Friday, July 8, 2011

Bay Shores Nightclub, Somers Point, NJ

[Thanks to Roger Evoy for photos and the memories]

Bayshores Flashback - They shook the rafters and drank 10 cent beers - In Memorial Days gone by.

By William Kelly (Originally published in the Atlantic City Sun - Friday, May 22, 1981).

"Places make us - first genes, then places - after that it's everyman for himself. God help us, and good luck to one and all." - William Saroyan - "Places Where I've Done Time."

With the coming of Memorial Day weekend, the traditional beginning of summer, and with it thousands of kids just out of school, their cars stream around the Somers Point Circle, hell bent on hitting the beach, towards a summer that's finally here. Just before crossing the Ocean City causeway they pass the Bay Shores Cafe marquee - a dull burnout green neon sign on an empty lot. For anyone who has spent a weekend at this part of the Jersey Shore, that marquee stands as a relic, a memorial to an era gone by.

For now there's only a dusty vacant lot along the bay. Since it's prime development property there'sa blueprint lying in a drawer somewhere that illustrates what could be or will be. But for many people that quadrant of the univerise still rings with memories.

In the 20's and 30's, as the Bay Shores nicelodeon played songs for a bullalo head, they'd dance the boogie-woogie and do the jitterbug. During World War II girls in gowns and soldiers in brown would sway to the big band sounds of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, then break out into the Lindy Hop, with hands and feet flying.

"We'd shake the rafters," one former patron (my mother) remembered," and we'd laugh and say how one day the dance floor would fall into the bay."

Until the storm of '44 took out the deck the dance floor extended out over the bay. Only the pilings are still in place today, and now only vibrate with the tides. After the storm, near the end of the war, Tony Marotta opened Tony Marts across the street, but the competition only brought in more people, making Bay Avenue a popular entertainment strip, with other clubs like Steel's Ship Bar, the Under 21 Club and the Anchorage. But Bay Shores was always the flagship on the water.

Vince Rennich started working there in 1952, just out of the Army, the year before they remodeled it for the last time.

"My mother introduced me to a neighbor up in Philadelphia, John McCann, one of the owners, and he offered me a job for the summer," recalled Rennich. Starting out as a bar back, washing glasses and stocking ice, Vince eventually became a bartender, and lived in a room above the club with a window overlooking the bay. "It was a dump with a million dollar view," he would later say.

Opening the weekend before Memorial Day and closing the weekend after Labor Day, many of Bay Shores employees - the bartenders, waiteresses, bouncers and musicians would go to Florida and work there for the season, returing to Somers Point in the spring. "We would open the doors in the spring and the beer bottles and glasses would still be on the bar from the night they closed," said Vince.

Rennich worked at Bay Shores for five years, until 1957, when he got married, was starting a family, and needed a full time, year 'round job, so he took a shift at Gregory's on Shore Road and remained there every since. "Before 1953 there was a partition across the bar," Rennich said, "with piano music for older people on one side and rock & roll on the other side for the kids."

At the time, all the "kids" were over 21, the drinking age before the 1970s, when they lowered it to 18, because that was the age they were drafting boys to fight in Vietnam. It was the lowering of the drinking age to 18 that killed the Bay Avenue Strip as it was, bringing in a younger, sassier, immature crowd that intimated the mature, serious set.

"In those days," Rennich recalls, "you could come down here with $10, have a good time, and go home with $9. You made less, but had more. You could do anything you wanted because the price was right. It was 10 cents for a glass of Gretz beer, and later it was 50 cents a bottle of beer and 60 cents a shot."

In the late 40s and early 50s and into the 70s, Mike Pedicin, Sr. played sax and led the band on the Bay Shores stage, his young son Mike Pedicin, Jr. playing a toy sax at his knees. Then he moved over to Steel's Ship Bar, the Jolly Roger and DiOrio's, taking his crowd and popular song, "Shake A Hand," with him.

Pete Carrol was another Bay Shores staple, playing songs like "Sweet Georgia Brown," and Tido Mombo, a hairy hippie, was before his time, dressing like Jesus Christ and trying to walk on water.

Bill Haley & the Comets, Conway Twitty and Levon & the Hawks played Tony Marts across the street, Bay Shores followed suit and countered with Rocco & the Saints, Billy Duke & the Dukes, Tido Mombo and Pete Carrol. Rocco & the Saints featured two teenage sidemen, Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydel, who would go on to make waves on their own.

Bay Shores leased out their kitchen to "South Philly Bernie," who would grill up hot dogs, burgers and cheesteaks, and the $2 ticket voucher you got to park your car or as cover at the door was good for drinks or food.

Bay Shores was THE PLACE to go to hear great music, party and dance for decades. On weekends the matinee shows became a popular post beach party, and if it ever rained, the bands and bartenders checked in for a spontaneous jam, with everybody dancing dressed in their bathing suits. "You couldn't get in the door there were so many people," Rennich recalls. "We'd have to close the place at 7 pm for an hour to clean up and get ready for the second shift, which lasted until 2 am."

When the music stopped in Somers Point they'd just be getting underway at the nearby Dunes on Longport Boulvard, an after-hours joint across the bay bridge in Egg Harbor Township (EHT). Both Bay Shores and the Dunes were owned by the same guys - John McCann, a bootlegger and beer barron and Dick McLain, a builder who also owned the historic General Wayne Inn, in Pennsylvania.

They printed popular t-shirts that read Bay Shores on the front and Dunes Til' Dawn on the back, with a rising sun.

In the late 1960s, Buddy Tweill worked the first front bar of a half-dozen or so bars that surrounded the stage and dance floor. Twill was a character out of the Endless Summer, taking off for Colorado in the winter and making it to Fort Lauderdale by Easter and Bay Shores for Memorial Day.

One of the most popular Bay Shores bands of the late '60s was Johnny Caswell and the Chrystal Mansion. Caswell perfected a Joe Cocker-like inflecion and recorded a few songs, some of which can still be found on the juke box at the Anchorage and Maloney's in Margate.

Charlie Brown, who worked at Bay Shores for awhile before moving down the street to the Anchorage, said he last heard from Caswell a year or so ago. "I got a prayer chain letter from him in California," Charlie Brown says, "I threw it out and my luck's been bad ever since."

After Caswell, Malcom and his band "Hereafter" came in from near Lancaster, Pa., and were popular for doing cover songs like Rod Stewart's "Maggie Mae," which I remember distinctly.

The band across the street at Tony Marts, led by Ruby Falls, gave Malcolm and Hereafter at Bay Shores some stiff competition, and they would time their sets so people could hear one band and then go across the street to hear the other. Then at the end of one summer Malcolm and Ruby got married and disapeared.

It's Memorial Day weekend, and we're left with photos and prints of the old boarded up rock house, sitting there like a derelict ghost ship that's slipping into the bay.

The bands and building are gone, but the pilings are still there, and you can't tell if the pilings are shaking from the wind and the surf or some still vibrating jitterbug or rock & roll tune that doesn't want to end.


Bill Kelly said...

Ray Sharp said...
Hi Bill,
I was just reading your blog about Somers Point, NJ. I played Bayshores and the Dunes for several summers in the late 60s. The Dunes was 100 days in a row, 30 min on 30 min off two bands. My Name is Ray Sharp and my band was the Soul Set. Malcomb and Ruby live in NYC. They are school teachers. Johnny Caswell is in La. He has a Audio Co and a huge rehearsal facility where you can rehearse and record and video your work. He does the sound for live concerts and TV shows. Paul Lorenzo that was the manager of the Anchorage owns a club in Fort Lauderdale call Cheers. Just thought I would bring you up to date on some of the old crowd. Somers Point has a place in my heart. Great place to spend your summers. Great memories and good times.

Ray Sharp

Bill Kelly said...

cappie said...
I was the keyboard player, (Hammond organ), with Ruby Falls and the Rock City Band. The first summer, we were booked at Tony Marts. After the first night he fired us because he said that he didn't like Barbara, (Ruby) jumping up and down like a rabbit. Mcann let us play for him at Dunes and we got the house band gig for that summer. The next Summer, he hired us for Bayshores and we played on the back stage over the water while Malcolm and Hereafter played on the side stage. Ruby was married to our guitar player and the band folded when she and Malcolm got together. Yep, 7 nights a week with a jam on Sunday. What a trip!


Bill Kelly said...

Joe Cerisano said...
Amazing. I was sitting here watching tv with my laptop and I typed in bayshore cafe somers point nj and got this blog. My name is Joe Cerisano and I sang with JB and the Bonnevilles. We were from Morgantown WV but every summer we'd come to Bayshores and play the whole summer. In 1968 it was me, Malcom, Dave Coombs, Jay Amentrout and I forget the guitarist's name. I was 17 at the time. Dave and Rita Coombs had to be my legal guardian so I could sing in the club. Caswell was on the front stage and we were on the back stage. Casewell was one of my main infulences. I talk to him once in a while. I also remember going out to the Dunes every night to see Ray Sharp. I could write a book about that summer being 17, hanging out with all the older guys. To say the least I learned a lot. I remember going over to Tony Marts on breaks to see the other groups. I went on to do pretty well in the music biz. Here's my website. you might get a kick seein' what it all led too. Anyway, to anyone who was there back then and remembers the Bonneviles there are a couple of neat photos of the band on my website.

Bill Kelly said...

oe cerisano here. I remember Harry real well. He was a great drummer and a really good guy. The one thing that stuck in my mind the first time I said him play was the painting on his bass drum head. It was a Hot Rod with the Bonnevilles written on it. He was the drummer when I first started singing with the group when they came back to Morgantown that fall of 67. I wasn't officially in the group until that following April but Dave Coombs the leader said I could come down from Fairmont and sing with the band on Friday afternoons whenever I wanted. It's funny how I found out that JB was leaving. Come to find out he was my 3 third cousin and my grandmother told me about him. So I just picked up the phone and called Dave Coombs. When told him I could sing. When he asked me how old I was. When I said 16 I could hear him laugh a little but said he still wanted to hear me sing. So the following Weds I went down to the Haunted House where they were playing with my mom and sang "Hold On I'm Comin". When they took a break Dave brought us to the band room. He had a big smile on his face and said "You can sing!". that's when he invited me to come down and sing anytime I wanted. One thing lead to another and I was asked to join the group in April 68. I has just turned 17. As I said, Harry was leaving so he sold me all his three piece suits which I had to have altered. I'm sure you remember that The Bonneviles had suits for every night of the week.
I remember hearing about Sam Allen and the Monkey Men! I never saw them but they were a legend the summer of 68 at Bayshores. We play opposite Johnny Caswell and the Secrets which became the Crystal Mansion.
Because of The Bonnevilles I took the long road and ended up in Central NJ by way of LA then NYC. Sill singing and did ok.. At least I'm still alive and kickin'.

Bill Kelly said...

Barbara said...
I was just reading the blog about BayShores in Somers Point. In 1967 or so, I was the girlfriend of Jerry Antonelli who was the bassist for Hereafter. I lived in Harrisburg, PA and would make that long trip from Hbg to Somers Point every weekend of the summer. At that time the band consisted of Jerry Antonelli, Malcolm, later Barbara (Ruby), Jay Armentrout (percussion), Jimmie somebody who was an awesome guitar player on Fender Stratocaster, Michael Abramson (vocals), Bob (Robert) Martin (organ), who later went to California to pursue his illustrious music career and was in Frank Zappa's group. I forget who the other band members were, excuse me, but age and events took a lot of memories out of my head. LOL.. Fat Rabbit, played at the Dunes, circa 1967-68, was an earlier group with some of the Hereafter members. John Opatkowitz was the drummer. Bob Martin (organ, sax, you name it), Jerry Antonelli on bass, etc.
I know we had so much fun, and I don't know how I managed to get back to Harrisburg in time for Monday at 8am for work, but I did. Youth allows us to do that!!
I lived through it.. OH I remember 10 for a buck at the Anchorage... Sunday jam sessions in Margate... Circle Diner where I watched in amazement when a guy fell into his mashed potatoes after a night of drinking. Lots of laughs!!
Barbara Eberly, Florida

Bill Kelly said...

ksaldutti said...
I spent years at all the Summer Point clubs in the late 60s and early 70s. They are memories that will never leave me. Pure fun. As much hell raisin we believed we made it was innocent compared to the insane America we now live in. Does anyone have any pictures to post of the clubs and the bands? Interior shots. I did have some pictures because I had friends who played in bands in both Bayshores and Tony Marts and I had shots of Ruby Fall and the Rock City Band when Malcolm was on stage and they where doing tunes together. After a few moves over the many years I have lost the pictures. Yes I woke up in the Dunes parking lot more then once and can’t remember how I made it across the 9th. street bridge.


Bill Kelly said...

Joyce said...
I tended bar at Bay Shores, Tony Mart and the Dunes...also Maloney's Pub in Margate...good times. :D

MAY 5, 2011 5:24 PM

Sarah Hol said...

Hi Bill and readers,

I am writing on behalf of "Memories", a production by the Dutch public broadcast channel KRO.

“Memories” is about people and their memories of friends from the past. Viewers can contact our program with a request to search for the friend they lost sight of. If we manage to track down the lost friend, the reunion is always a joyful event for both parties. There is no ulterior motive beyond reconnecting as friends.

Our program has been around for 16 years and receives high critical acclaim. To get an impression, an episode with English subtitles can be viewed by clicking ‘English’ on the homepage

KRO Memories has recently received a letter from a Dutch viewer. This person is looking for an old friend by the name of Dennis Mccann. Unfortunately his contact details are unknown to us.

The person I am looking for has to be around the age of 69 and use to live in New Jersey Pennsylvania Bayeshoe Avenue. Mister Mccann served the US Army in Germany in 1969. They met in Barcelona, Spain where he was traveling after his time in de army. I know that his father use to own a cafe named Bayshore’s CafĂ© . I thought I’d try my luck, maybe you can help. Do you know mister Mccann or could you refer me to someone who knows him?

If you have any questions you can reach me Monday – Friday 09h30 - 18h00 at the following number: +31 35 671 3274

After 18h00, you can of course leave a message on my voice mail. Please make sure to leave your name and number. I'll call you back as soon as possible.

I would like to point out that the KRO is a renowned national broadcaster with serious journalists who work discreetly and professionally.
It is not our intention to locate anyone who does not wish to be found, nor is it in our -or anybody else’s- interest to upset people in any way. By no means would we ever forward any information without your consent.

I would be most grateful if you could help us. If you cannot, I would appreciate it if you could let me know nonetheless.

Many thanks and kind regards,

Sarah Hol
Editor KRO Memories

T +31 35 671 3274
W /
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Postbus 200, 1200 AE Hilversum

Brian Waters said...

all those places were rat holes

Mr. Miami said...

Danced at all those places. Johnny Caswell and the Secrets were the best. Then, JB and the Bonnevilles, The In-Sex, Monkey Men, Kook E Jar and the Crumbs. Still dancing (Avalon)!!!!