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Still Havin’ a Party: The Stone Pony Turns 40

Tim Donnelly | 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.