguel Gonzalez - 02/20/14

So defensive. You sound like a bitter musician Tim. Can’t take the heat, then get out of your line of work. Sham? It’s obvious you don’t see the REAL asbury park then. Good luck with all that. Bennie GO HOME.

By Raspberry Park - 03/12/14

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