Report on Tony Marts Reunion - Sunday, June 22, 2008.
They have so much fun at these Tony Marts Reunions there's going to be another one, and another, and see how far this can go.
With continuous live music, cheap draft beer, barbeque and gumbo, there was all the ingredients of what was the best of Tony Marts back in its heyday.
This time the venue was the back yard barbeque at the Somers Point American Legion Post, with a makeshift stage set up under the trees and Richard Spurlock's barbeque smoke blowing in my face, it didn't feel like Tony Marts until the band kicked in.
Led my master entertainer Dr. Bobby Fingers on keys, the man with the happy fingers can also play the Pide Piper and lead you through a real good time. Time out first for a happy birthday rendition of some song for a blushing patron, then settle down with a serious rock & roll set and after Jacque Major plays a set, a makeshift jam session, just like the good old days.
Orchestrated and MCd by Carmen, Anthony Marotta's son, who grew up at Tony Marts, it was a great affair, the bands and the music, as well as the barbeque, were all terrific.
Bobby Fingers plays in the Spike Lee/Len Carey and the Krackerjacks Marti Gras Mummer tradition, and can fit in with anybody, especially Billy Walton and Jacque Major, who he's jammed with before. Plus, Jacque's bassist and Billy's drummer stayed on, and the Mainline Horns chipped in on the side with sax and trumpet.
Bobby, Billy and Jacque each did a quick set and then all came back on together at the end for a killer set that included Walton doing a Hendrix style version of Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," an ecclectic version of Beaver Brown's "On the Darkside," from the Eddie & the Cruisers movie, and a rousing "Rosellita," a boss favorite that got the whole yard dancing.
There was dance contest, judged by audience applause, and they gave two lifetime achievement awards to two Tony Marts soldiers who were in the trenches during the heydays and went above and beyond the call of duty in their service, and are still alive to tell about it.
One award, that included a framed Courier Post newspaper article with photos of Tony Marts and Steels, went to Joe Fraunce, the beer delivery truck driver, who moonlighted as a bouncer at night, and Uncle Willie from South Philly, the day manager of Tony Marts for a decade - 1954-1964.
Two other awards will be given to Daniel Antolini, former owner of Daniel's in Somers Point, and city councilman and former bartender John Walsh, at the next Tony Marts Reunion, on Saturday, September 6th, after the Good Old Days Picnic, at Stumpo's, just like last year.
This year they will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of the movie "Eddie and the Cruisers," and they're working on getting John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to play, if not then, at the following Tony Marts Reunion, that will probably be held in Atlantic City.
I asked Carmen to look into Rockabilly Ronnie Hawkins, who just had a big birthday (70?), is kickin' ass, and should be brought to Somers Point before he kicks in.
Billy Walton did a fantastic version of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?," which Ronnie Hawkins made famous, as Carmen pointed out, in the "Last Waltz" film.
So after sitting there taking in all the barbeque smoke and getting my appitite up, I finally went over to get a burger and they were fresh out. Ah, the procrastinator's lament.
And it was good to see all my old friends, many of whom I hadn't seen since Tony Marts, and I met a few new friends, including Susan McLain, the daughter of Dick McLain, co-owner of Bayshores and the Dunes with John McCann, Sr. and former owner of the colonial era General Wayne's Inn outside of Philadelphia.
She remembers "working the door," or taking money as cover for patrons to get in the joint, and says she has pictures, but they're not scanned, though I'm going to try to get some of them and post them.
It was, for four hours, like a Brigadoon return to the Glory Years of Rock & Roll, when music rulled, and thanks for the memories.