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Still Havin’ a Party: The Stone Pony Turns 40

by Tim Donnelly on February 12, 2014

With the formation of one of the first Stone Pony house bands, The Blackberry Blues Band, which featured local guitarist “Miami Steve” Van Zandt and soul singer, “Southside Johnny” Lyon, the club gained traction and the talented collective packed the joint three nights a week.

September 9 , 1974 began the history of unannounced sets at The Pony by Bruce Springsteen, who joined his pals in The Blackberry Blues Band for a late night jam that turned into an almost weekly occurrence in the winter of ‘74-’75, when Springsteen was a stage and barroom regular waiting to unleash Born to Run on the world.

The Blackberry Booze Band soon morphed into Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes, where Springsteen and Van Zandt consummated their working relationship, writing songs and arrangements for both The Jukes and The E Street Band.

The drinking age was 18, bars were on every corner, the boardwalk was alive; the hot rod cruising circuit was in full effect, budding teenage Lotharios filled the arcades and The Stone Pony was packed with sweaty, sunburned and slightly inebriated throngs.

Just years after devastating race riots burned in Asbury Park, The Pony was jumping with mixed-race bands made up of Jersey Shore locals, playing soul infused, and horn-section powered early rock influenced music, aka “The Jersey Shore Sound.”

The success of Born to Run in 1975 brought the Asbury Park scene major industry attention as Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes signed a major label deal to Epic Records and released their debut, I Don’t Want to Go Home in 1976.

A live radio broadcast on the King Biscuit Flour Hour of Southside’s Memorial Day show at The Pony featuring Springsteen, Ronnie Spector and Lee Dorsey brought the raucous Jersey Shore club to a national audience who had them singing along to “We’re Havin’ a Party.”

People of a certain age who grew up around here say the Sixties ended sometime around the arrival of disco and the Bi-Centennial. The Pony kept pace and it wasn’t long before NYC bands like The Ramones and female fronted acts led by Jersey native Debbie Harry, as well as Patti Smith, travelled down the Garden State Parkway to bring their new sound called punk to the Jersey beaches.

The Pony rode the new wave as well as the Jersey Shore Sound (which still packs them in) with the snarky Brit Invasion of the late 70’s with Elvis Costello and The Attractions and Graham Parker. Acts based in NYC like Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, The Stray Cats and the bombast of Meatloaf all broke at the Stone Pony before going national.

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Comments

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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