Thursday, April 19, 2012

Three Aces - Mesterhazy, Clark and Helm

Hubert Sumlin and Levon Helm both passed away this year.


At first, I was to resume my weekly music column for the summer of 2012 with a preview of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center benefit at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, and I wanted to go to the show, get some photos and report on what happened.

Then came the tragic news that the great jazz pianist George Mesterhazy had died quietly in his sleep in his room above Cape May’s Merion Inn, where he played piano downstairs in the historic bar and restaurant. A memorial funeral service, probably New Orleans style, was to be held in Cape May Court House at the same time as the Stone Pony benefit. I would make neither.

Well, a review of the benefit was put off in favor of a proper tribute to George Mesterhazy, that would have been my column this week, but then something terrific happened – my former Ocean City, NJ friend and neighbor Dick Richards Boccelli was nominated, indicted and officially inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and took his 19 year old grand son and protégé with him to Cleveland for the formal induction services on the night before the Stone Pony benefit and Mesterhazy memorial tribute. If I had known earlier, I would have tried to make the Cleveland gig too, but I’m sure Dick will come back with some great stories and his grandson will have a few photos of the experience.

Then, while trying to decide which story to write about, while I was listening to a recording of an impromptu traditional Irish jam session in McReynolds Pub in Dungiven, Ireland, I got word from across the pond that Tony Summers and Robbyn Swan, who live in Ireland, were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in History for their book The Eleventh Day. As I worked as a research assistant with Tony on his book Not In Your Lifetime, and helped them as I could on The Eleventh Day, I was honored to get their email thanking friends and associates for assisting them.

One friend inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and another associate nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, if good things happen in threes I was waiting for some more good news, and still am waiting.

While I was waiting, and before I could even begin the tribute to Mesterhazy, Dick Clark died, and I thought, utt-oh, that’s not what I was expecting.

Being so close to the Hall through Dick and knowing Tony nominated for a Pulitzer, I really believed that good things were happening and great things were on the horizon, but the tide suddenly changed, and the recognition for past deeds was suddenly swamped by death – of Mesterhazy, of Clark, and here I wait for the third shoe to drop. And it didn’t take long.

As I type these words, the Public Broadcasting News reporter, at the top of the hour, announces that Levon Helm, the drummer and voice of the Band, had died of cancer.

George Mesterhazy, Dick Clark and Levon Helm – There’s Three Aces for you. Each made music their passion and left their mark on the music and the Jersey Shore.

They were each great in their own way - Mesterhazy for being the master pianist, Clark for recognizing and promoting the music, and Levon Helm for being the leader, drummer and voice of the best rock & roll band to play the Jersey Shore, and they will be remembered as such.

More to come on all these people. - BK

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