Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bill Kelly interview @ Goingtotheshore.com

Shore Chat: with Bill Kelly

We were lucky enough to have a chat with Bill Kelly. Bill is a freelance writer who grew up in the Ocean City/ Somers Point area. Bill used to write a nightlife column for several local newpapers including the Sand Paper. His column was called Jersey Shore Nighbeat and that is now the name of his blog. Bill has also written multiple books including Birth of the Birdie, the History of Golf in America, and 300 Years at the Point - A History of Somers Point. He is currently working on a history of rock & roll at the Jersey Shore and that is where our conversation leaned. Bill has a wealth of knowledge about the Shore and we hope to have many contributions from him in the future. Be sure to read his blog, there is some absolutely fascinating info in there.

MikeC: Bill when did you move to Ocean City, NJ?

Bill: My family bought a house there in 64 and we moved there permantly about 68. We lived there 38 years. I spent alot of time in Somers point. My Grandfather had a house there. I wrote the history of Somers Point in a book called 300 years at the Point.

MikeC: You majored in History in college correct?

Bill: I went to the University of Dayton Ohio and I was educated in History and English. I was going to be a teacher but I ended up in Journalism. i enjoy writing much more than teaching in school.

MikeC: You also wrote for the local newspaper right?

Bill: I always wrote for the local papers. I started out writing for the Broadsider which was run by Marion Talese the sister of Gay Talese, who was a famous international writer. He was part of the movement to start new journalism. He lived in Ocean City too and his sister started this publication called the Broadsider magazine. I was part of it and so was Kurt Loder. Kurt was editor of it. He went up to Rolling Stone for 10-15 years and then he moved on to MTV.

MikeC: He is still there I think right?

Bill: Well he still there but he is mainly doing movie reviews instead of music.

MikeC: What type of writing did you do for the newspapers?

Bill: I started a music column for the Broadsider and then when the Broadsider went under I took up a music column for that had been started at the Atlantic City Sun. And then I moved over to the Ocean City Sandpaper. The Sandpaper is still there. Its a weekly publication. I wrote a column called nightbeat for 20 years every week. There were alot more bands back then.

MikeC: Weren't there more original bands back then?

Bill: There was always a lot of cover bands. At Tony Marts and at at Bayshores it was mainly cover bands. Only a few came thru that played just originals.

MikeC: Who were some of the big acts that some people may not realize played at the shore?

Bill: Well you know the thing is Somers Point was the main spot down the shore. Somer's Point had the liquor and Ocean City was dry. In the early 60's alot of college kids came to Ocean City. Sort of like the Spring Breakers in Ft. Lauderdale. There were alot of hotels that were two dollars a night. And you could go there and spend a week and not spend more than 30 dollars. Somers Point had not only the alcohol but the clubs. At this point the drinking age was 21 and everyone was sophisticated. They werent just crazy kids. They enjoyed music and they enjoyed having a good time. Thats when "The Band" was there in 1965. Actually they were then known as Levon and The Hawks. They played in suits and ties. They played all the hits and their original songs when they could get away with it.

MikeC: When Levon and the Hawkes were starting out they did covers and originals?

Bill: They tried to do originals but Tony was the owner and he was paying them to stay there and live there and be the house band. He told them they had to do the hits. Levon and the Hawks played Tony Marts the summer of 65. From mid may until the end of August. Then they went with Dylan to play as his back up band in Forest Hills, NY.

Mike: Then thats when they got the name "The Band" as Dylans back up band right?

Bill: They were still the Hawks. What happend was Dylan had a motorcyle accident and recooperated at his manager, Albert Grossman's house in Woodstock, NY. The band drifted up there and they rented a house nick named Big Pink. Thats where that legend started. This was in 66/67. Woodstock was always a haven for Artist.

Mike: After "The Band" hit it big did they ever come back and play the shore?

Bill: Absolutely in the 80's the Band played a reunion concert at Ego's which was formerly Tony Marts. Then Levon came back a half dozen summers and played at Bubba Mac's Shack. Rick Danko came and played the Good Old Days Picnic. And everytime they came back they remembered the great times they had at Tony Marts and how it was a highlight of their career.

Mike: Did you see them when they were in town?

Bill: I wasn't there in 1965. I was only 15. But I was there when they came back and they were all good guys. They were the best. A funny side story was in the summer of 65 when Levon and the Hawks were playing Tony Marts, Dylan came and took them to play as his back up band. The owner was a big Italian guy that was always smoking cigars and drinking whiskey. The Owner said "How can you leave me for the biggest weekend of the year"?

MikeC: So Dylan stole them from Tony Marts?

Bill: Yeah he took them to play his first couple of electric shows. They were booed when they played Like a Rolling Stone for the first time. But eventually the crowd came around. Back at Tony Marts, he lost his main act and he called this guy in NYC and he asked him to bring another band in and they brought in a guy from Detroit. Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. And they played their hit song at the time " Devil With a blue dress on"

MikeC: Do you still go to shows?

Bill: Its different now. The venues used to bring the bands in but now they have festivals that bring the bands in. Like the City of Somers Point has free shows on the beach every Friday night and they bring in some great music. The Cape May Jazz Festival also brings in some great bands. Back in the day they would play in these nightclubs and you would be right up on the dance floor next to them but now they are outside and its more of a festival atmosphere than a nightclub thing.

MikeC: You are currently working on a book on the history of rock and roll at the Jersey Shore right?

Bill: Yeah, i wrote those colums for 20 years so I have a ton of great material and a good story.

MikeC: Where do you like to eat and hang out these days?

Bill: While I am a Somers Point /Ocean City guy I also lived in Cape May for 5 years. I love Cape May I think Cape May is real hip and has a great restaurant and music scene. Cape May gets a ton of great Jazz and Blues shows. Its a very artistic town.

MikeC: What are some of your favorite restaurants

Bill: I am an old fashioned guy. I don't go to high priced places. I like Gregory's cause they have great Snapper Soup. Whenever someone catches a big striper they bring it in and cook it up. Gregory's has a reputation for the seafood. I also like the Anchorage as well. The Anchorage has been there for 100 years. Don Mahoney is the owner and they have great food. It's not the shot and beer joint that it was in the 70's, that I devoted a whole chapter of my book on, and I wish I could go back in time and be there again, but it will always be the best bar in the world.


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