Sunday, January 15, 2017

Robbie Robertson Remembers Tony Marts - The Summer of 1965

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Robbie Robertson – from the autobiography Testimony (2016)  – Chapter 12 p. 158

IN THE SUMMER of 1965 we had booked a gig at Tony Mart’s big dance club in Somers Point, New Jersey. Tony’s was a hot spot, a popular club that sometimes had three bands playing on separate stages over the course of the evening. A big round bar sat in the middle of the club, handy for a refill no matter where you were standing. Tony himself was an unusual club owner, a real character.

A bit stocky, no-nonsense, and Sicilian born. Anthony Marrota spoke broken English and hardly ever smiled. He ran his “circus” with a strong hand, wandering through the crowds while yelling order at bartenders and bouncers. Every once in a while he’d walk by the center stage we were playing on and call out, “Hey, turna downa the jukebox!” We took this to mean we were playing too loud for an early-evening crowd.

On the first weekend we were there, you could tell the audience was into our type of music. Conway Twitty and some of his original band were in residence too, which was a nice surprise. When we went on, the place came alive. By Saturday night the club was so packed you couldn’t move. Tony Mart pushed his way through the crowd and called up to us, “Hey, turna upa tha jukebox!” and gave a little grin.

After the first two weeks, Tony asked us to come back for two more weeks later in June. It was very unusual for us to play two stands so close together in one spot like that, but we were glad to plant our feet for a while. And lo and behold, our old road manager, Bill Avis, showed up in Somers Point too, managing a band of lesbians calling themselves the Female Beatles.

In between dates in Somers Point, we would head up to New York City to meet with production companies that had seen us play and were interested in signing us. We listened to songs they thought we could record, but none of them really connected….The acoustic folk setting was thriving in New York. You could feel it goring in Toronto’s Yorkville district, but Greenwich Village was the epicenter of this world.

John Hammond (Jr.) asked me to come hear him play at the Gaslight Club. He talked up Dave Van Ronk, Fred Neil and a couple other guys he thought were very soulful folk singers. The Gaslight had a sign out front announcing the next act that would be performing there – Mississippi John Hurt. I told him about our jam with Sonny Boy Williams, and he said, “Sonny Boy one or two?”

One afternoon John came by the Forest Hotel to collect me for a trip downtown to a hip record store,…then he hit the breaks and said, “Oh, man, I forgot something. A friend of mine is recording around the corner and I promised him I would stop by….”

Before long we were on the elevator in the Columbia Records building heading for Studio A. In the control room people were listening to the playback of a song they had just cut. John said hello to a man in round wire-rimmed glasses with shoulder-length grayish hair.

“Robbie, this is the great music manager Albert Grossman,” Sitting in the corner silently was Dion of Dion and the Belmonts. Then John went over and gave a big greeting to his friend who was recording. He turned to introduce me.

“Hey, Bob, this is my guitar-player friend Robbie, from Canada. This is Bob Dylan.”
You could barely see his eyes through the dark glasses he wore, but there was high voltage in the room coming from his persona.

Bob said hello,a nd then to John. “You want to hear something.”

“Yea, I’d love to.”

Bob teased. “You sure you want to hear this? You never heard anything like this before.”
Albert Grossman and the record producer nodded in serious agreement.

“It’s called ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ Bob said with a little smirk.

Bob was right – I’d never heard anything like this before. The studio lit up with the sound of toughness, humor and originality. It was hard to take it all in on one listen….

By then we’d begun our second stand at Tony Mart’s club in New Jersey, and on our nights off we would slip over to the Wonder Gardens club in Atlantic City, where we caught some of the best jazz-organ combos going. Jimmy Smith played there, and we also saw Brother Jack McDufff, whom Garth appreciated for his unusual style. Shirley Scott, “Queen of the Organ,” was a favorite of mine, with her husband, Stanley Turrentine, on sax. Most of these jazz organizats played a Hammond B2 with bass pedals, which meant they could play a lead part with their right hand on the upper keyboard and chords or counterparts (and sometimes lead) with the left hand on the lower keyboard. At the same time they’d be changing sounds and controlling the speed with both hands while playing the bass part with their feet. The whole thing was a remarkable balancing act. And of course the grove and texture of the B3 was sexy cool. It made you want to order Cutty Shark and soda. Garth played a whole other kind of organ, the incomparable Lowrey. Different sound, different touch all together from the Hammond B3, and you could bend the notes like a horn or guitar, which completely baffled a lot of listeners. So great when Garth would kick into a free-for-all jam by himself, with those bass pedals in full effect. Gave you the shivers.

One night after we finished playing Tony Marts, Garth began telling me about some ideas and effects he was experimenting with. He was always devising new modes of ‘hot rodding’ the Lowrey organ and its Leslie speaker to create brilliant new sonic wonders. As he described his research and discovery approach, most of it went over my head, but the results were undeniable. The sounds that came out of Garth’s keyboards or wind instruments had originality stamped all over them. Garth experimented endlessly, like a Harry Partch or Les Paul. He never stopped wanting to expand on his technical abilities inside or outside the instrument. None of the rest of us Hawks was so inclined. 

Some people wanted to know how a watch works, and other people just want to know what time it is.

Quite regularly on our days off I would head up to New York City, sometimes crashing out with our Canadian pal Mary Martin, who had taken a job working for Albert Grossman’s management company. She was always so supportive and would try to turn us on to new music that was happening, like John Sebastian’s new group, the Lovin’ Spoonful. Sometimes one or two of the other Hawks would join me on these excursions into the city, but it soon became evident that I was the one most drawn to the metropolis….

Of all the groups that played Somers Point in the summer of 1965, Tony Mart’s personal favorite was Levon and the Hawks, though it was sometimes hard to tell whether he like the swampy sound of our music or the ringing of the cash registers.

Towards the end of our stint, our relationship with Tony had grown warm, almost familial. He hired us to finish out the season, which proved ideal for future recording sessions and continued access to the city. Everyone in the band seemed to be in a good place during those days.

The only dark cloud that passed over us that summer (other than the enduring stress of the drug bust in Canada) was when we got word that our dear Sonny Boy Williamson II had passed away from tuberculosis, and that the beautiful dream we had of recording together had died with him.

Soon after I got a message from Albert Grossman’s office, asking me to come up to the city on our next day off to meet with Bob Dylan. I’d only met him briefly with John Hammond when they were recording “Like a Rolling Stone.” I asked the guys if they knew any of Bob’s music. I wasn’t that familiar with it myself, though I remembered a song he’d done a few years back called “Oxford Town.” It rang true, and the tone of his voice really stood out for me. Richard offered that Bob’s record of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” reminded him of Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business.”

“Yea,” I said, “That staccato rhythmic phrasing is reminiscent.”

Albert Grossman’s office set up for me to meet with Bob the following Monday. I couldn’t help but wonder what this was all about.


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Monday, October 3, 2016

Bruce Springsteen's book Born to Run Reviewed




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Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (Simon & Shuster, 2016)

A review by Bill Kelly
billkelly3@gmail.com 

Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography Born to Run is on the streets.

I didn't stand in line with the other 4,000 fans to get an autographed copy, a selfie and thirty seconds to shake hands and exchange words with the Boss, but if I did I would have told Bruce to get an index, as every serious work of non-fiction should have one.

I wanted to read Springsteen's book for a number of reasons - to see who his ghost writer is, to hear what he has to say about a few particular people, to see if there were any key South Jersey connections and to find any personal associations between my life and his, as we both grew up Jersey Shore Guys at the same time.

But without an index as a search guide I couldn't "research," cut to the chase, cheat or read the Cliff Notes, and would just have to buckle down in the front seat, riding shotgun on the passenger side, and read it, all 510 pages with color photo supplement.

I also wanted to know if this was to be like a Billie Holiday or Howard Hughes imaginative autobio or more like Dylan's (Volume 1), that actually answers some questions and at least tries to get to the heart of things, which in this case cuts close to home.

I didn't have to look far for a South Jersey connection - there on the front cover is Frank Stefano's 1978 black and white photo of Bruce in front of Stefano's Haddonfield home, leaning against his $6,000 1964 Corvette convertible, as if waiting for you to take that long walk from the front porch to his front seat - let the screen door slam, and the trip begin.

As Bruce explains it he met Frank Stefano through Patti Smith, another South Jersey connection, and they're both in the book.

But like Dylan's auto bio it isn't always who you mention but who you leave out, and a few prominent names go unmentioned – like for instance President Obama and Governor Chris Christie, both big fans on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Bruce backed Obama for President, campaigned for him and sang at his inaugural, but like Sinatra and JFK, they apparently had a falling out. It was the other way around with Christie, who gets first row seats to Bruce concerts, but was snubbed by the boss until after hurricane Sandy, when Christie moved beyond party politics and gained Bruce's admiration, however temporary. Both understandable snuffs.

If Dylan is the conscience of our generation, then Bruce is the spirit, and both are the only living contenders to Walt Whitman's title of America's unofficial Poet Laureate. And there's an affinity between them that's quite evident, and there paths would cross down the road a number of times, most notably when Bruce introduced Bob to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But they also were at Sinatra’s funeral together and met a number of times privately and Bob probably edges out Bruce on influence and seniority.

The answer to the first question is the Ghost Writer is Bruce himself, and it isn't hard to imagine the person who penned "Blinded by the Light," “Thunder Road,” "Born to Run" and "Spirits in the Night" could write a complete sentence and put the story into words and paragraphs instead of rhymes and rhythms.

“Madman, drummers, bummers, Indians in the summer, with a teenage diplomat…- The screen door slams. Mary’s dress waves like a vision she dances across the porch…- In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream. At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines. Sprung from cages on highway nine, chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line…- Crazy Janey and her mission man were back in the alley traden’ hands, ‘long came Wild Billy with his friend G-Man all duded up for Saturday night. Well, Billy slammed on his coaster breaks and said, ‘Anybody wanna go up to Greasy Lake? It’s about a mile on the dark side of Route 88 I got a bottle of rose so let’s try it….”

They’re well baited hooks that grab you and the take you for a ride that feels like magic.

But it isn't reassuring to read his opening line of his book - "I come from a boardwalk town where almost everything is tinged with a bit of fraud. So am I a member in good standing amongst those who 'lie' in the service of truth...But I had four aces in youth, a decade of bar band experience, a good group of homegrown musicians attuned to my performance style, and a story to tell."

And a story to tell it is indeed, but only one we've heard through his songs and music, and by others, not from the man himself, and he warns us from the get go that he’s a bit of a fraud and will ‘lie’ in the service of truth, so hold on to your hats and keep your elbows in the window.

As one fan told him, after hours in line, he got his 30 seconds with the Boss and said, - "You know Bruce, if this book thing doesn't work out you can always write songs."

And for the millions of Bruce fans who grew up with him, it's time to jump into his skin and rewind the ride from the front porch, - beginning with the typical family problems everyone experiences, skipping high school graduation to go to the Village, getting evicted from Freehold, Greetings from Asbury Park when it was still the pits, back and forth up and down E-Street a few times, on to world tours and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame up to now. And the rides not over yet.

You don't have to read it from beginning to end but can pick it up anywhere you are interested and it will still make sense - it is in chronological order, until the end, when he regurgitates some of the early feelings that were hard to express early on, such as how he found his voice, realized it wasn’t so hot, and knew he had to overcome that with other finer attributes, like spirit, style and a little magic.
The book is written in a bare bones Hemingwayesque prose much like the parting note - in case you didn't know - "About the Author: Bruce Springsteen has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and the New Jersey Hall of Fame. He is the recipient of twenty Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, and the Kennedy Center Honors. He lives in New Jersey with his family. For more information go to www.brucespringsteen.net."

Just as a local newspaper columnist complained about Springsteen fever, - he just didn't get it, you have to understand the music to appreciate it, or appreciate it to understand it – as they go hand in hand.

Bruce is well known as a Jersey Guy, but like Frank (Sinatra) and Jack (Nicholson) and Joe (Piscopo), they are NORTH Jersey Guys - with closer affinities to New York and are Giants, Devils and Mets fans, rather than the South Jersey connection to Philly and Philadelphia Eagles, Flyers and Phillies fans. There is a difference, and I know of only a few occasions when Bruce ventured down and performed south of Toms River. He did it early in his career at the Earlton Lounge bowling alley in Cherry Hill and the Satellite Lounge in Wrightstown, both of which get a mentioned in the book. 

The Satellite gets a whole chapter because the gig was the first for a new drummer, and the owner threatened to kill Bruce if he reneged on his contract and didn't play, but would love him if he did. Greg Gregory of Somers Point was a Temple student and bartender at the Satellite and recalls charging Bruce a dollar for a beer.

Early in his career Bruce also played Ocean and Burlington Community College gigs, that put him just over the Jersey Mason-Dixon Line.

Then there was the time in 1988 Bruce sat in and jammed on a few songs with Jackson Browne on the makeshift stage in the parking lot of Bally's casino in Atlantic City, the first and only time Bruce has ever played a casino.

Then there was the 2002 Rising Tour show at Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall, but that’s pretty much it.
Bruce is a North Jersey Guy, who made it in New York mainly through the efforts of his agent and promoter Mike Apple and John Hammond, Sr., who signed him to CBS Records, both of whom are seriously dealt with in the book.

But he also acknowledges the Delaware Valley fans were the first to really embrace him, with a tip of the hat to David Dye (now at World Cafe WXPN) and Ed Sciaky both acknowledged.

Another local South Jersey Shore music writer Kurt Loder of Ocean City gave a five star Rolling Stone magazine review of Springsteen's The Rising album, and David Kamp writes a flattering cover story profile of Bruce in Vanity Fair that refers to Bruce's suffering year-long bouts of depression, that some attribute to his alcoholic father, who was hot and cold with his kids and packed up and moved to California in 1969, leaving behind 19 year old Bruce and 17 year old daughter with child.
While his Italian mother was full of love and family, maybe it was his salt and fire Irish father who inspired Bruce to pick up the guitar and believe he could, like the Beatles and the Stones, make a living playing rock and roll.

As Bruce said in his R&R Hall of Fame speech, “I’ve gotta thank him because – what would I have conceivably written about without him? I mean, you can imagine that if everything had gone great between us, we would have had disaster. I would have written just happy songs – and I tried it in the early ‘90s and it didn’t work; the public didn’t like it.”

More so were the influences of Sinatra, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, all of whom he would cross paths with down the road, after his mother bought him a $60 guitar and he began to play with local garage and bar bands.

Bouncing around for years, playing with a series of bar bands – The Castiles, Steel Mill, Earth, Dr. Zoom & the Sonic Boom, Sundance Blues Band, until he gets the Bruce Springsteen Band together in 1971 and as with the evolving E-Street Band, there's no disputing who is the boss, though they did get a big boost from Mike Apple, who signed Bruce to contracts as an individual - not as a band, and in 1972 he got Bruce the audition with John Hammond, Jr., the legendary CBS Records A&R man who signed Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce.

While Dave Marsh wrote the 1998 Born to Run biography - you can't copyright a title - it was another music journalist Jon Landau who wrote “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” Landau then stepped in as a producer who gave Bruce the advice and direction he needed to go even further, and his role is well amplified in the book.

Some of the stories Bruce tells make the book – like the time they travel onto the Indian reservation in the Southwest, where they found Thunder Road, the time they got thrown out of Disney Land because Steve Van Zant wouldn’t take off his bandana, how he met Patti his second wife at the Stone Pony, how he met Sinatra through Patti’s pedicurist, and Dylan and Jack Nicholson at Frank’s funeral.

The business end of things wasn't his major interest and making a lot of money not a motive, but making the magic in the performance was - and he honed his band to do it right, night after night, and they pretty much did.

Bruce says that outside the bouts of depression, he only felt he lost the magic a few times – first when he played his first large scale stadium show in Ireland, then at a Madison Square Garden show when he performed "American Skin," about the police killing of a young black boy, to which the police benevolent association took exception, and then while practicing for the  E-Street Band revival after 10 years hiatus.

The last time, after weeks of practice behind closed doors in the Asbury Park Convention Hall, Bruce felt the music was dull, uninspiring and the spirit lacking, until he opened the doors and let the fans waiting outside in.

Suddenly he came to life, looked into the faces of the fans who expected magic, and he reached back and found it - just as he found it in Ireland and at the Garden, the fans provided the missing ingredient that mad the magic - just add love.

They get it.


And for the fans, old or new, who read this book, who get in the car with Bruce, they too will get it, and go back, back to Greasy Lake, drink the rose wine, dance under the stars and among the lightning bugs, fairies and the fell the magic in the spirits in the night, the magic that Bruce has brought us over these many years, a trip that's still unfolding, as the magic is still there, if you want it. Just get in and go for a ride with Bruce behind the wheel. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Wayne Kline RIP

KLINE, WAYNE E.

·         Aug 17, 2016

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KLINE, WAYNE E. - 69 of Ocean City, NJ passed away on Saturday, August 13, 2016 at the Shores at Wesley Manor in Ocean City, NJ.
Wayne was born to Alma and Edwin Kline of Barrington, NJ in Camden, NJ. He was born with Cerebral Palsy due to complications at birth. Although his disability has proved challenging throughout his life, it has never deterred him from accomplishing his goals.
Wayne graduated from Haddon Heights High School is 1967 having studied Business. In 1967, Wayne attended Brandywine College in Wilmington and graduated with a B. S. in Marketing Management in 1971.
He worked for Clint Campbell at Spence Seafood in Ocean City working there for several years.
In 1972, Wayne got a seasonal job at the "Clam Bar" in Somers Point, where he was a bookkeeper. At the Clam Bar, he became fast friends with many customers, especially with the owners Pete and Patrice Papovic and Dennis and Lucy Dixon and became lifelong friends.
In 1975, Wayne took a job with Paul Glenn, Inc., a bus company in Northfield where he helped children as a school bus aide for Special Ed students.
In the 1980's, Wayne went to work for the Atlantic City Country Club. The owner, Leo Fraser and his sons Doug and Jim and daughter Bonnie became like family to him. When they sold the club and moved their operation to their Mays Landing Club where Wane worked over 20 years for them until his retirement in 2006.
Wayne is survived by his caretakers, Todd Bower and his children Todd, Jr. and Amy and Muriel Dickinson and her children, Joseph, Bart and Don. Friends may call Monday evening, August 22nd from six until seven o'clock at The Godfrey Funeral Home, 809 Central Avenue, Ocean City, NJ. Burial is private. 
Memorial contributions in his memory may to the United Cerebral Palsy of Philadelphia, 102 East Mermaid Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19118. 


Friday, September 25, 2015

Down at the Crossroads w/ Dylan, Robert Johnson and the Devil

 Down @ the Crossroads w/ Dylan, Robert Johnson and the Devil

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The day Bob Dylan signed his first Columbia recording contract in John Hammond, Sr.’s office Hammond gave Dylan a couple of albums of other Columbia artists including Robert Johnson’s “The King of the Delta Blues,”  who Dylan never heard of but blew him away.

The Mississippi Delta is the home and cradle of the blues as much as New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, and in academic circles blues is considered a branch of jazz, and in fact followed the jazz trail when the musicians and prostitutes were kicked out of New Orleans in the closure of Storyville, the once-legal red light neighborhood where they lived, by the U.S. Army and Navy, though the righteous citizens of the city protested. “You can make it illegal but you can’t make it unpopular,” the New Orleans mayor said. 

But just as Katrina did a century later, the civic crackdown on Storyville – in November 1917, spread the musicians and the music beyond the city limits, and most of the suddenly out-of-work musicians followed the riverboats upriver to St. Louis, Memphis and Chicago, and letting off the bluesmen in the delta where they took root.

Their contemporary offshoots include the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, James Cotton, B.B. King, Levon Helm and Robert Johnson – the “King of the Delta Blues,” who died broke and friendless at 27 years, said to be poisoned by a jealous husband or lover, leaving behind only 20 some recorded songs and two photographs.

When John Hammond, Sr. and Allan Lomax tried to find him to record him he was already dead, but not forgotten.

Legend has it that Robert Johnson couldn’t play a lick when he first picked up a guitar as a young boy, and was the subject of jokes among the real musicians, until he left town for awhile and came back with a style that shocked and amazed everyone, sparking a the myth that he made a deal with the devil, selling his soul in exchange for the musical talent.

“Sweet Home Chicago” was one of the songs Johnson recorded in two sessions at Texas hotels, and his other songs were covered by many artists over the years, but his most famous song is “Crossroads Blues” that Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix and dozens of others have covered and made famous.
According to Dylan, Robert Johnson hit him like a “tranquilizer bullet.” 

Dylan later wrote in his autobiographical Chronicles, Volume 1: “I listened to it repeatedly, cut after cut, one song after another, sitting staring at the record player. Whenever I did, it felt like a ghost had come into the room; a fearsome apparition…masked the presence of more than twenty men….Johnson’s words made my nerves quiver like piano wires. They were so elemental in meaning and feeling and gave you so much of the inside picture…..There’s no guarantee that any of his lines either happened, were said, or even imagined…I copied Johnson’s words down on scraps of paper so I could more closely examine the lyrics and patterns and free associations that he used, the sparkling allegories, big-ass truths wrapped in the hard shell of nonsensical abstraction – themes that flew through the air with the greatest of ease. I didn’t have any of these dreams or thoughts but I was going to acquire them. I thought about Robert Johnson a lot, wondered who his audience could have been. It’s hard to imagine sharecroppers or plantation field hands at hop joints, relating songs like these. You have to wonder if Johnson was playing for an audience that only he could see, one off in the future.”

Dylan discounts “the fast moving story going around that he had sold his sold to the devil at a four way crossroads at midnight and that’s how he got to be so good. Well, I don’t know about that. The ones who  knew him told a different tale and that was that he had hung around some older blues players in rural parts of Mississippi, played harmonica, was rejected as a bothersome kid, that he went off and learned how to play guitar from a farmhand named Ike Zinnerman, a mysterious character not in any of the history books.”

“This makes more sense,” says Dylan, as “John Hammond had told me that he thought Johnson had read Walt Whitman. Maybe he did, but it doesn’t clear up everything…..I would see Johnson for myself in eight seconds worth of 8-millimeter film shot in Ruleville, Mississippi, on a brightly lit afternoon street by some Germans in the late 1930s, but slowing the eight seconds, you can see that it really is Robert Johnson, has to be – couldn’t be anyone else.”

“I wasn’t the only one who learned a thing or two from Robert Johnson’s compositions,” Dylan wrote, “Johnny Winter, the flamboyant Texas guitar player born a couple of years after me, rewrote Johnson’s song about the phonograph, turning it into a song about a television set. Robert Johnson would have loved that. Johnny by the way recorded a song of mine, ‘Highway 61 Revisited,’ which itself was influenced by Johnson’s writing. It’s a strange the way circles hook up with themselves. Robert Johnson’s code of language was nothing I’d heard before or since. To go with that, someplace along the line Suzie (Rotolo) had also introduced me to the poetry of French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud. That was a big deal too. I came across one of his letters called ‘Je est un autre,’ which translates into ‘I is someone else.’ When I read those words bells went off. It made perfect sense….I went right along with Johnson’s dark night of the soul…Everything was in transition and I was standing in the gateway. Soon I’d step in heavy loaded, fully alive and revved up. Not quite yet though.”

And so it was when Hollywood came calling for the movie rights to the P. F. Kluge novel “Eddie & the Cruisers,” and the producers and script writers would eliminate a chapter, the one where the Cruisers drive their ’57 Chevy to Camden to visit Walt Whitman’s house, and in its place Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”  and “singing the body electric” is replaced by Arthur Rimbaud, who reportedly faked his own death  in order to live out his life anonymously, much like Eddie Wilson does in the follow up film.

Is Dylan pulling our leg with the Ike Zinnerman story, a farmhand teaching Robert Johnson how to play guitar instead of making a deal with the devil at the crossroads? After all, Dylan’s real name is Robert Zimmerman.
Supporting Dylan’s version, over the popular myths and legends, is the fact that the devil isn’t mentioned in the lyrics of Robert Johnson’s song “Crossroads Blues,” that makes no reference to a deal with the devil.

Cross Road Blues

I went to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above "Have mercy, now
save poor Bob, if you please

Mmmmm, standing' at the crossroad
I tried to flag a ride
Standin' at the crossroad
I tried to flag a ride
Didn't nobody seem to know me
everybody pass me by

Mmm, the sun goin' down, boy
dark gon' catch me here
oooo ooee eeee
boy, dark gon' catch me here
I haven't got no lovin' sweet woman that
love and feel my care

You can run, you can run
tell my friend-boy Willie Brown
You can run, you can run
tell my friend-boy Willie Brown
Lord, that I'm standin' at the crossroad, babe
I believe I'm sinkin' down

According to the popular legend: “A crossroads or an intersection of rural roads is one of the few landmarks in the Mississippi Delta, a flat featureless plain between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. It is part of the local iconography. A crossroads is also where cars are more likely to slow down or stop, thus presenting the best opportunity for a hitchhiker. In the simplest reading, Johnson describes his grief at being unable to catch a ride at an intersection before the sun sets. However, many see different levels of meaning and some have attached a supernatural significance to the song.”

Crossroads are also points where people, families, towns, cities and sometimes whole societies reach a point in time where life changing decisions must be made, directions are changed and new destinations are set.
And so it came to pass in the summer of 1965 when America’s national psych came to a crossroads that was a circle – the Somers Point, New Jersey circle that led to many directions, five different roads, each with its hazards and rewards.

Some people want to know why the summer of ’65 was the best tourist season the Jersey Shore has ever seen before or since. Families came, college kids made it cool, hippies thought it was hip, bikers put in an appearance, but as everyone who was there remembers, it was The Place to be at that time. Some say it was the weather, others say the economy was good while still others say it was written in the stars, and it was just the right alignment of people and planets to create the special things that occurred.


And so the summer of 1965 began down at the crossroads, down the shore, the South Jersey Shore, where the crossroads was a circle, the Somers Point Circle, and very close to where all the action would take place and from where, as the sun set on Labor Day, everyone would leave to go in their own new direction, for better or for worse, to reward or tragedy, their destiny was determined - a fait accompli – but it still had to play out. 



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