Before May 30, 1976, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes were local legends, but still relatively obscure on the national music scene. But on that date, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes released their new album, “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” and both the band and The Stone Pony became overnight sensations.
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of The Stone Pony, readers of the Asbury Park Press rated that performance as the single greatest show in the history of Monmouth County’s most famous live music venue.
The album release concert was even broadcast live on the radio, by Philadelphia radio station WMMR-FM, and on syndicated stations throughout the northeastern U.S., including WJLK-AM in Asbury Park, and the still-new rock nightclub was packed to the rafters. Asbury Park Press staff writer Marty Packin said, “The sign inside The Stone Pony says the crowd should be no larger than 282. In the men’s room, there may have been 282 people – including a couple of extremely liberated women.”
The band’s manager and producer, Miami Steve Van Zandt, was onstage playing rhythm guitar for most of the show. Bruce Springsteen joined onstage for “Having A Party,” the final encore. Other musicians in attendance that night were Clarence Clemons, Lee Dorsey, Ronnie Spector, and Max Weinberg.
The members of the Asbury Jukes on this night were:
- Al “Doc” Berger, bass and guitar
- Rick Gazda, trumpet
- Kevin Kavanaugh, keyboards
- Ed Manion, saxophone
- Carlo Novi, saxophone
- Tony Pallagrosi, trumpet
- Kenny Pentifallo, drums
- Billy Rush, guitar
The 1976 version of The Stone Pony was much smaller. The original club, which opened in early 1974, did not include the area that became known as “the back bar.” That space was used to store cases of beer, and also occasionally for Jukes rehearsals.
The Jukes, who had evolved from the Blackberry Booze Band, played the Pony three nights a week in those days. But that album, and that performance, would have a lasting impact few could have anticipated at the time.
“It changed everybody’s lives, it certainly changed mine,” said Tony Pallagrosi, a former member of the Jukes. “It was one of the first regional broadcasts of a live concert on the radio and it turned on a whole lot of people to this place called the Stone Pony and Asbury Park.”
Southside Johnny was born John Lyon on December 4, 1948, in Neptune Township and grew up in Ocean Grove in a home full of music and his parents’ collection of blues and jazz records; his father played bass in bands. “I grew up on music,” Lyon has said. “We listened to Billie Holiday, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters and Big Joe Turner. My parents loved music, the louder the better. My father played in bands for years, and my mother went into labor with me at some seedy New Jersey club. I guess some things were just meant to be.”
In 1967, Lyon graduated from Neptune High School with Garry Tallent and Vini Lopez, who both would go on to play with him in the future, as well as eventually becoming members of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
Southside Johnny has long been considered the “grandfather of the New Jersey Sound.” Jon Bon Jovi has acknowledged Southside Johnny as his “reason for singing.” Songs like “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” “Talk to Me,” “Trapped Again” and “Having a Party” were the heart of the Jukes’ repertoire in its first decade, and remain highlights of their set lists to this day.
After his historic Stone Pony album debut performance in 1976, Southside Johnny’s career took off and he has spent the decades since then performing around the world, appearing on major national TV programs, recording more than two dozen albums, and bringing the sound of the Jersey Shore to adoring audiences everywhere.
1976-05-30 Stone Pony (The), Asbury Park, NJ. Brucebase. Available: http://brucebase.wikidot.com/gig:1976-05-30-stone-pony-asbury-park-nj
Jordan, Chris. (2014). The Greatest Show in Stone Pony History is… Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park, N.J., December 29, 2014. Available: https://www.app.com/story/entertainment/music/2014/12/29/the-greatest-show-in-stone-pony-history-is-/21015075/
Mikle, Jean. (2016). The Show that Made the Stone Pony Famous. Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park, N.J., May 27, 2016. Available: https://www.app.com/story/entertainment/music/2016/05/27/show-made-stone-pony-famous/85043210/
The Most Famous Person Born in Neptune Township, New Jersey is Danny DeVito. Playback.FM. Available: https://playback.fm/born-in-city/neptune-township-nj
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes official band website: https://www.southsidejohnny.com/