Wednesday, November 26, 2008
All things are pointing towards a major Inaugural blast, as a lot of people are planning on converging on Washington D.C for the inaugural and inagural party and balls.
Since the preceeding day is Martin Luther King Day, an official holiday and three day weekend, it should be a blowout now that there’s a young, black president with friends like Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, the Greatful Dead, Will.i.am, Beyonce, Jay-z and Leona Lewis.
While born in Hawaii, he’s now from Chicago, and that’s no Don Ho, so we can expect the official Inaugural Band to include some Chicago blues and maybe even the Blues Brothers and the Purple Gang Rhythm Section.
The official Inagural Committee, a subcommitte of the Senate, has announced the inagural schedule, program and starting lineup of acts. Among those set to perform for the inaguration will be the US Marine Band, John Phillips Sousa's old group who used to be the house band at Congress Hall in Cape May, and peform on the porch.
Then there's Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul who you all remember as the gal who ran the greasey spoon joint in the original Blues Brothers flick.
Put together by Senate Inagural Subcommittee chair Dianne Feinstein, Obama and Biden, the Inagural show will also include Chinese American Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Israli American virtuoso violinist Itzhak Pearlman, pianist Gabriela Montero, Anthony McGill on claranet and the San Francisco Boys and Girls Chorius.
They will reportedly perform a special song composed by John Williams ("Jaws" "Star Wars") who was at the Grant Park gig on election night.
As with Robert Frost at JFK's inaguration, Obama has invited Elizabeth Alexander of Yale to read a poem, while Joseph Lowery, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference will speak and Pastor Rick Warren ("Purpose Driven Life"), host of a Obama-McLain debate in California, will lead a prayer.
More to come on the inagural acts and who will be performing at what parties and balls.
Consider for a moment, the Inauguration is on Tuesday, January 20, the day after January 19th, Martin Luther King Day, King’s birthday, now a national holiday and an official day off, creating a three day weekend that ends with the inauguration on Tuesday.
They say, what's the difference between MLK Day and St. Patrick's Day? On St. Patrick's Day everybody wants to be Irish. Well, MLK Day is the St. Patrick’s Day for black people and all minorities, and for once, it is a day everyone will take note because of the special historic occasion of the inauguration of a black president, something few people ever imagined would happen.
We all know black people have a reputation, like the Irish, for having fun and knowing how to party, and Obama’s early and eager supporters included Hollywood actors, New York entertainers and musicians, especially Bruce Springsteen and Will.i.am, who was inspired by Obama to wrote songs “Yes We Can” and “It’s a New Day.”
Springsteen, who made a number of solo acoustic appearances at Obama rallies in Philadelphia and Ohio, also wrote, “Working on a Dream,” which he premiered at a rally in Ohio and is on a new album set for release around the time of the Inauguration. Springsteen and the E-Street Band are also scheduled to play at halftime of the Super bowl on February 1, but that may be an afterthought following the Inaugural blast.
If you want to go, be part of the party and witness history, you’re not alone, as ten times as many citizens have requested some of the 240,000 free tickets to the inauguration as ever before, giving a good indication that this is going to be one Big Bash.
Only Senators and Congressmen can distribute tickets to view the inaguration, which will take place on the West Steps of the Capitol building, which faces the Washington Monument and the Mall, which will be open to the public for the first time to accomidate the four million people expected to attend. That's up two million from last month's projections.
Besides the reserved tickets that give you a view of the inauguration, the swearing in of the new president and his speech, more than 4 million people are expected to pack the mall and watch the proceedings on big screens, and line Pennsylvania Avenue as the new president rides or walks from the Capitol steps to the White House.
As for shear numbers, a lot will depend on the weather, as few people will bother if its too cold, or there’s a storm, but regardless, there will be at least a million and a half people expected, which is three times the number of people who were at Woodstock and a little less than the Philadelphia Phillies World Championship parade.
Which makes me think that if Philadelphia can put two million people together for a baseball parade, then DC can do better for Obama, so regardless of the weather, I say 2 mill easy, will pack the National Mall like Martin Luther King was giving a speech. And the new security numbers of up to 4 million don't seem too farfetched.
But the real action will not be the day of the Inaguration, but that night, when the official and unofficial Inagural Balls and parties will take place all over town.
First off, it really is a formal occasion, and if you swing an invite to say the MTV party, New Jersey contingent’s ball, or even if you intend to crash a party, you must dress the part – to the Nines.
And there isn’t just one official ball, but about a dozen of them, and your lucky to get an invite to any of them, with increasing significance attached to those who get to go to more than one and, like the new President and his wife, move around to different parties.
Of course, if you go, you have to make arrangements ahead of time, and first get a place to stay. Forget a hotel or motel, and think of a friend you went to school with who now works as a mid level government beauracrat who will let you stay on their couch, though be prepared to have to bid for the squatting rights, as other old friends are also thinking along these lines.
Once you secure lodging, then you have to consider whether to fly, drive, bus or train. For me, I’ve done it all, and the train is by far the preferred route, not only cost wise, but hassle wise, and comfort. Driving is a problem, not only the four hours getting there, but in parking once you get there and having to drive back after it’s all over. Unless there are three or more souls making this trip, the highway takes a back seat to AMTRACK.
And now they announce that Barrak and Joe will be taking AMTRACK too. Obama will be in Philly for Martin Luther King Day (of Service) and get on the train at 30th Street Station and head south to Wilmington and pick up Joe and take the train down to Union Station in DC for the Shindig.
See, did I tell you how to go?
Once you have acomidations and transport lined up, the tickets to the inaugural and the parties and balls, will come easier. If you are a regular Democratic Party stalwart then you should have no problem getting a free pass from your Congressmen, but if you just voted for him, well then you may have to put in a little squeeze and remind people about that favor you once did. There’s a real determination in Congress and the new administration not to allow these free tickets to be resold on ebay or the black market, but I’m sure a lot of people will be getting greedy as it gets closer to the day.
While tickets to the balls are easier to get because many of them actually cost money, and you have to be able to get there to use them, and have your tux or gown ready, best bet is to check in with your local Democratic Party boss and see about getting a ticket.
Once the accommodations, travel and tickets to the inauguration and the ball are all covered, the only thing left is where to eat. If you’re going to a ball, the food should be covered, as they usually put a out a pretty nice spread for all of the balls, high end or low. You will have a ball.
But it’s a long holiday weekend, there’s breakfasts, lunch and dinners for a few days that I’ll cover in more detail as we get closer to DC and the date.
In the meantime, MTV has announced that they will be having a party the night of the inagural.
MTV will be hosting a party with the theme “Be the Change Inaugural Ball” at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, where I was at the in last Inaugural Ball at a Hollywood sponsored bash, tickets compliments of Jersey Joe Piscopo.
According to their news release, MTV announced that it has partnered with ServiceNation to co-host the "Be the Change Inaugural Ball" in Washington, D.C., on January 20, 2009 — the same day President-elect Barack Obama will take his oath of office.
The event will celebrate the massive youth-voter turnout in this month's presidential election and an active commitment from America's youth to impart positive social change through volunteer service. ServiceNation is an organization that campaigns to increase support for expanding national service programs like the Peace Corps and Americorps.
A record 24 million people between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in the 2008 presidential election, accounting for 18 percent of the 133.3 million voters who hit the polls. It marked the third major election in a row with increased youth-voter numbers, and for the first time in 20 years, the number of young voters surpassed the number of voters over the age of 65.
The ball will be staged at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and will feature several leading artists, celebrities and government officials (to be named later), alongside hundreds of young people who've been chosen to attend based on their demonstrated volunteerism.
The "Be the Change Inaugural Ball" will be televised live across all MTV platforms, including MTV, MTV2, MTV Tr3s, mtvU, MTV Hits, MTV Jams and MTV.com on the evening of January 20. Exact air times will be announced in the coming weeks.
The live television event will also include live broadcasts from other locations across the globe, where young people are completing major service projects. Leading up to the event, MTV will showcase stories of young people providing service within their communities on a daily basis, beginning on January 1.
"Over the last year and culminating in this election, we have seen a groundswell of engagement and a refreshed spirit of activism from young people," MTV general manager Stephen Friedman said. "ServiceNation is the perfect partner for this inaugural event, given that they encompass a broad coalition of youth service organizations. We want to celebrate young people across the nation who are answering the call and working to make changes in their communities and beyond."
Leona Lewis has been asked to sing for US President-elect Barack Obama at his inauguration ceremony in Washington DC on January 20.
The singer, who yesterday (November 23) beat Dido to the Number One spot in the albums chart with a reissue of her album 'Spirit', is set to join Jay-Z and Beyonce at the ceremony
Millions are expected to convene in the US capital on inauguration day, while tickets to the ceremony are exchanging hands for thousands on auction sites.
Speaking before Obama won the US election, Lewis said: "I think Obama is amazing. He's just so cool and articulate. Nothing fazes him.
"It would mean everything for ethnic minorities in that country and every country around the world to have a mixed-race leader of America."
NEW YORK — Attention, Mr. president-elect: Come Inauguration Day, Beyonce is at your service.
"I'm there. I can't wait. I feel like all of us, we're ready to do whatever we have to do. Whatever they want _ if they need me to volunteer, they need me to sing, I'm there, and I'm ready," a giddy Beyonce said in an interview the day after Barack Obama made history in becoming the nation's first elected black president.
The singer couldn't stop beaming after Obama's win over Republican John McCain on Tuesday. In fact, she was so inspired, she wore a blue suit and tie in honor of Obama _ with stiletto heels that were red, white and blue.
"I've never been so patriotic!" she laughed. "I'm just beyond excited."
Beyonce was supposed to be in Japan on Election Night to promote her upcoming album, "I Am ... Sasha Fierce," but decided to postpone it at the last minute.
"I said, 'What am I doing? I'm completely making a bad decision. I have to go home, I'm gonna kill myself if I'm not home in America,'" she said. "I knew I needed to be here."
After going with hubby Jay-Z, Diddy, Mary J. Blige and others to states like Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio just before the election, she watched the returns Tuesday night with family and friends in her home. She was not only inspired by Obama, but McCain's concession as well: "McCain's speech was so classy."
The 27-year-old said the win was particularly important for the inspiration it gave to African-Americans.
"My nephew, who is 4, when we say, 'You can do whatever, you can be whatever,' it's not cliche. You have no doubt that it's not true," she said.
The election even brought Beyonce to tears, though she says it was the good kind: "I fell asleep crying and smiling at the same time," she laughed. I woke up with mascara running and a smile on my face!"
From Bruce Springsteen leading 50,000-strong crowds in chants of "Yes we can!" to the Beastie Boys headlining a last-minute voter-awareness arena tour to Jay-Z putting a political twist on his full-band stage show, musicians are coming out in force for Barack Obama as the November 4th election approaches. It's a burst of enthusiasm that recalls 2004's Vote for Change Tour: Some events, including a Dead/Allman Brothers show on October 13th in State College, Pennsylvania, and a Springsteen/Billy Joel/John Legend concert in New York on October 16th, are official Obama fundraisers, held under the campaign's Change Rocks banner; others, like the Beasties' tour with the nonpartisan Rock the Vote organization, are focused on encouraging fans to show up at the polls.
"Ultimately, the mission statement is to get people out and voting," says Beastie Mike D, whose group is bringing along guests including Jack Johnson, Sheryl Crow, Ben Harper, David Crosby and Graham Nash. "But in my opinion, the America I love is in such a terrible state, and for the change that I would like to see happen, it's really crucial that people get out and vote for Obama."
Most musicians performing for Obama — ranging from the Dead to Devo — are focused on swing states including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, where electoral votes are crucial to an Obama victory. "We want to be of as much use to the candidate as we can be," says Dead drummer Mickey Hart. "At this stage of the game, it's about consciousness and about getting out there and voting, and doing something on your own that makes a difference. The stakes are so high."
Some events — such as Springsteen's in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, and Jay-Z's in Michigan and Florida — are carefully targeted to areas in which newly registered voters are likely to vote Democratic. "If you're doing it in the right part of the state, most of the people who register are gonna vote the way you want," says Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. "Pennsylvania is a place where you could say Obama wasn't connecting with blue-collar workers. There's no one who connects more with those people than Bruce Springsteen."
In Detroit, Jay-Z fans picked up tickets at Obama's campaign office, where staffers encouraged them to register. "It was a way to pull in voters who maybe hadn't been part of the system before and get them registered," says Brent Colburn, Michigan spokesman for Obama's campaign. "You were able to see the breadth of Obama's appeal: Jay-Z's concert skewed younger, and the Springsteen show was on a college campus, so there were a lot of students but also a lot of working-class people." Both Springsteen and Jay-Z performed in the final three days before the Michigan registration deadline, with the Obama campaign coming away with 9,000 new registered voters in the Detroit area alone.
In Miami, Jay-Z looked out at a crowd of thousands and said, "I'm not telling you who to vote for. I'm telling you who I'm voting for: Barack Obama!" At another point, the MC alluded to Sarah Palin before launching into "99 Problems," with its chorus of "I've got 99 problems, but a bitch ain't one."
Springsteen, who performed on 2004's Vote for Change and made appearances with John Kerry, told crowds that he expects his efforts behind Obama to be more effective. "In 2004, I had the tequila all lined up on the bar," he joked during a Michigan performance of "No Surrender," which Kerry used as a theme song.
And Springsteen also made an impassioned case for Obama. "I've spent 35 years writing about America, its people and the meaning of the American promise," he said at each of his campaign stops. "I want my America back, I want my country back. So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves and come on up for the rising."
Shortly after a roof-raising version of “Born To Run” featuring Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and key members of both their bands, Bruce turned to the back of the stage at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom and said “We want to bring out the next President of the United States!” With that, Barack Obama took the stage to the loudest cheers of a very loud night. “What a magical evening,” Obama said to the crowd, who donated between $500 and $10,000 to his campaign and the DNC for tickets. “I just told Michelle backstage that the reason I’m running for president is because I can’t be Bruce Springsteen.” He went on to warn the crowd not to get “giddy” over his high poll numbers with less than three weeks left in the election. “Don’t underestimate the power of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”
One also can’t underestimate the ability of a ninety-minute set of Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel hits to bring a theater packed full of middle age tri-staters to screaming fits of hysterical joy. “Good evening bridge and tunnel elite,” Springsteen said in the middle of an early show mini acoustic set. “I know you spent a lot of money, but like you did with the vice presidential debate: lower your expectations.” Three songs into Billy Joel’s set — when Springsteen, his wife Patti Scialfa and E Street Band keyboardist Roy Bittan joined Joel and his band for a rousing “10th Avenue Freeze-Out” — expectations were already exceeded. From here, an only-for-Obama supergroup was born. Springsteen stayed onstage for the next hour and a half, with the setlist rotating back and forth between Joel and Springsteen classics. Each sang big portions of each others’ tunes, often with their eyes focused on what was surely a teleprompter.
The pairing worked surprisingly well. When Springsteen sang “they’re closing all the factories down” in “Allentown,” it sounded like it could have been a Darkness On The Edge Of Town outtake. Likewise, Joel made the sweet nostalgia of “Glory Days” seem like one of his own. “Movin’ Out” was dedicated to Bush and Cheney, and featured Springsteen singing the verse about “Mister Cacciatore’s” and the “Cadillac-ack-ack-ack-ack.” Other highlights included “Thunder Road,” “A Matter Of Trust,” “Spirit In The Night” and “New York State of Mind.” If anyone on earth was ready for such an evening, it was Joel’s multi-instrumentalist Crystal Taliefero, who toured with Springsteen in 1992/93 tour. Whether it was playing the bongos on “River Of Dreams” or filling in for Clarence on the sax “10th Avenue Freeze-Out,” the woman knew what she was doing.
Earlier in the night John Legend and India.Arie played “Ordinary People” and U2’s “Pride (In The Name of Love)” during a brief acoustic set. They came out again at the end for a cover of “People Get Ready” and the grand finale of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” during which Barck and Michelle Obama stood center stage clapping and occasionally singing along. It was a great night — worth every penny — though there was much work to be done. As Caroline Kennedy told the crowd before the show while urging them to volunteer: “This is the last time you can have this much fun for the next twenty days.”
On Saturday, Bruce Springsteen kicked off three days of Vote For Change concerts on behalf of Barack Obama with a powerful acoustic set that drew estimated 50,000 to the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Cutting a distinctly Woody Guthriesque profile in rolled up flannel, denim and tousled hair, Springsteen stood atop a 30 foot high stage emblazoned with the word “CHANGE” and belted out a seven-song, 45 minute acoustic set as a gift for Obama volunteers and a catalyst for the disengaged to register to vote. Plenty of people heard the call — according to the Obama campaign, some 21,000 new voters were registered as a result of the event.
“I’m not Barack Obama, but I’ll do my best,” said Springsteen, before wheezing his harmonica like an angry freight train launching into a tense, jingle-jangle reading of “The Promised Land,” his 1978 affirmation of faith in the ideal American in a time of dwindling opportunity and diminished expectations.
Four songs later — including a like-minded “The Ghost Of Tom Joad,” the obligatory “Thunder Road” and the rarely-heard “Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?” — Bruce spoke humbly about why he believes in Barack Obama. “I’ve spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful. I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning.”
After a mournful rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” Springsteen sent the people back out onto the streets with marching orders to take their country back from “those who who would sell it down the river for a quick buck.”
“The Promised Land”
“The Ghost of Tom Joad”
“Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?”
“This Land Is Your Land”
Bruce Springsteen’s Speech:
“Hello Philly, I am glad to be here today for this voter registration drive and for Barack Obama, the next President of the United States.
“I’ve spent 35 years writing about America, its people, and the meaning of the American Promise. The Promise that was handed down to us, right here in this city from our founding fathers, with one instruction: Do your best to make these things real. Opportunity, equality, social and economic justice, a fair shake for all of our citizens, the American idea, as a positive influence, around the world for a more just and peaceful existence. These are the things that give our lives hope, shape, and meaning. They are the ties that bind us together and give us faith in our contract with one another.
“I’ve spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no healthcare, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful.
“I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe he understands, in his heart, the cost of that distance, in blood and suffering, in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning. After the disastrous administration of the past 8 years, we need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project. In my job, I travel the world, and occasionally play big stadiums, just like Senator Obama. I’ve continued to find, wherever I go, America remains a repository of people’s hopes, possibilities, and desires, and that despite the terrible erosion to our standing around the world, accomplished by our recent administration, we remain, for many, a house of dreams. One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down.
“They will, however, be leaving office, dropping the national tragedies of Katrina, Iraq, and our financial crisis in our laps. Our sacred house of dreams has been abused, looted, and left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs care; it needs saving, it needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, hearts, and minds. It needs someone with Senator Obama’s understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again. But most importantly, it needs us. You and me. To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don’t know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back.
“So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising.”
Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen will reportedly team up for a Barack Obama benefit concert at NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom on October 16th. The concert will be Obama’s last NY appearance prior to the November 4th election. Donors were notified about the concert today. The performance will be the first time Springsteen and Joel — two titans of the tri-state area rock scene — ever played the same bill. And while Joel recently sold out two nights at Shea Stadium and Springsteen is about to be broadcast to the millions at this year’s Super Bowl, their Hammerstein Ballroom will harbor a scant 2,500-person capacity. As if the concert wasn’t amazing enough, the show also promises more “exciting guests.”
Tickets range from $500 for the balcony to $2,500 for premium seats to $10,000 for “lounge tickets.” Springsteen announced on his website back in April that he endorsed Barack Obama. Bruce and Billy join artists like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers who have come together for concerts to support the Democratic presidential candidate.
It’s official. Sources tell Rock Daily that the Grateful Dead will play a fundraiser for Barack Obama on October 13 at Penn State. The band, including Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart, are planning to rehearse next week to prep for the show in one of the more hotly contested presidential swing states with Warren Haynes on lead guitar. Phil Lesh’s son, an Obama volunteer, lined up the gig. “They are all totally committed to the show,” said a friend of Jerry Garcia. Once again, Obama has raised the Dead: The remaining members of the Grateful Dead regrouped for the first time in four years at a “Change Rocks” fundraiser for Barack Obama at Penn State Monday night. Guitarist Bob Weir, babying a set of broken ribs, joined bassist Phil Lesh and drummer Mickey Hart. Drummer Bill Kreutzmann, who did not play at the “Deadheads for Obama” fundraiser last spring, flew in from his Hawaiian holdout to join the band.
The crowd was an even mix of die-hard Deadheads and Penn State students, with the parking lot scene pretty standard, complete with tailgating, music blaring, Frisbees flying, and no hotel vacancies for 30 miles (students paid $30, non-students paid $50). The Allman Brothers started the show, giving the event a flashback to the days when the two bands shared bills at the Filmore in the late 1960s and early ’70s. However, without beer sales and zero-tolerance security, most of the students stayed out in the parking lot partying. Slowly, the seats filled as Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes traded licks and Gregg Allman worked the keys and sang with no signs of his illness that kept him offstage last spring. “It’s a beautiful night,” said Haynes. “It’s an historic night. Don’t forget to vote.”
Between sets, Obama volunteers and security wandered the floor of the sold-out 16,000-seat Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania as a video message from the candidate played: “For 20 months, I’ve been traveling this country from town to town — even developing a ‘Touch of Grey’ of my own,” Obama said. “On November 5th, I hope to announce that we ‘Ain’t Wasting Time No More.’”
After a photo opp backstage, with Kreutzmann grinning and Weir sitting with his chin pensively in his hand, the band took stage and electrified the crowd. The smoke billowed, glow sticks flew and the crowd roar crept up. For the first two songs — “Truckin’ ” and “U.S. Blues” — it seemed the band was set on giving a Dead primer, offering something everyone could sing to. Turning on a dime after two rock openers, the band suddenly jerked into weird spasms, odd jolts and spacey twangs filled with MIDI effects and dueling bass and guitar play. Pleasingly tweaked and twisted, they plunged into deep and dark waters with “Help On The Way/Slipknot!/Franklin’s Tower,” “Playing in the Band,” “Dark Star” and “St. Stephen.” They came up briefly for air with a gentle “Unbroken Chain,” and quickly sunk back into a vicious “Other One.” By “Throwing Stones” and “Touch of Gray,” the intensity lifted.
“People are just crazy nervous,” said one Obama volunteer. “There are people here that enjoy, you know, illegal things. And Barack doesn’t want to be connected to that. So, security is a little on edge.” Those worries go along with an endorsement by the Dead. The band approached Obama last year, offering their support and considerable influence over legion of Deadheads. “We’re all deeply into this, into Barack Obama and the thought of taking this country back in some shape or form, what’s left of it,” Hart said recently. “It’s probably one thing we can all agree on. It’s funny that an Obama event would do that, but that’s how important and critical this election is. It’s our call to arms, or call to music, which is the way we arm ourselves.”
Through the show, the remaining rhythm section leaned into one another and seemingly bonded once again. Weir, Lesh, Kreutzmann and Hart gave off a sense of genuine enjoyment. But don’t get too excited just yet. Spurning whispers of a possible reunion tour, longtime Grateful Dead publicist and historian Dennis McNally has cautioned, “They just want to see how it feels.”
The Dead Set List:
“Help On The Way/Slipknot!/Franklin’s Tower”
“Playing In The Band”
“The Other One”
“Touch of Grey”/”Not Fade Away”
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Fall 2008 Cape May Jazz Fest Retrospective – By Bill Kelly
Fifteen years down the line, thirty festivals, hundreds of shows, thousands of great performances and a youthful exuberance that indicates the show will go on.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since they held the first Cape May Jazz Fest, which featured a select few acts who started something that should continue, twice a year, indefinitely. Co-founded by Woody Woodland and Carol Stone, the Cape May Jazz Fest has become an important staple for the town of Cape May and east coast jazz fans alike.
Every festival kept getting bigger and better for the first decade, but eventually it leveled off to where it was no longer a matter of being bigger to be better, and this fest will be among friends, some of whom were there at the first fest, and some youngsters who will keep this thing going into the future.
Continuing the tribute to past jazz greats, the fall 2008 fest will spotlight the music of the late great Maynard Ferguson with Ed Vezinho and the Jim Ward Big Band with trumpeter Jon Faddis doing Maynard Ferguson impersonations on Friday night, and Denis DiBlasio and Bob Fergusion with their bands on Saturday, making for a heavy horn ensemble that will blow your socks off.
The Friday night show at Lower Regional HS Theater includes Jon Faddis, Jim Ward, Joe Scannella, Dave Kennedy, Mike Natale, trumpet; Ed Vezinho, Cliff Tracy, Skip Spratt, Bob Rawlins, saxophone; Denis DiBlasio, baritone fax; Joe Ziegenfus, Paul Arbogast, Rich Goldstein, Joe Jacobs, trombone; Demetrio Pappas, keyboards; Jack Hegyl, bass; Harry Himles, drums.
There’s also the return of Pieces of a Dream on Saturday, though since the Cape May Convention Hall is closed, the venue will also be the theater at nearby Lower Regional High School, a schoolbus ride away.
Back in 1975 Peaces of a Dream were just teenagers flush with talent when they were recognized and adopted by Grover Washington, Jr., the sax master who will be forever associated with them. Now they are accomplished journeymen, with James Lloyd on keys, Eddie Baccus, sax; Rohn Lawrence playing guitar; David Dyson on bass and Curtis Harmon, drums, Pieces of a Dream are living legends.
And between the Maynard Ferguson tribute and Pieces of a Dream at the main theater, there’s a dozen other acts that are often going on simultaneously at different clubs, so you have to pick and chose carefully, where you want to be and who you want to see. The only thing for certain is that wherever you are, there will be some really terrific jazz going on.
My preferred approach to the whole weekend would begin with the Fergusion tribute with Faddis, and then catch a bus back to Cabanas where my main man Frank Bey will sing up a storm. They’ve always fit in a good blues band during every fest and after a few years the blues bands began to settle into Cabanas, where you’ll find me if I’m making the circuit.
This historic building once housed Gloria’s Saloon downstairs and the culinary legend, Maureen’s upstairs, and you can still feel some of that history at Cabanas, especially when Frank Bey is in the house.
The Georgia-born Gentleman of the Blues, Frank Bey has a deep baritone voice that, as Carol Stone says, “mesmerizes and envelopes you.” Boy can this guy sing, and he can scat too. And if you miss him during the fest, Frank Bey will also be singing in the Boiler Room in Congress Hall on Saturdays, Nov. 29 and Dec 1, 20 & 27, throughout the holidays.
Jackie Ryan, a West Coast vocalist who sings in five languages, was recommended by WRTI’s Bob Perkins, performs down the street at the Grand Hotel Ballroom, while Chembo Corniel and Grupo Chaworo are in Carney’s Main Room and Michael Pedicin, Jr. in Carney’s Other Room next door. Chembo and Pedicin next door to each other.
Chembo Corniel and his Latin Rhythms play traditional Cuban music, rumba, salsa and traditional jazz with Chembo on congas, Ivan Renta playing tenor sax; Elio Villafranca doing the keys, Andy Eulau on bass and Vince Cherico, drums. They are hot, hot, hot, while Pedicin is just plane cool.
Having toured and recorded with Maynard's big band, Pedicin continues the Tribute to Maynard Ferguson, but he says his major influences are John Coltrane and Michael Brecker. His dad, Michael Pedicin, Sr., is still famous for playing “Shake a Hand” at Bayshores in Somers Point, where Junior played a toy sax on stage at his father’s knees.
A program notes that John Valentino was scheduled to play guitar, but couldn’t make it so Bob Ferguson joined the band on trumpet. Michael Pedicin, alto/tenor sax; Jim Ridl, keyboards; Andu Lalasis, bass; Bob Shomo, drums.
Since the Grand, Cabanas and Carneys are all there downtown on Beach Drive, it’s actually possible to catch all the acts if you move around between sets.
Things start early Saturday morning, with great breakfasts around town, with The Mad Batter being a favorite. Then mosey over to end of the Washington Street Mall for the workshops at the elementary school, which includes lessons and sessions with Monette Sudler, the First Lady of Jazz Guitar.
Monette first came to Cape May to play at the Old Shire Tavern, where many of the Philadelphia jazz acts played back in the 80s and early 90s. While the Old Shire is now a retail store on the mall, its liquor license was moved to the Boiler Room at Congress Hall, keeping the jazz vibs going.
Monette is just one of a dozen top flight jazz performers from Philly who played the Shire and now comes back routinely to play the jazz fest, either as a featured act or as part of the Saturday and Sunday afternoon jam sessions. And to not only get a load of her performing on stage, but sit down and have her show you how to pick a fret on the guitar, well that’s pretty awesome. I hope the kids appreciate it.
10am-11am beginners guitar -- Monnette Sudler 11am -12n advanced guitar -- Monnette Sudler 10am-12n improvisation workshop -- Doug Mapp, Brian Betz, Seth Johnson 12n - 1am saxophone workshop -- Tim Price 12noon - 1am Rhythm Jam -- Marc Jacopec, Jeff Hebron, Carol Sabo, Chris Jacopec Cape May Elementary School, 921 Lafayette St
The Cape May Jazz Fest is a non-profit enterprise, and all profits go towards established scholarships for local musicians, and they’ve already bankrolled some of the education of a number of young, professional musicians, who are actually earning a living playing jazz.
Extra credit classes begin Saturday at noon, at Carney’s with the Divine Jazz Combo in one room and the Eleazar Shafer Quintet in the other. Both will develop or degenerate into jazz jams that will continue until four in the afternoon.
Carney’s is one of the last of the real Jersey Shore beach bars, where you can walk in with sandy sandals and a bathing suit on one side, and sit down to a fine dinner in the other room, which they actually call the Other Room. That’s where Mrs. Carney could usually be found, sitting at the end of the bar next to the kitchen door. While the main room always featured rock & roll, famous for Sunday afternoon jams, Mrs. Carney brought in some Irish bands to play the Other Room, so you were bound to have a good time whatever your flavor. Mrs. Carney was a big supporter of the Jazz Fest and her family continues the tradition, especially the afternoon jam sessions, which are always the first tickets to sell out.
With the Sunday afternoon jams so popular, they eventually got around to having them on Saturday afternoon as well. While most traditional jam sessions are pretty spontaneous affairs, with long drawn out songs that give each musician a chance to play a solo, the Cape May sessions have become pretty competitive over the years, and now everybody tries to out-do each other, which only makes for some sensational music.
Trumpet master Eleazar Shafer opens the Saturday jam with Tryrone Shafer, keys, Irwin Hall III sax, Alex Hernandez, bass and Chris Beck, drums. “The Shafers have been performing at the jams for 11-12 years,” says Carol Stone, who remembers “when El was 9 and Ty 11, and extremely talented young men with fabulous quintet. Not to be missed.”
Beginning the jam in the Other Room is the Divine Jazz Combo a group of teenage musicians founded and directed by 16 year old sax teen Dahi Divine, who studies with Ray Wright at the Phila Clef Club. Dahi Divine, sax; Joseph Gullace, trumpet; James Santangelo, Jr., keyboards; Alex Claffey, bass; Devon Waring, drums
At the same time those guys are cookin’ at Carney’s, Alen Weber and the Frenz Blues jam will be mixing things up at the other end of the block at Cabanas, and Edgardo Cintron and Inca will be playing hot Latin rhythms over at the Grand Hotel Ballroom.
With Alan Weber on sax/flute, the Frenz Blues are Ursula Ricks and Ann Oswald, vocals; Perry Leondro, violin; Don Shaw, Frank Dinunzio, guitar; Walt Sapsah, bass and Mike Antol, drums. Ursula Ricks began singing the blues at age 5 and jives well with Weber, who picks up the alto, tenor, baritone and soprano saxophones and flute.
Carol and Woody didn’t have to go far to find Edgardo Cintron and his gang, as they hail from South Jersey, and have a standing invite to play this fest. The Latin Jam is in Grand Hotel 1st floor Ballroom, so there’s plenty of hardwood floor to shuffle around. Edgardo Cintron, timbales/percussions; Noel Cintron, congas; Bill Murray, sax/percussion; Roosevelt Walker, Jr., guitar; Doug Travis, lead vocals/keyboards; Mike Rivera, bass.
After four hours of intense jazz jams, its time to take five, or four, as there’s a four hour break for dinner that can be had at one of Cape May’s finest restaurants. There really is more fine, four and five star restaurants per square block in Cape May than anywhere in New Jersey.
Some of the restaurants are part of the jazz fest, and it’s always good to patronize the sponsors, but there are others that also support live music and jazz all year’ round, including the Ugly Mug and the Merion Inn, both on Decatur Street.
If you’re ready for a good oceanburger, cheesesteak or clams on the half-shell and a cold, draught beer, the Mug is the place go. Since the Merion doesn’t usually open until 5, I usually hit the Mug first anyway, and then go down to the Merion, where George Mesterhazy plays piano.
From Old Atlantic City, I remember George playing in the band at the Club Harlem on Kentucky Avenue, and after years playing the casino showrooms and on tour with legends, George has settled down quite comfortably at the Merion, where some of the musicians from the jazz fest always drop by to pay their respects to the master.
So besides getting a first class meal at Cape May’s oldest bar, you get to hear some great tunes and a real spontaneous jazz jam with George and whoever stops by, and no cover.
Now I learn that George has invited his old combo over to jam every Thursday night from 8:30pm through the holidays, a scene that deserves closer attention.
The official jazz resumes at 8pm with Pieces of a Dream at Lower Regional Theater and an hour later at the Boiler Room of Congress Hall. Things can get hot in the Boiler Room, downstairs at Congress Hall, where John Phillips Sousa once had the house band and some of the jazz fest perfomers can be found throughout the year.
Today Bob Ferguson plays his horn like his Ferguson namesake, with Dean Schneider, keyboards; Andy Lalasis, bass; Vic Stevens, drums, while at the same time, around the corner and down the block, Dennis DiBlasio, does Carney’s Main Room with Jim McFalls.
Being music director for Maynard Ferguson’s band for five years and the director of the Maynard Ferguson School of Music at Rowan University, DiBlasio is uniquely qualified to pay tribute to his old master. And you should get college credit just for hearing them play. Denis DiBlasio, baritone sax, with Jim McFalls, trombone, Jim Riddl, keyboards; Steve Varner, bass; Jimmy Miller, drums. McFalls is a regular member of the internationally renowned Capitol Bones and their larger counterpart, the Capitol Bones Big Band.
David Cole and the Main Street Blues keep the blues going at Cabanas on Saturday night while Pamela Williams is at the Grand and Antoinette Montague is at Carney’s Other Room, keeping the jazz going until 1 am in the morning. A favorite of the D.C. Blues Society Cole and the Main Street has a song list includes jazz as well as old school R&B. David Cole, vocals/guitar; Wes Lanich, keyboards; Emory Diggs, bass; Steve Walker, drums.
Pamela Williams plays sax with Patti Labelle. That’s all you got to know. Her 7th CD "The Look of Love" puts a different twist on 10 classic Burt Bacharach compositions, and has her own funky style. Pamela Williams, sax; Damon Bennett, keys; Stan Davis, guitar; Doug Grigsby, bass; James Rouse, drums. And they go late.
After a late breakfast Sunday morning, things start slow after Church, but Carney’s will start to come alive around noon with the Little Jazz Giants in the Main Room and Young Lions Jazz Quartet in the Other room, before the traditional Sunday afternoon jazz jam takes over at Carney’s and everything winds things up at around four in the afternoon.
Besides the duel jams at Carney’s, Xclusive picks up the blues beat at Cabanas. A 5 piece band with 3 vocalists Xclusive includes Big Walt Johnson, vocals/percussion; D. s. Nixon, vocals/tenor/baritone sax/ percussion; Ryan Gibson, tenor/baritone sax; Louie Beeks, keyboards/vocorder; Frank Greene, tenor/baritone sax/organ; Dave Peterson, guitar; Joel T. Williams, bass guitar; Rasheid Schnidmill, drums.
Little Jazz Giants, who open the Sunday Jam in Carneys Main Room are a group of young musicians from Camden who range in ages 9-13, and are directed by Jemal Sadiq, head of music department at Camden High School. Rebeya, vocals; Emanuel Garcia, alto sax; Arnetta Johnson, Dhalil Sadiz, trumpet; Khawan Wilson, trombone; Micah Johnson, drums.
The Young Lions Jazz Guartet has 13 year old Jordan Williams on keys and Manny Jimenez, trumpet. Jordan started on the piano at age 7 and taught himself to play "Afro Blue" by ear. He studies at the Philadelphia Clef Club and the Performing Arts. Jordan Isaiah Williams, keyboards; Emanuel Jimenez, trumpet; Devon Jamal Waring, drums; Jordan McBride, bass.
After the kids play for an hour keyboard wiz Robin VanDuzee will add some experience to the jam in Carneys Other Room, with Barbara Walker, Ursula Ricks, Lois Smith,vocals; Jesse Andrus, alto sax; Michael Pedicin, Tim Price, Alan Weber, Dahi Divine, tenor sax; Jim Fittipaldi, soprano sax; Bob Ferguson, Joe Breidenstine, Leaster Carnegie, Clifford Buggs, trumpet; Calvin Green, trombone; Geno White, Don Moore, Bruce Hector, guitar; James Lloyd, Robin VanDuzee, Tyrone Shafer, keyboards; David Dyson, Andy Lalassis, Rich Kurtz, bass; Austin Marlow, Curtis Harmon, Tony Day, drums.
Trumpeter Cliff Buggs, one of the original founders of the Jazz Fest, also coordinates the Coast Guard Band, and usually takes the lead for the grand finale in playing “When the Saints Come Marching In” and taking the point in the parade around the room.
And even though you don’t want it to end, they ring the bell and the music is over and all falls quiet and you after taking it all in you start thinking about next spring’s festival, and wondering what the theme will be.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
After seeing Santana and Dylan I felt like I missed something, and maybe I did, but then I catch Billy Hector and I get it, and its great, and I think its not me afterall.
Billy's been playing irregularly at the Hedger House for some time now, and even though there's new owners, he seems to have came with the place, at least on some unlikely Sunday afternoons, outdoors, outback in the open barn, next to the bonfire pit.
The first couple times I caught Billy at the Hedger he played inside, where the accoustics are a little better, but in good weather the outdoor venue is just fine, even though Billy said he wasn't use to playing in the daylight, around the time he usually gets up after playing all night.
Billy's soaring guitar is backed by a power trio of drums and bass, usually a few guys who rotate shifts and fit in Billy's gigs whenever they don't have anything else to do, and this gig was special because it included Billy's old drummer Dan Hickey, along with standout bassist Winston Royce.
Billy was obviously glad to be back with Dan, who appears on some of Billy's recordings, and Winston seemed to be having a good time keeping up with them.
Kind of put off by Santana's Borgatta show earlier in the summer, expecting god inspired revelations, and after always being illuminated and being strangely disapointed in Dylan at the Electric Factory, a dose of Billy Hector is what I needed to get back into the grove.
You expect Santana and Dylan to reallly kick ass and take things to another level at the Big Time shows, and when it just doesn't happen, it's dissapointing, but Billy never dissapoints. He comes to play and put out.
With a repertoire of hundreds of classics, standards, blues, r & b and rock & roll tunes, you never know what he's going to do next, and it's always a good mixture, and doesn't get bogged down in any one style, however popular.
While the summer season is winding down, the Hedger House is just getting wound up. New owners, Neil and BJ Burns recently purchased the classic, historic roadhouse, and they're fixing up the joint. Opening up two doors from the main bar to what will be a new deck is the first thing you notice, but other things are happening behind the scenes.
If you notice, they're not only putting in a new deck, but the deck has an elevated stage that Neil promises will be utilized at least four nights a week. Niel's wife BJ, was a manager at the Atlantic City House of Blues (HOB) when they actually featured great blues artists, and she's booking the bands for the Hedger House. Maybe they can even put together a Hedger House Band?
The Hedger House is one of the oldest and most historic continously run businesses in the area. If you look at old maps of South Jersey, I mean going back to the 18th Century, you see vast areas of wilderness, and in the middle of it is the Hedger House. It must have been an early stagecoach stop, because it really has no other purpose for actually being there. Neil said that when he had a survey done and title search before buying the property, he was surprised at how far back it went.
It was also good to see some old friends who I never see anywhere else but at a Billy Hector show, where ever its at - John Cooch, his cuz Lisa and her friends, Jersey Central Iron club Prez Lutz, and music wiz Roger Beckwith, the editor of the classic RoadhouseReport.com, where you can keep up with Billy Hector and all the good bands that play live in South Jersey.
During a break I talked briefly with drummer Dan Hickey, who put on a show aside from the guitars, and he said he just got back from a tour of Europe with John Lewis Walker, an old bluesman who claims kinship with T. Bone. And Winston, the bassist, I understand, is playing in the orchestra in a Broadway play, so both of these sidemen are working hard.
At the end of his last set, someone requested "All Along the Watchtower," and having been dissapointed by Dylan, Billy, Dan and Winston got it going, and they were terriffic, and fixed my Dylan urgings.
And the Hector House, I mean the Hedger House, also featured $2 hot dogs and $3 burgers with cheese fries, and u-peel shrimp and other inexpensive muchies that will make going back there easy.
The Hedger House is back.
Billy will also be a featured attraction at this fall's Camp Jam in the Pines, Sept. 19 -20th, which I will update ASAP in a separate thread. But for the moment, it will feature, opening on Friday night, according to my man Cooch, Entrain playing Greatful Dead in reggae, as a spoof I suppose, before Billy Hector comes out and then Entrain as Entrain.
Having already boarded the train, I heard a recording of the laid back party band that hails from Martha's Vineyard and the Hamptons, and know a lot of people who grew up with Sam on trombone, whose from Linwood and went to Mainland HS, playing in the Mainland Mustang band. I was among those who lobbied to bring Entrain down from their usual haunts to play the Friday night beach concert in Somers Point, but they got caught on the Parkway and arrived real late. When they called down and said they were on the way, though waylaid, Nick Regine asked if there were any musicians in the audience. One guy had bongos in his car, another went home to get his sax, and pretty soon they had a neat jam going, and by the time Entrain got to town, they just joined the jam. Then they were asked to come back and play the Anchorage parking lot during a Bayfest, and they went pretty much under appreciated.
Also on the Camp Jam lineup are Corinne West, the Lovell Sistersw, the Ryan Montbleau Band and Ronnie Baker Brooks, the blues guitarist I seen at the Cape May jazz fest a few years back.
What a GREAT lineup!
Check it out at: www.campjam.org
And call for tix (856) 206-3787 or 206-2888
In the meantime, stay out of trouble and tune in to some good music.
That's it from the Jersey Pines,
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Announcement from Somers Point councilman Sean McGuigan:
The Good Old Days Festival Committee in conjunction with The Somers Point Office of Emergency Management has decided to cancel The Good Days Festival scheduled for Saturday September 6th in Kennedy Park. This decision was made after consulting with the Somers Point Recreation Commission and reviewing the forecast with The National Weather Service. There is severe weather forecasted for the duration of the day. There is no rain date at this time.
The “5K Walk/Run for Bud” that was scheduled for 9:00 AM Saturday will now be held at 9:00 AM on Sunday September 7th at Kennedy Park.
This Tony Marts Reunion thing is getting to be a twice annual affair, once in the early summer and then again at Stumpo's on the night of the Good Old Days Picnic. At least it's happened twice so far, they are now calling it an annual affair.
While I felt like I was at a nice wedding, rather than at Tony Marts, it's back to the ballroom at Stumpo's where last year we had a blast, with Terrence Simeon, the Zydaco King, dropping by after his hot show at the picnic and Bobby Campanell and Company jamming like the real good old days.
The Good Old Days Picnic at Kennedy Park, now in its 30th year, will feature three really good local bands of different colors - Hawkins Road, Bob Sterling and the Bubba Mac Blues Band, as well as Walter "Wolfman" Washington, who leads yet another hot New Orleans band.
Bubba Mac Blues Band:
More on Good Old Days Picnic:
The Tony Marts Reunion later that night will also feature, Walter "Wolfman" Washington and the Roadmasters, who will withoutadoubt make things happen.
They'll be playing tunes you know from Ray and Fats, and Bobby "Blue" Bland, who I remember seeing at the Club Harlem on Kentucky Avenue in Atlantic City and at the Academy Of Music in Philly, (both times with B.B. King). So I know the "Wolfman" is going to cover these guys great, and play some original tunes as well.
The Wolfman and the Roadmasters have won the Big Easy Award for Soul & Blues, and they continue to spread the New Orleans sound around, just as The Radiators did at the Picnic three years ago, and Terrence Simeon did last year, and I assume at a show I missed at the Ocean City Music Pier earlier this summer. Hey, I can't be everywhere.
You know, when Katrina hit, all those Big Easy musicians went on the road, and spread the word about the kind of music they play down there, and we've been lucky, thanks to Carmen and Nancy, to hear a lot of it at the Good Old Days and the Somers Point Beach on Friday nights.
For those who are going to New Orleans any time soon, you can catch the Wolfman play his guitar and howl at Tipitina's on occassion or more regularly at the The Bank Street Bar, where he has the Thursday night gig down pat, except when on tour, as they are at the moment. They're just getting back from the three-day Periguett Festival in France and the Jackson Hole Arts Fest, so they should be cookin'.
As one Cresent City reviewer put it, "Seeing Walter “Wolfman” Washington perform with his current outfit, the Roadmasters, is akin to taking a history lesson on black music in America with the exception that sitting down and taking notes is not an option. With his breadth of experience and seemingly endless repertoire, each of his highly danceable shows is one-of-a-kind. Like the greatest jazzmen, Washington channels his everyday life into his music. Depending on the setting, the band plays the blues, R&B, soul, funk, jazz and everything in between with pure heart."
What more can you ask for? If you're not yet convinced, check out:
As at all Tony Marts Reunions, besides really good music, there will be Tony Mart T-Shirts, a trivia and dance contest, full service bar and food available. Stumpo's Italian is great, as anyone whose done time in Cape May knows, and the Maryland Avenue Somers Point restaurant is convenient and has plenty of free parking (unlike Cape May).
Limited Reserved seating is $15, or general admission at $10. For reservations or more information call (609) 653-6069 or email Nancy and Carmen at TONYMARTO@AOL.COM.
And tell them you read about it at Bill Kelly's Jersey Shore Nightbeat Blog.
More to come on this one, when I get around to it, especially the headliners at the this year's picnic at Kennedy park that same day.
Friday, August 8, 2008
When Dylan's tour schedule was announced and three local shows were listed, the Electric Factory in Philly seemed like it would be the best place, at least compared to the Asbury Park Convention Hall and the Borgatta in Atlantic City.
I had seen Santana at Borgatta, and its a big showroom, and the Asbury Park show is in a theater, so the EFC seemed like the best bet at the time, and I got two tickets off line.
Around noon on the day of the show - today, I called Barbeque Jim Campbell in Media, Pa. and asked him if he wanted to go to see Dylan. Jim said he had just heard about the show on the radio and was thinking about it when I called, a clear case of ESP.
We had seen Dylan together, with my brother Leo, at the Tower Theater sometime in the 80s. I can get the exact date because it was Paulie Gregory's 21st birthday, which we discovered later that night when we got back to the shore.
Barbeque Jim has a little cottege in Ocean City, which he occassionally rents out, and lives in a little shack - the Toy Box, out back, next to the barbeque and the bikes. He's a surfer dude, commercial artist and photographer who had been to China in the late 70s, right after Nixon.
I was thinking about this when I got stuck in traffic in Chinatown, looking for the Electric Factory. This is the new Electric Factory, at least its only been there ten years or so. I had been to the original Electric Factory, over on the other end of town, back in the late 60s. It was set up in an old tire wherehouse.
The new Electric Factory appears to have been a factory or a wherehouse too. But I couldn't find it when I went looking for it. I got stuck in a parade in Chinatown, celebrating the opening of the Olympics in Bejing) as I wanted to do a drive by of the EFC before going over to 2nd street to meet Jim at the Kyber Pass. Although I found a parking spot not far away, the Kyber was crowded with a young, mainly male, 20 somethings, of a punk rock nature, so I went down the street to the Sassafras, a little classier, upscale joint with open air French doors and some seats at the bar.
After settling in with a Youngling Lager draugt, I looked out the door and could see Jim waltzing up the street, so I didn't have to go back to the Kyber to look for him.
Not having seen each other in quite a while, we did a quick update on our lives, he just got back from Argentina where he went on a cowboy venture trip with some buddies, and I gave him a rundown on Santana and Levon Helm and a few other shows I've seen recently.
Then, after getting directions from the bartender, we jumped in our cars and I followed him to the Electric Factory, which we passed and then parked a few blocks away, just across the street from the Edgar Allen Poe House, with Poe's portrait painted as a mural on the side of a nearby wall, and a giant Raven sculpture in the side yard garden. The house and the house next door have been restored nicely, and the neighorhood is on the upside.
The new Electric Factory is bigger than the old one, I think, as it has a second floor balcony, which has a long bar against the wall and seats you look down to the stage. Since I bought the tickets ($65), Jimmy bought the beers, Yinglings $6 drafts a cup. By the end of the night, I don't know who got the better deal, him or me.
My Browns Mills friend Timmy, who went to the Asbury Park show, and whose been to the new EFC before, told me to get there early and grab a seat in a secluded section near the stage on the second floor, but they were reserved for VIPs, and we had to settle for a stage left overlook. But the sound was good and we could see most of the stage.
Dylan came out and instead of strapping on a guiter, surprisingly sat down at the keyboards as his five man combo back up band got ready. Guitar, base, keys, violin, guitar and Dylan on keys, harp and vocals.
You expect Dylan to do things a little different every show, and I couldn't even begin to compare it with the other shows I've seen - Dylan and the Band at the Spectrum in the 70s, Dylan at the Tower in the 80s, Dylan at the Taj in the 90s, all terriffic performances.
This time, it seems Dylan is in a lounge act mode, and Jimmy even compared it to Leon Redbone.
Unlike the Tower show, where he came out roaring with "All Along the Watchtower," and kept ratching it up a notch every song, this time it seemed he was playing keys with his combo at a lounge. A traditional version of "Lay, Lady Lay" got the crowd going, and some of the songs were recognizable rock & roll, but there were a few songs that just seemed out of place. Maybe I just didn't get them.
Then, just as I was about to complain, Dylan jumps into a real nice version of "Ballad of a Thin Man" singing, "You don't know what's happening here, do you Mister Jones?"
Doing some new arrangements of some older songs, and some new songs off his latest album, Dylan refrained from playing any of his popular hits, and I guess he doesn't have to.
As the reluctant poet laurient of my generation, Dylan has reached the pinacle of respect, and like Santana and a few others, god like status in the music industry, and yet, he's also the artist who has taken the mantel of Whitman, Longfellow and Frost. And there really is no second.
Okay, so Bruce comes in second if you keep taking votes.
So like Whitman, who took the ferry across the river from Camden 150 years ago, and gave readings of his poetry at churches, auditoriums and theaters, Dylan can come in and do and say whatever he wants, and there will always be a standing room only full house to hear him out.
But the guy who came out and startled us with "Once upon a time, you dressed so fine, threw the bums a dime, didn't you?", this time came out with his lounge act combo and entertained us for an hour and a half, did a two song encore, and then split.
Those who were there, mainly old hippies and a few young kids, can say they saw Dylan at the Electric Factory in Philly, but you expect the gods to move you more. You expect the gods to kick ass, and leave you knowing that you saw the poet laurient of our age.
Old Walt Whitman, grey beard and fat, may have electrified his audience when he sang his Leaves of Grass, but Dylan, Whitman's heir to the title, came out with his lounge act.
Perhaps the lounge lizard will metamorphize into a menacing minator once again, before he gets to the Borgatta, but my thoughts on it is that he's going to have to reach a little deeper into his soul and bring out some fire and brimstone if he's going to kick ass like the gods, as he has and will once again. I hope I'm there.
First reports from Asbury Park indicate a better show, which included "Like A Rolling Stone" in the encore, and while Bruce and Patti were stage left, and reportedly practiced a few songs with Dylan that afternoon, he didn't take the stage, despite the calls for "Bruce, Bruce."
Dylan, at 67, and the most influencial songwriter of his generation, is a head and a shoulder above Bruce when it comes to ranking poet laurients, though Bruce can still catch up, while Bob has to seal is fate before its too late.
For more views of this show:
BK 02:33am 080908
August 8, 2008
|1.||Cat's In The Well (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on violin)|
|2.||Lay, Lady, Lay (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel, Stu on acoustic guitar)|
|3.||The Levee's Gonna Break|
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin, Tony on standup bass)
(Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on electric mandolin, Tony on standup bass)
|5.||Tangled Up In Blue|
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel, Stu on acoustic guitar, Tony on standup bass)
|6.||Things Have Changed (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on violin)|
|7.||Spirit On The Water|
(Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on pedal steel, Tony on standup bass)
|8.||Honest With Me (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel)|
|9.||Beyond The Horizon|
(Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on pedal steel, Tony on standup bass)
|10.||It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)|
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on banjo, Tony on standup bass)
|11.||Tryin' To Get To Heaven (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel)|
|12.||Highway 61 Revisited (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel)|
|13.||Nettie Moore (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on viola, Stu on acoustic guitar)|
|14.||Summer Days (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel, Tony on standup bass)|
|15.||Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on lap steel)|
|16.||Thunder On The Mountain|
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel, Stu on acoustic guitar)
|17.||Blowin' In The Wind|
(Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on violin, Stu on acoustic guitar)
(Thanks Ed & Michelle for the phone call and Mike and Zac Kline for the emails)
Bob Dylan - keyboard, harp
Tony Garnier - bass
George Recile - drums
Stu Kimball - rhythm guitar
Denny Freeman - lead guitar
Donnie Herron - violin, viola, banjo, electric mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel
Thursday, August 7, 2008
The Bridge Commission board was deciding whether or not to allow the Maloney's Bike-a-thon to ride their bicycles across the Commission's bridges.
It was a heavy issue at the time, as whenever something good happens, there's always someone to compain, and I guess it's a sure sign you are on to something when a group of administrative bureaucrats try to stop you from riding bicycles across a bridge.
George was making the case that bicycles have as much right to use the bridges as cars or pedestrians, but the commission was balking at the idea of 2,000 bicycles using their bridges at the same time, causing a public hazard, they said.
And while the other suits on the board nodded their heads and looked approvingly at one another, the room was full of avid bicyclists who were afronted at the idea of bicycles being banned from the bridges, when after all, they don't pollute the air, take up parking spaces and are healthy to ride. What's the issue?
After a while, about an hour or so of bickering back and forth, the Commission decided to ask their attorney's opinion, and all looked to the old man to the right of the chairman, who had to be politely awaken from his slomber, and who could blame him? I forget the guys name now, but they named the toll both at the base of the Ocean City - Longport Bridge after him, an old time Ocean City lawyer, probably a Republican.
They woke him up with a tap to the shoulder, and Mr. Esq. asked to have the question repeated, and then, after the recording secretary repeated the question, said, "Insurance." And then went back into his trance.
And the end result was the bike-a-thon could use the bridges of Cape May County if they paid their way, just like cars, a quarter a piece at the time, I think, get insurance for all the riders and anything untowed that could possibly happen to them enroute.
Done deal. The Maloney's Bike-A-Thon continued, then an for the next twenty or twenty five years there-after, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the local American Cancer Society, getting tens of thousands of healthy participants to ride the 30 miles or so, and have a real good time doing it.
After that, I'm proud to say that me and George became good friends, and Maloney's was always a stop on my return trip from Atlantic City for a number of years.
I'd always write a Bike-a-thon preview in the SandPaper and George would always thank me for "being in his corner."
Maloney's was a great bar and restaurant, and should still be there, instead of the quaint, cold, empty, for-rent, condos that replaced the heart and soul of the Margate community.
Maloney's was a great Irish bar before George bought it, and kept it's name, knowing it worked. The son of Judge, George Naame, Jr. was of Lebanese extraction, and was set up in the bar business by Stumpy Orman, the old racketts boss from the golden age of the mob in Atlantic City.
I think George worked at first with Don Dunleavy (Now at Maynards, God Bless Him), at the Mug, formerlly O'Byrnes on the Somers Point - Longport Blvd. in EHT, just on the other side of the bay bridge. O'Byrnes became the Mug, and then the Purple Villa, before Andrew Cornaglia, of the Anchorage, bought it and created Mothers (named after the bar in the Peter Gunn TV show).
George then took over the Elbo Room in Margate, with Stumpy Orman's blessing, and then the bar at the Lafayette Hotel in Atlantic City (Where the Beatles stayed when they were in town), before buying Maloney's.
You would think with all his connections, his dad being a Judge and his former partners being with Stumpy Orman, he could expand Maloney's without too many problems, but they fought him at first but George expanded Maloney's into two buildings, the original bar on the west side, and the beef & beer on the east side, which became a nice resaurant with really good food.
The original bar was always a shot and beer bar(s) with a little bumper pool table and some pin ball machines and great juke box. It was also a good sports bar and had weekend DJs that spun sing along songs the girls would get drunk and sing to, like "Sweek Caroline," etc.
I liked the old hard wood of the beef & beer and the food, which was good for under $10, seafood and steaks. There was the bar along the west wall and a two rows of tables and an upstairs they opened when they got really busy in the summers. A big moose head hung above the juke box was a the end of the bar towards the kitchen. George went to some of the auctions for the furniture of the old Atlantic City hotels before they blew them up, and filled the place with antiques, as well as a few garages.
Sean Donnally was George's main man and general manager for decades, until he missed an insurance payment and they got hit by a DWI lawsuit that George had to settle out of his own pocket. Sean then went to Yesterdays in Marmora and the Mays Landing Country Club, where he worked for the Frasers.
Timmy was another guy who was always at Maloney's, bartending at night and living upstairs in a room during the day. He stand six foot ten, Ikabod Craine thin and bones guy with a good sense of humor, and knows everybody in town.
After one particularly busy summer in the early 70s, George Naame and a few of his friends and regular customers decided to take a bicycle trip on the Saturday after Labor Day, their first real break after a successful summer. They would ride from Maloney's south to Ocean City and down Ocean Drive to Cape May, where they would meet their wives and girl friends at Carney's and have dinner before driving back.
They had so much fun it became a yearly trip they started to look forward to, and they increased in numbers to a dozen and then a few dozen and after three years they had to get a friend with a truck to bring all their bikes back.
When one of their numbers got sick, and died of cancer, they decided to make the bike-a-thon a benefit for the Cancer Society, in their friend's name, and by then had a few hundred riders, and raised thousands of dollars.
That's when the Cape May County Bridge Commission got suspicous, and stepped in, but didn't stop them, now with 2,000 riders, and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.
After a few years of bringing the bikes back in trucks, they made a round a bout route, that was about the same distance, but went through Somers Point, Upper Township, down Route 9 to Sea Isle City causeway and back Ocean Drive through Ocean City to Margate, where they had a big barbeque chicken block party.
Billy Rafferty, USMC, and former Mack & Manco pizza waiter, worked the door at Maloney's for a number of particuarly formative summers, and before him, Tom Murphy worked carving the beef & beer while in law school.
Maloney's was just a real good pub and restaurant, a real asset to the community, one of the things that made it a community.
I don't know what made George sell Maloney's to the developers, some guys who came to town from Philly and lived in their car for awhile. But before they closed they had a few parties, one I attended, when Tom Murphy was the guest bartender for a few hours, and a lot of the old timers came buy to pay their last respects.
I'll try to dig up the Nightbeat I wrote on that last call at Maloney's.
I guess that was the last time I saw George.
He looked good then, and I think he felt good about getting out of the business, but I could never understand why Maloney's had to disapear, just like the Longport Inn, Moylan's and the wood clapboard joint that jutted out into the Longport Bay that was owned by Kelly Voght that reminded me of Bayshores.
Even though both are gone forever, George Naame and Maloney's will be forever linked together in the memories of all those lucky ones who were there.
God Bless George Naame.
NAAME, GEORGE T. JR., 76 - of Egg Harbor Township, died suddenly on August 1, 2008. Born in Atlantic City, he was a lifelong local who owned and operated the famous "Maloney's" in Margate. George's 30 plus years hosting his annual "Bike-A-Thon" enabled him to contribute to the American Cancer Society along with many local charities. George had a great appreciation and lust for life. He will be sadly missed by his loving wife of 46 years, Barbara Naame; daughter, Renee Swain and husband Jerry; sons, George T. Naame III and wife Chrissy, and Damon Naame and wife Robin; grandchildren, Chelsea Burns, Katia and George Naame, and Kaden and Kyle Naame; sister Magorie Cook and husband Howell, predeceased by sister Nancy Miller; along with many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends like family. Friends are invited to call at the George H. Wimberg Funeral Home, 1707 New Road, Linwood, Wednesday August 6, from 5pm to 8:30 p.m. Services to follow at 8:30pm. Donations in his memory can be made to the American Cancer Society, 626 N. Shore Road, Absecon NJ 08201.
Published in The Press of Atlantic City from 8/4/2008 - 8/5/2008
Robert Hazard and the Heroes played a lot of bars around Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore. I first caught them at Red's in Margate (aka White House) before making the big time, and at the strip joint on the side road to the Black Horse Pike in Pleasantville afterwards.
I was in Philly when the Stones played JFK, with Journey and George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers opening for them, and hooking up with Kurt Loder there, along with 100,000 other people.
The old stadium, where Dempsy fought Tunney in the 20s, was in its last days, and none of the toilets worked, there was an inch deep water and piss and girls were using the men's room.
The press box was up in the massive girders that made you think you were in a Zeplin.
I didn't enjoy it very much, never got close to the Stones, as I had been at the Spectrum twice and later in Atlantic City for Steel Wheels.
I do recall hooking up with Loder, and he too was pretty disguested with the whole scene.
The last thing I recall was leaving him in the parking lot, and I think he walked off with David Fricke, to go to Center City to Dobbs and have a beer, while I got my car and drove back to the Shore. The rest of that night is now part of Robert Hazard's history.
Year's later, after Robert had his flash in the pan on the Big Time circuit, he landed in Cape May, where we were neighbors for a few years, me living in Cape May Point and him and his wife running an antique shop (Rocking Chair?) in West Cape May, that I had to ride pass a few times a day.
When I was putting together the 75th Annivesary Party for the Flanders, I got an entertainment budget from Jim Dwyer which allowed me to book some bands from different generations, which included Mike Pedicin, Sr. ("Shake a Hand" and still alive God Bless Him), Dick Richards Boccelli and the Original Comets ("Rock Around the Clock") and Robert Hazard, who brought three guys to back him.
When the sound system started to fuck up, Robert said it was no problem, and he put away the electic guitar and pulled out the acoustic guitar and toned down the set a bit, but put on a great show.
I got Michael Tierson (of MMR fame) to be the MC. I hear MT every Friday night on WBBC - Burlington County College, and on Sirus, doing classic themes for each show, and I'm sure he will soon do one on Robert Hazard. [Give me some advance notice Mike].
It's interesting that Robert is the son of a Philadelphia Opera singer, who now lives in Strathmere, N.J.
Cyndi Lauper was in Berlin for Roger Walter's The Wall production, circa 1991, where I talked with her backstage for a little while (with Shenade O'Conner). Cyndi was also at the album release party for the Wall soundtrack and video at the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier in NYC.
When I told that to Robert, that I had seen Cyndi in Berlin and New York City, he said to me, "Next time you see her tell her I have another song for her."
Will do, Robert, will do.
AP Obits in the News:
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Robert Hazard, a songwriter and musician from Philadelphia who wrote the 1983 Cyndi Lauper hit "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," has died. He was 59.
Hazard died Tuesday after a brief illness, his record label, Rykodisc, said in a statement. His wife, Susan, told The Philadelphia Inquirer her husband died unexpectedly after surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Hazard, born Robert Rimato, led the band Robert Hazard and the Heroes, a fixture in Philadelphia clubs through the mid-1980s. In an online posting a few years ago, he recalled how he got his big break when music journalist Kurt Loder, who was in town to review a concert, happened to stop into a bar where he was performing.
That led to a 1981 article about his band in Rolling Stone, and his song "Escalator of Life" became a hit soon after.
Recently, he played country music with a band called The Hombres. His latest album, "Troubadour," was released in October.
In recent years, Hazard and his wife ran an antiques shop near their home in Old Forge, N.Y.
Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1981 Cyndi Lauper)
Escalator of Life (1982)
Monday, July 28, 2008
It was Chicken Bone Beach Days and Kentucky Avenue Nights for the primarily black employees who worked at the Kentucky Avenue nightclubs, - the waitresses, bartenders, cooks, bus boys, musicians, dancers and entertainers, - a bevy of hundreds of seasonal employees who lived off the music, which was the main attraction at the height of the heydays - say from the late 1920s until the late 1970s, a half century of cultural Rennessance that made its mark on Atlantic City, and the world.
For the most part, it was taken for granted, just something that was there, was thriving and was Great, even when everything else was going wrong, and few would have imagined that within a few years it would all be gone, demolished and lade vacant with nothing to show that it had ever been there at all.
I was never aware of Chicken Bone Beach, but I knew Kentucky Avenue intimately in its dying days, and still don't belive its gone.
Whenever I'm driving around Atlantic City, for whatever reason, I ride by Kentucky Avenue and look down the street that I remember a well lit Broadway of nightclubs and restaurants and the best live music I've ever heard anywhere, anytime, vibrating right out into the street. You didn't even have to go into the clubs to feel the music.
Kentucky Avenue in Atlantic City was not a place you would accidently stumble on.
Billy Mueller was the first guy to take me there, sometime maybe in 1969, but more probably early 70s. Billywas a blonde haired, handle bar mustache, Custer looking hippie who played guitar, had a unique collection of Les Pauls (the first time I ever heard his name), and later played in a local country blues band Backroads (the houseband at Brownies).
Billy convinced me to accompany him to see B. B. King perform at the Club Harlem, the premier club on Kentucky Avenue. He had done it a hundred times before, it was no problem, he said, and away we went.
Parking on Atlantic Avenue, we walked around the Kentucky Avenue corner and all of a sudden it seemed like we were in another world. First there was this exotic oriental resaurant, and across the street, a barbeque take out with a line, and the more we walked the louder the music got.
When we got to the Club Harlem, on the south side of the street, with its massive Marque announcing B.B. King, and a host of other acts, the French doors were open and the band behind the bar was only a few yards from the sidewalk. Without even going in I could see this bald drummer going crazy, backed up by a keyboard guy who was standing up and running his hands up and down the keys like he was on fire, and a tuxedoed violinist who was fiddling it to the limit.
Not yet, we already had our tickets, and Billy took me up the street to show me the rest of the hood, Timbucktoo, a shot and beer pool hall, the Wonder Gardens, another major act venue, with a line to get in, and across the street, Grace's Little Belmont, from where you could hear the vibrations of a jazz organ.
After a short tune up at a side bar, we walked through the open air French doors of the Club Harlem and sat at the front bar, which is best examplified in a scene of the film Atlantic City, where the purple Art Deco walls, reflected low lights, and big boss man in the tux are all accurately depected.
The front bar at the Club Harlem was where you had a drink while waiting for the next show to begin, as there were three or sometimes four shows a night, most of them sold out in advance. The ticket booth on the far left (south side) of the building, had a crowd control velvet rope with the brass hook, and instead of standing in line, you sat at the bar and were enteratined by the Chris Columbo trio, set up behind the bar, so everyone could enjoy them.
Chris had come to Atlantic City in the 1940s, after a stint at New York's Cotton Club. As one of the leaders of the local Musicians Union, Chris made sure he worked the best jobs, and one of the best jobs in town was leading the house band at the Club Harlem.
While they were on a break, Billy ordered a bottle of beer for each of us, and put up a twenty dollar bill, that I eyeballed while reaching in my own pocket. "I got it," Billy said, "put away your money."
When the black, women bartender gave Billy his change, I noticed it was short, change for a ten, I called the bartender back and pointed that out.
She claimed it was only a ten, and I said that I eyeballed it and it was a twenty, which brought over Mr. Big, the big black guy in the tux that stood by the door. He ordered the cash register shut down, and the money counted and compared to what was rung up, which really pissed off some of the customers who were waiting on drinks.
After a few minutes of counting and comparing Mr. Big said there was no discrepencey and that the bartender was right, and as I was about to protest that that meant that bartender stole the money, Billy put his hand over my mouth and quietly said to me that it was his money and to forget it.
Then the band came back on and everybody forgot the incident, except me, as I realized that we were taken as Marks in a shakedown from the minute we walked in, the only two white boys in a totally black bar.
It wasn't always that way, as I would later learn from Chris Columbo, the drummer, who would become a good friend until the day he died, a week after his 100th birthday.
Once past the ticket booth and front bar, there was a cloak room and then the main room, which had bars back against the wall, horse shoe booths in the back, and rows of long tables leading up to the stage, fitting as many people as possible into the cramped space.
Billy passed the Matre' d a ten or a twenty dollar bill, and we were escourted up to near the front of one of the tables, stage right, seated with a dozen black strangers, who we would soon get to know.
Billy Mueller ordered a bottle of beer for each of us and a fifth of whiskey, which I protested, but he waved me off, as he shared it with the neighbors and it certainly loosened things up quickly.
Before the main show, there was an MC, a stand up comic, who later became famous as Sanford, on Sanford & Son TV show, and some dancers who put on a show like I'd never seen before.
I later learned that one of the dancers in that troupe was Sammy Davis, Jr.' s mom, although she was there a few years before I got there.
Then B.B. King's band came out, which included a few local musicians from the union, including a few white guys, who I later learned were keyboard masters George Mesterhazy and Dan Fogel, both of whom played Kentucky Avenue before I got to know them personally.
B. B. came out, dressed in a tux, as were everyone in the band, and he played right in front of us, just a few yards away.
When one of the strings broke on his guitar, Lucille, he sat down on a stool and told the story of how he ran back into a burning bar to save Lucille, and when the broken string was discarded to the stage floor, I reached over and grabbed it, a relic that I would keep for years.
While that first show I saw B.B. King at the Club Harlem is burned into my memory, he played more often at the Wonder Gardens, further west down Kentucky Avenue, on the southwest corner of Kentucky and Artic.
Not as big as the Club Harlem, the Wonder Gardens was set up the same way, with two bars along the walls, and long, thin tables facing the stage. At some point in time B.B. King became part owners of the Wonder Gardens, and stopped appearing at the Club Harlem and played twice a year at the Wonder Gardens. He'd come in for a week long stand, three shows a night, and we would try to make the first night and the last night, as they would be the best.
I remember Sandra Ushury, the daughter of the first black mayor, being one of the celebrity bartenders at the Wonder Gardens, and seeing Mesterhazy there on stage too.
After a few years of this we'd get to know some of the members of B.B.'s band, many of whom would stay with him for decades. Between shows, we'd stick around and talk to the musicians, or leave the Wonder Gardens and go check out Chris Columbo's band down at the Club Harlem.
I got to know Chris pretty well, and often drove over to Kentucky Avenue by myself, always parking on Atlantic Avenue and walking down the street like Billy showed me the first time.
Now you have to understand that these shows go on all night lone, beginning usually around 8 pm and ending a five or six in the morning, the last show being called the Breakfast Show, even though no bacon and eggs are served.
One night I was sitting there by myself and listening to Chris and Stan Humphries on keys and the amazing jazz violinists, when the band went on a break. It was a hot summer night, acually early morning sometime, and I asked Chris if I could interview him on tape. Sure he said, and I pulled my portable battery operated cassett tape recorder out and began asking him questions and him telling me about Kentucky Avenue.
In its real heyday, he said, there were so many people walking down the street you couldnt drive down it. "It was wall to wall," he said, taking me by the shoulder and walking me across the street to introduce me to Jimmy, who operated a take out only barbeque pit that Chris said was famous with the rich and famous.
Jimmy, handing out some ribs, dripping in sauce, smiled and said something about the good old days, and how Sammy Davis, Jr. would come by and grab some ribs, just like his mom did when she was a dancer in the line across the street, and even after he became famous he's stop by, just like Frank always did, and Dizzy and Ray and all the guys in the bands after the show.
And pushing me along, down the sidewalk, the sound of what I would later recognize as a B3 organ could be heard getting louder, and actually vibrating the street outfront of Grace's Little Belmont, a small, intimate joint that had that art deco square glass brick front, with boths lining the walls, and "Whild" Bill Davis' organ emanting the vibs that rocked Kentucky Avenue for decades.
Now I know there was "Whild" Bill Donovan, head of the OSS during WWII, and I've been called whild in my time, but "Whild" Bill Davis was as whild as you can get, at least from what I remember of him.
Chris said hello to some guys in suits and ties in a booth, later saying they were big union leaders from New York city, but Billy was the center of attention and I wish I had a good tape of him playing because he was certainly amazing.
It's hard to belive that Chris was so young - then in his sixties, physically fit, big and muscular, and I watched him grow old, and over the years, fight the casinos from eleminating live music from casino shows, and permitting taped music, and then giving in and eventually playing in the casino lounge acts, a complete degradation from the Kentucky Avenue days.
After the casinos came in, they slowly closed the Kentucky Avenue clubs, and promoter Elsie Street, from Baltimore, who booked many of the Club Harlem acts, tried to put together a series of Atlantic City Jazz Festivals, first at the Club Harlem, and then at Gardner's Basin.
Then there was the benefit concert for Bangladesh, or some kind of pseudo benefit at the Club Harlem, where I ran into Chris and we sat together in his private booth that had his name on it.
"Canned music just doesn't push you," Chris was saying, as he pushed me on the chest, making sure I was paying attention. "Live music, when you hear it, PUSHES you," Chris was saying, as the band was getting ready to play and when it came on, clearly pushed us, unlike the canned music that was playing through the sound system a few minutes earlier.
The casinos, Chris Columbo was telling me, want to put the end of live bands and orchestras in their showrooms, and feature canned recorded music, which would be totally wrong, and I could do nothing but agree with him.
After the show, Chris took me to the back of the Club Harlem and up some steps that led to offices, and a door that Chris unlocked, and showed me his own personal office and backstage dressing room, which was lined with photos of him with various celebrities and adverstisements and posters for shows he'd done all over the world.
He knew then that it was all over. The game was up. But he didn't just want to give in. He was disapointed that he had to fight the casino exects over the need to have union musicians play the casino showrooms, yet took the fine salary they paid him to play the lounges that graced the casino floors, his drums overshadowed by the casino racket.
The last time I saw Chris Columbo play he was in the middle of a set at the front door of the Showboat casino, which has a Marti Gras theme, but had the band playing there on the floor by the door, not even on a stage. The casino lounges had all been converted to slot pits.
I waved to Chris and he waved back and I stayed and listened for a few songs, but had to go, and missed talking with him.
It was few years later that I learned that Chris Columbo was celebrating his 100th birthday at a nursing home on the boardwalk in Ventnor, and drove over to see him. I go there about an hour after the local TV crew had filmed him eating a piece of birthday cake and everybody singing happy birthday.
I asked directions to his room, and when I go there, he was curled up asleep.
"Chris?" I said, thinking for a moment that I had the wrong room.
This wasn't the big, bald, muscled Chris Columbo I knew, and was about to leave when I heard his voice, which I immediately recognized. It was Chris Columbo.
"Happy Birthday Chris," I said.
"Not again," he replied. "I just had a birthday party."
I said I was sorry I missed it, but said I just had to come by and say hello after all the good shows I had appreciated.
I said my name again, and he said, quite clearly and lucidly, "The writer?"
Yea, that's me, I said, having written about him and his band and the Club Harlem about a dozen or so time over the years.
He tried to sit up and his big head stood out from his shriveled up body that looked like it was evolving back into the fetal position.
I thanked him again for all the good times, and he looked at me and smiled, and said something like, yea, they were pretty good weren't they?
He asked me some questions about what I've been doing, and we talked some small talk for a few minutes, and then he started to fade out a little bit, before looking back at me and saying, "Forbidden Fruit."
Then he closed his eyes and turned on his side and shrivelled up and went back to sleep.
A few days later the Press of Atlantic City reported his death.