Sunday, August 31, 2014

50 Years Ago Today - The Beatles in Atlantic City

Photo Courtesy of Richard Black - (Copyright)

John, Paul, Al Black, Ringo and George at Al Black's house in West Atlantic City - Monday, Aug. 31, 1964

The Story Behind the Photo:

             The Beatles in Atlantic City – A Day in the Life - August 30, 1964 - Bill Kelly

The Beatles came to Atlantic City in commercial delivery truck, played a half hour show that nobody heard, stayed for one memorable night, and left in a bread truck, but not before playing a game of Monopoly on the hotel room floor, eating a White House sub, writing a song, and instigating chaos and mayhem on the streets and boardwalk.

When George Hamid, Jr. booked the Beatles to play the Steel Pier in the spring of 1964, they had a few hit songs and had attracted 73 million people to watch them on the Ed Sullivan TV show, so Hamid signed them to come to Atlantic City when they were hot, and were still relatively affordable. $10,000 is what Sullivan paid them for three songs, and Hamid would get a dozen songs and a half-hour performance, and he hoped they were still popular at show time in August.

Hamid’s Steel Pier was a well known and popular venue for British Invasion bands – and most of them would play there, but the Beatles came in on the biggest wave, one that’s still being talked about.
Hamid originally wanted the Beatles to play the Steel Pier ballroom, where most of the big acts performed, but by the end of the summer Beatlemania was clearly contagious and spreading wildly and they were bigger than the ballroom, so he moved the show down the boardwalk to Convention Hall, a week after the Democratic National Convention was held there.

“All the Way with LBJ” banners left over from the Democrat convention were still hanging and the First Daughters of the President – teenagers Lynda Bird and Luci Baines Johnson stayed in Atlantic City just to attend the show.

The Atlantic City Police thought they had their hands full with the civil rights demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention earlier that week, but were totally unprepared for what would become known as “Beatlemania,” and be considered a terrorist security threat today.

Everyone could feel the buildup of anticipation as the Beatles were coming, but nobody could imagine the pandemonium that would ensue.

Former Atlantic City police officer Robert Clifton, who was assigned security duty, put together his recollections for Beatlefan Magazine and recalled: “It was the end of August 1964. I had been with the Atlantic City police department for five years. During that time I had experienced a lot, particularly when it came to celebrity security details. There was Sinatra at the 500 Club, Ricky Nelson, Dick Clark and Paul Anka at the Steel Pier…But the impact left by four young mean from Liverpool is still with me. At the end my career, I saw nothing that can equal that one night many years ago.”

“As the last days of the summer faded away,” Clifton recalled, “we stood and watched as the political banners, streamers and confetti from the Democratic Convention blew away, caught in an ocean breeze and scattered along the Boardwalk. It was the finish of what had been three long weeks of security, dignitary protection and the beginning of protest demonstrations. Now it was over but there was more to come. The Beatles were coming. George Hamid, owner and operator of the Steel Pier, had somehow induced the group to come to Atlantic City. Hamid leased the Atlantic City Convention Hall and the tickets went on sale. They sold immediately and naturally this one night show was a total sell-out. That was to be expected. What happened next was unexpected.”

Tickets went on sale in May at the Steel Pier box – four at a time – ranging in price from $2.75 for general admittance to $3.90 and $4.90 for reserved seating, tax included, cash only, first come first served, and the line extended down the boardwalk. Any tickets left after two days were mailed to those who sent a check or money order, but the 18,000 tickets were sold out in short order and the general admittance would fill the room to capacity. Some of these tickets are on sale on the internet today at much higher prices. 

When the Rolling Stones came to town Hamid picked them up at the airport in his convertible and drove them to the boardwalk where he bought them hot dogs and pizza, and hardly anybody recognized them. He couldn’t do that with the Beatles.

By August the Beatles had continued to feed on their skyrocketing popularity and were to be met in Atlantic City by thousands of screaming fans, mainly teenage girls with high pitched voices, so they required special security to keep them safe from the unruly crowds.

Hamid grew up in a circus family so he was used to this sort of thing, and to handle this problem he turned to Al Black, an Atlantic City private eye in the best Sam Spade - Peter Gun tradition. The son of a policeman, “Big Al” was a former marine, around the island swimmer, and later a central figure in an undercover sting operation. A TV detective show with Brian Dennehy - “Big Shamus, Little Shamus,” was based on Big Al’s exploits.

Getting the Fab Four to their gig and then to their hotel with thousands of screaming fans blocking the streets was certainly a big chore, but not for Al Black. Keeping the Beatles on time, safe and secure was something that Al Black could do, with a lot of help from the Atlantic City Police Department.

The police thought they had their hands full with demonstrators during the Democratic Convention, but this was more difficult, as thousands of hysterical teenage girls can be more dangerous than terrorists.

Robert Palamaro, a former AC motorcycle policeman recalls today that, “I was detailed to them, and we brought them in inside a bread truck.”

Palamaro says that, “Al Black was the one who put it all together. His father was a policeman, a detective and a truant officer when I was in school.”

Palamaro got friendly with Al Black, who was also pals with Palamaro’s father-in-law Skinny D’Amato, owner of the famed 500 Club. Since Palamaro married Skinny’s daughter Paula Jane, and served as Sinatra’s bodyguard, he is loaded with fantastic stories and celebrity photos, including one of him with the Beatles.

Assigned to the Beatles security, patrolman Clifton recalled the Beatles arriving in a limo. “We arrived at 5 p.m. the night of the show and at least 1,000 fans lined Pacific Avenue, the street that fronts the stage door entrance to Convention Hall. We were told that the motorcade with the Beatles would arrive at 6. During that hour we watched the crowd in the street grow larger. About 5:45 we were alerted the caravan was en route, barricades were moved into position, creating a passageway from the curb to the stage door. When the crowd saw this happening, it was their cue to move into a better position…In an instant, hundreds of people made a rush across Pacific Avenue, oblivious to moving traffic, concerned only with getting closer…The Beatles were coming…The crowd moved as one, like a great wave of humanity, pushing, showing, straining to see, holding cameras up over their heads, hoping to be lucky enough to get on decent shot. As the limousine pulled up to the curb, an eager fan jumped in front of it, only to be pinned at the knees, caught between the front bumper of the limo and the rear bumper of a police car stopped in front of it….The car door opened and out came the Beatles, wanting to smile, wanting to be friendly. The crowd made its move, rushing forward to greet them. For their own safety each young man was surrounded by police officers. Paul McCartney, the last Beatle to exit from the limousine, was practically shoved through the single opened door that led into the building. The crowd continued its surge and in order to restrain them, police officers picked up the wooden barricades and charged into the mob of people. Finally, the stage door was closed and bolted.”  

The Beatles were in the building.

                                                      THE PRESS CONFERENCE

“The band was then escorted up a flight of stairs to a series of rooms where a press conference was to take place,” Clifton recalled. “The four young men, each dressed differently, sat comfortably at a long table. Each had his own microphone in front of him.” 

The Beatles’ Public Relations man - Derek Taylor stood in front of a floor mike and introduced the Beatles to the local media and assorted hangers on. In an interview later on Taylor said, “Outside of Convention Hall we were immediately surrounded by kids. How it happened I don’t know because everyone was warned, but the crowd was unpredictable and wild.”

As the interview went on it was easy to see, said Clifton, “that the group who entered the room – sincere, eager and willing to answer questions – soon lost interest. This was caused by the people conducting the interview, not all professional media, who asked such questions as, ‘What do you think of America? What do you think of American girls? What do you think of Atlantic City? The same questions were asked over and over again and the one subject the Beatles were eager to talk about - their music - was the one topic that was forever being overlooked.”

            The Beatles at the Press Conference - Atlantic City Convention Hall - Sunday Aug. 30, 1964 

Q:  Of all the cities that you have been in, which one do you like the most?
John: Liverpool.”
Q: How do you find America?
John: We made a left at Greenland.
Q: "Have you composed any new numbers over here?"
Paul: "Two."
Q: "What are they?"
Paul: "We can't tell you that.”
 Q: "Is George going to take Joey Heatherton to a ball in New York?
George: "I don't even know him, whoever he is."
Q:  "What's this about an annual illness?
Harrison: "Well, I get cancer every year."
Q: "What do you think of American television?"
Ringo: "It's great - you get eighteen stations, but you can't get a good picture on any of them,”
Q: "What are your favorite programs on American television?"
Lennon: "It's rubbish."
McCartney: "'News in Espanol' in Miami. 'Pop-eye,' 'Bullwinkle.' All that cultural stuff."
Q: “How does it feel to put the whole world on?"
Lennon: "How does it feel to be put on?"
Ringo: "We enjoy it.”
Paul: "We're not really putting you on."
George: "Well, just a bit.”
Q: Why don’t the Beatles don't sing at press conferences and airports?:
John: "We need money first"

 “This type of questioning continued” wrote Clifton, “and Ringo Starr casually leaned back in his seat, as if disappointed with it all. Hundreds of flash bulbs kept popping.”

Larry Kane, one reporter who did asked the Beatles some serious questions, was a Florida radio news reporter who so impressed Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, that Epstein asked Kane to join them on tour, the only reporter allowed to travel with them. Kane, who would become a popular Philadelphia TV anchorman, wrote a book about what it was like being on tour with the Beatles.

“At long last,” notes Clifton, “the interview was over. It was getting near show time. The Beatles went about their preparations, changing now into matching suits, combing what was then considered long hair. Each was calm, quiet, reserved, yet friendly in a shy way. There was a total professionalism about them, despite their youth. They were ready to perform if the audience would let them. I escorted Paul McCartney into the hallway outside the dressing room, looked out through the window and saw that in over an hour the crowd on Pacific Avenue had increased to a few thousand people. Those with tickets were out front on the Boardwalk, entering, taking seats, waiting for the show to begin.”

                             THE SHOW – 60 MINUTES OF SCREAMING GIRLS

Totally unappreciated were the opening acts. The Righteous Brothers left the tour early on, feeling neglected by the crazy Beatles’ fans, and all but forgotten are the others – Tommy Roe, the Bill Black Combo, the Exciters, and New Orleans soul singer Clarence “Frogman” Henry. Jackie DeShannon was there too, and she stuck with the tour and got to work with the Beatles, considering it an important time in her career.
8:30 p.m. “Showtime came at last,” wrote Clifton. “We left the dressing room and walked down a narrow staircase to the backstage area. Each Beatle still remained calm, patiently waiting to go on stage. The noise from the audience at this time is rather hard to describe. It was different, not an impatient murmur, but more like one of expectation, a funny kind of excitement. Then came the words from the giant speakers situated throughout the large auditorium, ‘The Beatles!’ And, all at once we were moving, walking quickly out on to the stage. Once there we were met with a mighty blast of sound, a solid wall of noise that actually struck you with a force that stopped your forward momentum.”

The Convention Hall stage is huge, too big for the small quartet and their small sound system, which was what a garage band would use today. Instead of using the main stage the Beatles were on a makeshift 15 foot high platform constructed on scaffolding in front of the stage, with a half dozen police officers, Clifton with them. He recalled that, “Eighteen police officers stood below us, between the Beatles and 25,000 screaming fans. But no one moved from in front of their seats toward the stage as the Beatles began to play.” They were polite but disorderly and remained in their place.

“Don’t ask what songs they played,” said Clifton, “because no one except the Beatles can answer that question. No one heard one song, one lyric, not even one note. The cheers never stopped. The screams never died and the tears from the eyes of young girls never stopped flowing. It was Beatlemania.”
Of the Beatles’ fans, Larry Kane later said, “I wanted to look at their faces and what I saw, almost to a person, is the boys and mostly young girls, ripping their hairs, tears flowing from their eyes, not tears of agony or joy – it was possession, and they were possessed with these four young men.”

For the record, the Beatles opened the twelve song set with “Twist and Shout,” that the Isley Brothers had made a hit, and concluded with Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” sandwiching them around Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” the Shirelles’ “Boys,” and some originals -  “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “You Can’t Do That,” “All My Loving,” “Things We Said Today,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “If I Fell,” and “A Hard Day’s Night.”

Then in a little over a half hour it was all over, and no encore.

“The show was over,” notes Clifton, “but there was plenty more to come.”

                                    THE DELIVERY TRUCK ESCAPADE

The Beatles got out of Convention Hall in a commercial delivery truck, though different people remember different details, like what kind of delivery truck it was. Clifton recalls them arriving in a limo and leaving in a laundry truck. The Beatles chronology says it was a fish truck, one fan remembers an ambulance, while Bobby Palamaro recalls it being a bread truck, to be more specific - a Rando Bakery bread truck.

“As the auditorium cleared,” Clifton recalled, “fans raced to Pacific Avenue to join thousands who had been there before them. All wanted to see the group one more time. The street was filled with milling people. Traffic stopped and had to be rerouted. The limousine that brought them was unable to make it into the street from the garage, and even if it had made it there was a danger that the vehicle would be swarmed by eager fans. It became a security nightmare. As time passed it was evident that for the safety of the people in general and for the Beatles in particular something had to be done. Finally, a solution was agreed upon and a distinctly marked laundry truck made its way down Georgia Avenue, made its way slowly through the crowd, eventually arriving in a secure area of the garage. Each Beatle was taken to the garage area located below the Convention Hall and placed inside the van, made comfortable and very quietly taken from the building. The laundry truck was completely ignored by the fans.”

Kathy Gerdsen met the Beatles in Atlantic City in 1964 and kept in contact with the Harrison family over the years. Gerdsen met the Beatles after their concert at the Atlantic City Convention Hall. She had been in the hall with the rest of the screaming girls, then when leaving she noted that there were two ambulances parked by one of the backstage exits. "Most people thought the Beatles had already left," she later recalled. "But I saw the ambulances and went towards them. It was a chance thing. I climbed on the back of the ambulance, turned around, and bumped straight into Paul. He was leaning against the gurney."

Before the police pulled her away she got to talk to them as they climbed in.  She recalled George and Ringo got into one while John joined Paul in the second. "I asked George how I could keep in contact with them and he told me to write his parents at Macketts Lane, Liverpool and that's what I did." Over the years, Gerdsen wrote faithfully and in 1974, George came to Madison Square Garden to do a concert with Ravi Shankar and she met them at the Plaza Hotel. Ten years earlier Gerdsen almost caught a ride with the Beatles to the Lafayette Hotel in Atlantic City.

                                                 LIFE AT THE LAFAYETTE

Palamaro recalls that, “We did the show at Convention Hall and then took them to the hotel – the Lafayette, which is no longer there. We just made small talk with them, and mainly dealt with their manager. They were just chillin’, just trying to relax, and we were making sure nobody got near them. Our job was to keep people away from them so they could relax, but girls were climbing up the fire escape, it was really unbelievable.”

Clifton remembers that, “Once they arrived at the Lafayette Motor Inn, located at the other end of town, the Beatles became virtual prisoners in their own suite of rooms. While they relaxed, the fans continued to mill about, calling from the street below, teenage girls found their way to the rear of the hotel and like human flies began climbing from balcony to balcony. In their rooms, the group relaxed. They talked briefly about the show, the audience response and how they had left the area. Later, they ate submarine sandwiches form the White House Sub Shop.”  

When it was time to get something to eat, they wanted to try a local delicacy, so Palamaro suggested White House subs. As he explains it, “my uncle Tony Basile owned the White House subs, and we couldn’t take them there, so we decided to bring sandwiches to them.”

Basile’s daughter Jen, who runs the White House today, was too young to recall the Beatles, but has a paper plate with their signatures on it, framed and hanging on her wall.

PHOTO: Atlantic City policeman Bobby Palamaro with the Beatles and White House sub.

When Palamaro brought the special “Six Foot Sub” to the Beatles, he recalls that, “Brian Epstein, their manager was there, and he frowned on anyone taking pictures. But we had Jim Barber - the official police photographer there, so they let him take that picture with me and the White House subs.”   

                   The Lafayette Hotel in Atlantic City where the Beatles stayed August 30, 1964

One of the opening acts, Jackie DeShannon, whose hit songs would include “What the World Needs Now,” “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” and “Bette David Eyes,” can be seen in a photo of her and George Harrison playing Monopoly on the carpet floor of the Lafayette. 

                                                          EVERY LITTLE THING

During their stay in Atlantic City the dynamic songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney combined to write “Every Little Thing,” which they recorded in late September for their fourth album “For Sale,” released in the UK at the end of 1964 and in the US in June of 1965.

Every Little Thing
When I’m walking beside her
People tell me I’m lucky.
Yes, I know I’m a lucky guy.
I remember the first time
I was lonely without her
Can’t stop thinking about her now.
Every little thing she does,
She does for me, yea.
And you know the things she does,
She does for me, oooh.
When I’m with her I’m happy
Just to know that she loves me
Yes, I know that she loves me now.
There is one thing I’m sure of
I will love her forever.
For I know love will never die.
Every little thing she does,
She does for me, yea.
And you know the things she does,
She does for me, yea.
And you know the things she does,
She does for me, oooh.
Every  little thing.
Every little thing.
Every little…..

Paul wrote the lyrics and later said: “John and I got this one written in Atlantic City during our first tour of the States. John does the guitar riff and George is on acoustic. Ringo bashes some timpani drums for the big noises you hear. ‘Every Little Thing,’ was my attempt at the next (big) single. I remember playing it for Brian backstage somewhere. I thought it was very catchy, something I thought was quite good but became an album filler rather than the almighty single. It didn't have quite what was required (to be a hit single).”

The Beatles began recording ‘Every Little Thing’ on 29 September 1964, taped four takes, then the following day recorded five attempts. Take six was aborted when Paul burped, take seven ended in laughter. Finally they got it right but relegated it an album filler rather than a single.

Keith Badman describes it as a “devotional love song, most likely written with Jane Asher in mind, and emotionally revealing…although the music was less successful, the lyrics are among McCartney's most succinct and tender on the album.”

And it was penned at the Hotel Lafayette in Atlantic City on August 30, 1964.

Bobby Palamaro, who stood guard at their hotel room door, says today, “I was 30 years old then, and now I’m 80, but I still remember them. They were really nice kids. We got to talking and you just had to like them.”

“The summer night turned into morning and a few hours later The Beatles were gone,” Clifton nostalgically wrote, “off to some other city, to some other concert. Many things have happened since 1964, but looking back over the years, that one particular evening stayed with me. I never forgot it. I never will. The Beatles made an impact not only in show business, but in the world. And I was there seeing, hearing, feeling it, maybe in a very small way a part of it, a part of history that summer of 1964.”


But the Beatles weren’t out of town yet. Al Black had them in the back of the truck so he took them home, to his house at 1112 Bay Drive in West Atlantic City to meet the family and some of the neighbors.

Al Black’s daughter Donna, who now runs the Black security service, was only a child who sat on the shoulders of a neighbor when the Beatles visited the Black’s home. A few photos were taken, but only one survives.

Donna Black recalls, “My babysitter was among the throngs at Convention Hall, and was really upset at missing the Beatles at my house.” But some of the local neighbors came by and the lads from Liverpool got a taste of the real Atlantic City while they were here.

The pit stop in West Atlantic City isn’t mentioned in the Beatlesbible chronicle that says they continued on their Jersey Shore journey: “2:15 pm left Lafayette Motel–Hotel in fish truck which took them to their tour bus, which took them to Cape May where they stayed at the Lafayette Hotel.”

Both Lafayette hotels, the one where the Beatles stayed in Atlantic City and the one in Cape May, were named in honor of the French hero of the American Revolution - Gen. Marquis de Lafayette, and neither are standing today. Although no one today seems to recall them being there, records indicate the Beatles stayed in Cape May for the two days, a short hiatus before their September 2nd show in Philadelphia, when they had to get back on the Beatlemania bus.

The old Lafayette Hotel on Beach Drive in Cape May, where the Beatles stayed August 31-Sept. 2, 1964

The chronicles say: “Day off in Cape May, New Jersey. 10.00 am, Monday 31 August 1964, following their concert the previous night at the Convention Hall in Atlantic City, the Beatles relaxed at the Marquis de Lafayette Hotel, Cape May, New Jersey. Paul McCartney used the time off to call Elvis Presley on the telephone. Cape May – Monday August 31 – Wednesday September 2.”

The 2014 Cape May Film Festival to be held at the Chalftonte Hotel- October 17-19, will feature a showcase of Beatles Films in honor of the 50th Anniversary of their first US visit, including “A Hard Days Night,” which was publicly released in September 1964 and may have been privately screened by the Beatles when they were kicking back in Cape May.

“A Hard Days Night” somewhat captures on film, the madcap “Beatlemania” mayhem - a possessive, contagious pandemonium that swept through Atlantic City for one day in late August, 1964, and is still remembered by those who were there.

         Al  Black with Ringo and the 1964 Photo when Ringo and his All Star Band played Bally in 1999 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Finding Bill Kelly

Finding Bill Kelly – July 28, 2001

Flashbacks and Memories of the Summer of ‘63
By Suzanne K.

Heading “down the shore” as they say in Philly, on a late July Monday, old ghosts haunted me. My good friend Gerry happily agreed to be my tour guide as she is Tinker Bell and is always up for adventure and fun.

Had not been inside a bar in Somers Point since the 60’s. Also last saw Ocean City in full season in the summer of ’71.

Was following the advice of my writing teacher to find old haunts from the early ’60s. "It’s tax deductable,"  he said, with more encouragement than I had hoped for.

Since I spent most of my leisure hours at the Point, our first stop was the Anchorage Tavern, where we found a busy restaurant and empty bar around 1 pm.

The bartender was very nice but too young for the memories I was looking for. But he told us, “You just missed the best person in town to talk to – Bill Kelly.”  

“Wow,” Gerry said, “I have his book ‘300 Years at the Point!’”

“You might find him at Gregory’s,” the bartender said, and off we went in search of Bill Kelly.

Gregory’s was the second stop on our list and driving up and seeing what looked like a flash back to the past sent waves of nostalgia flooding my senses. Cheep beer, romance and good times were always available at Gregory’s. It was always the first stop on the way to Tony Marts or Bay Shores or both. The evening often ended at the Dunes – Dune’s Till Dawn.

When I got off the bus in early April of ’63, I was 18 going on a hundred. By the time Memorial Day arrived and serious carding kept most under-age drinkers out of the Point, I was already a regular and no one carded me. I looked older and was glad, would like to think I look younger now. How time changes the way we want to be perceived!

Back in the early ‘60s the Point had a sophisticated style as college kids prevailed and cool was in. To my 18 year old eyes it was ever so special.

The lunch crowd at Gregory’s sat around an oval bar, most at the far end. It was an older crowd and exactly what I had hoped for.

Walking in bravely, I carried my Cannon Rebel camera and Gerry carried the notebook where the famous research notes would be collected. We were trying to look cool and professional, women to be taken seriously.

“Is Bill Kelly here?” I said in a loud and determined voice. Silence filled the room.

“Does anyone here know Bill Kelly?” I asked, and laughter brightened the room. The bartender said, 
“Everyone knows Bill Kelly.”

Quickly the smiles retreated. Felt like strangers who walk into the tavern at high noon in an old western not welcome and often shot.

I explained that I was writing a novel about the early ’60’s when I waitressed in Ocean City, and I heard he had written a book about the Point.

Smiles returned but silence remained. No one agreed to be interviewed. I gave the bartender my card with psychotherapist crossed off and “writer” written below. Put my cell number on the back, which I use only for emergencies, though this was beginning to feel like one.

Told the bartender to give the card to Bill Kelly as we would like to take him to dinner, if we should get so lucky!

We headed for the Point Diner, the third place on our list. It’s impossible to miss as you drive around the circle on your way to the bridge to Ocean City. If driving into your past was possible this was it.

Only thing missing was the bakery, the late night Soprano crowd and the guy who left me with a heart in a thousand pieces. The juke boxes in the booths brought flashbacks of “us” sitting there after a night of dancing and romantic young love, the kind you never forget. How easy it is to love a stranger!

Our next stop was the Ocean City Historical Society and the local library. We never got there that day. “One more stop at Gregory’s, you run in and if you are not out in five minutes I will park,” Gerry said.
Walked into the larger late lunch crowd of about 14, including a few stragglers from before, all over 40. Felt like I had entered a time warp.

Almost everyone smiled this time except for one guy in a Hawaiian shirt who looked like half of him should be in Key West. The baseball cap gave him a friendly boyish look even without the smile.

Asked if Mr. Kelly ever showed up?

Someone pointed to the part-local guy. Walked over and asked him if he was, in fact, Bill Kelly?

Serious mistrust clouded his face and I saw my card in front of him. Suddenly I panicked, thinking my ever so private cell number was being passed around the room.

Grabbed my card and started to leave with a few choice words trailing behind me. The bartender stopped me. “He really is the guy you’re looking for.”

Returned and put my card back. Bill almost smiled and said, “Your number is already on the bathroom wall.”
I had to laugh even if it was true. “

“Your card says psychotherapist?”

“Not anymore,” I said, being looked at in disbelief. I explained as fast as I could, figuring I had about one minute to reinvent myself. “My writing teacher Bill Kent from Penn sent me here to do research.”

Suddenly a smile, he had heard of him.

Gerry then walked in and my trip down Memory Lane started as Gerry furiously took notes.

Bill introduced us to the cast of characters. Bill said, “You need to talk to that guy over there, he was the head lifeguard on the 9th Street Beach in the early ‘60s.”

Looked across the bar to see a man who looked toned and God-like. Not only did he validate my memories, he misted over when I asked him if he knew a beautiful and voluptuous women who ended her nights sleeping on his beach in her blue jeans. There were so many witnesses to help me fill in some of my cloudy memories.

Skipping down Memory Lane an adorable man, who was somewhere between 16 and 40 brought in his catch of the day – a golf bag! This was Peter Pan who brought laughter to everyone, including some of the ghosts in the room, sealing this moment in time forever. I took a picture of him outside with the Gregory’s sign in the background. Got another of him inside with Tinker Bell.

Bill gave me his book and I have had time to read it! He may have only been 12 in ’63 but he was able to capture the spirit of those times more clearly than one who was there. Guess that is what makes him a great writer. He also gave me some other ideas that have been priceless to me. We invited him to dinner. It was his birthday! He invited us to join him and friends at the Bubba Mac Shack where Bubba was having a 50th birthday celebration along with Jerry Blavat, owner of Memories bar in Margate. Many remember Jerry mainly as a famous DJ from their past.

At Gregory’s we said goodbye to all and finally made the trip over the bridge to empty the car and return to Somers Point around 7. What a celebration and dance party! Bubba’s was rocking with “oldies” like me. Wondering if we would ever find Bill again, we asked the hostess and she directed us to the dance floor. 

There he was standing on the stairs overlooking the dance floor, relaxed and smiling among his friends. He looked happy to see us and introduced us to his many friends who never stopped coming over with birthday greetings. Fifties music prevailed and Gerry and I danced with each other, Bill and others. It really did not matter who you danced with! Taught Gerry the stroll as she is too young to remember it. What fun! Felt like the entire night was at trip into the Twilight Zone.

Lost him again, and wondered if we would ever find Bill Kelly again. We asked a women we had met earlier if she saw him. We are supposed to take him to dinner!

She laughed, “Honey this is a small town, everyone knew you and your friend were coming here tonight.”
Maybe my number is on the bathroom wall beside free dinner. Oh, well, who cares anyway?

Found him again, glad he wears that cap even though at one point he took it off and he is covering up some gorgeous hair. Ended up back at Gregory’s for a five star dinner. Did I ever eat dinner at Gregory’s in the ’60’s. No I don’t think so, would have remembered food this great!

People came and went all bringing birthday cheer and hugs and kisses. Some stayed. Clearly this was a man loved by many. We were not the only ones to feed him. He could barely finish all the food he ate before joining us at the bar.

Finally Bill signed his book for me and we left him with his friends. Not wanting to break the spell we left before the clock struck 12. Turned out to be a day I will always remember. Never knew research could be so much fun! Not only did we find Bill Kelly and my memories, we found a guy with a heart as big as the ocean and new memories a good as the old ones.

Yes, you can go back, and God bless bartenders everywhere!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Songs that Made Tony Marts Famous

The Songs that Made Tony Marts Famous

Seeing people at the shore dining and drinking and dancing disco or listening to soft jazz and thinking they’re having a good time should see how people had a good time in the same place a few decades ago – swinging and dancing to live bands, not a person in the place sitting down or standing still – rock n’ and rolling and really partying into the early morning hours.

Then, after a good half century run, beginning in the early 1980s, all the old rock & roll nightclubs were renovated into classy restaurants, going from what the late Vince Renich called “sawdust joints” to “carpet joints,” and the live bands were replaced by D.J.s and jazz.

But they continued to play live music, only at different venues – mainly community organized outdoor affairs – with Somers Point’s Friday night beach concerts the epitome of a dozen similar ventures in Wildwood, Atlantic City, Ventnor, Ocean City and EHT.

When they tore down Bay Shores and Tony Marts and replaced them with a ski lodge and disco, the new owners said they didn’t even need a stage for a band, but soon found out that the live music scene was a very fluid enterprise, and they needed a stage and dance floor for weddings, so the bands eventually wiggled their way back into the clubs, but they also found gigs at community affairs.

Besides having live music at the annual Good Old Days Picnic on the weekend after Labor Day, and on Bay Avenue for the spring Bayfest, Somers Point began to present live bands on a makeshift stage on the Bill Morrow Municipal beach every Friday night all summer long, and it’s been a big hit with the locals and tourists alike. Who wouldn’t like sitting in a beach chair under the stars and listen to a free concert of some really good music.

There really is only two kinds of music – good music and bad music, and all of the Somers Point shows are really great music is because of Nick Regine, Carmen Marotta and Mike Pedicin, Jr. and some music savvy people like them.

Nick started the outdoor shows when he was director of Community Education and then went on to found the Somers Point Jazz Society, while jazz saxman Pedicin began playing as a child at the feet of his father on the Bay Shores stage.

Marotta however, has probably had the most immediate impact on the local music scene as he is responsible for booking many of the bands that play Somers Point, and is now doing similar shows in Atlantic City.
The son of Tony Marotta, the original Tony Mart, Carmen grew up in the nightclub business and ran the club in its later years, he maintained his interest in music, and after his family sold Tony Marts, he opened Levon Helm’s All American Café in New Orleans and continues to visit the Big Easy for the annual Jazz and Music Heritage Festival. While there he not only catches the headliners (Bruce Springsteen was one the past few years), he checks out the lesser known local talent, and books the best of the Bayou bands and brings them to the Jersey Shore. He also books the best of the local South Jersey talent and tries to represent all types and styles of music.

Marotta persuaded the Radiators, “Jumpin’ Johnny” Sansone, Terance Simien  et al, to visit Somers Point, and hopefully we can look forward to more of it, not only in Somers Point but Atlantic City as well, where Carmen has booked some of the same acts to play Kennedy Plaza in front of Convention Hall and on the beach – Charlie Daniels on August 11th.

Last Friday night’s beach concert in Somers Point however, didn’t feature a single band, but rather, a conglamoration of the best local musicians – Bob Campanell, Dr. Bobby Fingers,Danny Eyer, “Ernie T.” Trionfo, Howard Isaacson, Rich Kurtz and Jimmy “Old School” Glenn jamming together to play the music that made Tony Marts famous.

While I interviewed Carmen at his Bay Avenue home many years ago – that you can read here:
Carmen lists  the songs – Ray Charles’ “What ‘d I Say,” Isley Brothers “Shout,” Otis Redding – “Try a Little Tenderness,”  Bob Dylan “I Shall Be Released,”  Bruce Springsteen – “Rosalita!”; and the bands – Bill Haley and the Comets, Duane Eddie, Del Shannon, Conway Twitty, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Joey Dee and the Starlighters, Bob Dylan and the Band and a grand finale featuring the original soundtrack from “Eddie & the Cruisers” movie that was filmed at Tony Marts shortly before it was razed in 1982.

On August 12, the day after the Charlie Daniels show on the beach, Carmen will bring in John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown band to play their hit songs from the “Eddie & the Cruisers” movie – “On the Darkside,” “Tender Years” and “Wild Summer Nights,” followed by a blistering set by the hottest band at the Jersey Shore at the moment – The Billy Walton Band. 

Stay Tuned - More to Come 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Jersey Shore Agenda - Summer 2014


June 24 – Tuesday – Dick Boccelli leads Ready’s Rockers at the Morlyn Pier on the Ocean City Boardwalk
June 26
Yakov Smirnoff, Trump Taj Mahal
Brass Transit (Chicago Tribute), Harrah's Resort
June 27 Friday

Commander Cody Band: Swingin’ Country- Boogie Woogie Rock ‘n Roll Hits-“Hot Rod Lincoln” “Smoke Smoke Smoke (That Cigarette)” at the Somers Point Beach. 
Billy Waton Band at Tara’s Tavern, Cookstown
Avril Lavigne, Borgata
Isley Brothers, Harrah's Resort
June 28
Lady Gaga, Boardwalk Hall
Counting Crows, Borgata
Cast of Impractical Jokers, Borgata
Air Supply, Resorts
Bob Newhart, Harrah's Resort
June 28-29
Theresa Caputo, Tropicana
June 28 – Saturday
Billy Walton Band at Tuckerton Seaport
June 29 – Sunday
Billy Walton Band at Fran’s Pub, New Hope, PA


July 2 – Wednesday
Billy Walton Band at Nardi’s LBI
July 2-6
The Jacksons, Caesars
July 3 – Thursday
Special Holiday Show at the Somers Point Beach with The Dr. Bobby Fingers Allstar Supergroup: Starring Kevin Hanson (Jay-Z, The Roots, Beyonce), Fred Berman (Amos Lee, G-Love), “Ernie T’ Trionfo (Hawkins Road-Tony Mart Allstars)
Billy Walton Band at Rick’s American Café, LBI
July 4
The Jeremiah Hunter Band: at Somers Point Beach ~ Patriotic Salute for Fireworks; Featuring original members of the Soul Survivors and Full House
Billy Walton Band at Bark on Madison, Asbury Pakr
Chicken Bone Beach Jazz Kennedy Plaza w/ Tony Day & Across the Globe Band; and Reuben Wilson on the Hammond B3
July 5
Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo, Rick Springfield, Revel
Kevin James, Borgata
Burton Cummings, Tropicana
The Voice Tour, Trump Taj Mahal
The A's, Revel
July 6
Peter Frampton, Harrah's Resort
John Mellencamp, Borgata
July 11 - Friday

The Billy Walton Band: Jersey Shore Rock Guitar Hero Official CD Release Party! “Wish for What You Want”
Billy Hector at Tara’s Tavern, Cookstown
Steve Kroon’s congo led Jazz Sextet at Kennedy Plaza
Dennis Miller, Borgata
Sublime with Rome, Revel
Dana Carvey, Tropicana
Boston, Caesars
Huey Lewis & The News, Showboat/House of Blues
July 12
Chazz Palminteri, A Bronx Tale, Golden Nugget
Crosby, Stills & Nash, Borgata
Gary Clark, Jr., Borgata
Michael Bublé, Boardwalk Hall
Herman’s Hermits w/Peter Noone, Resorts
July 13
Jeff Dunham, Borgata
July 16
Ultimate Fighting Championship, Revel
July 17 
Keith Urb
an, Borgata
Christopher Dean Sullivan Quartet at Kennedy Plaza
John Hiatt & The Combo and The Robert Cray Band, Borgata

July 18 Friday 
Multi Blues Music Award Winners Allstar Shootout: Mark Hummel vs. Johnny Sansone on Harmonica “Little Charlie" Beatty vs. Anson Funderberg on Guitar Golden State vs. Lone Star State vs. the Bayou State! West Coast Swing meets Texas Blues, Louisiana Rock ‘n Roll & R&B at the Somers Point Beach.

July 19 – Saturday
The Main Ingredient; Morris Day; The Time at Gardners Basin, AC Inlet
Jim Jefferies, Borgata
John Fogerty, Borgata
July 20
Showboat/House of Blues
The Wayans Brothers, Borgata
July 24 Thursday
Pucho’s Latin Soul Brothers at Chicken Bone Beach show Kennedy Plaza
Art Garfunkel, Borgata

July 25 Friday 
The Music That Made Tony Mart's Famous: From Bill Haley & Conway Twitty to The Band & Eddie & the Cruisers...The greatest hits from the most famous stars who ever played in Somers Point performed by Bobby Campanell, Dr. Bobby Fingers, Danny Eyer, Howard Isaacson Ernie Trionfo, Rich Kurtz & Jimmy “Old School” Glenn at the Somers Point Beach.
July 26
George Lopez, Borgata
Queen w/Adam Lambert, Boardwalk Hall
The Fray, Borgata
The Duprees and Friends, Trump Taj Mahal
Darius Rucker, Borgata
“Under the Sun Tour” with Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Blues Traveler and Uncle Kracker, Trump Taj Mahal
July 29
Dark Star Orchestra, Revel
July 31
Free Blake Shelton Concert, AC beach


August 1 Friday 
Roomful Of Blues: New England’s premier Rockin’ Big Band/Swing, Blues & Rock ‘n Roll at the Somers Point Beach.
Larry Ridley & the Jazz Legacy ensemble at Chicken Bone Beach at Kennedy Plaza
Aug. 1-2
Lewis Black, Borgata
Aug. 1-12
Straight No Chaser, Harrah’s Resort
Aug. 2
Kiss, Def Leppard, Boardwalk Hall
Dom Irrera, Tropicana
August 8 – Friday 
The Dan Burke Band: Performing The Grateful Dead, REM, Phish & More; Hot Bluegrass, Newgrass, Americana Jam Rock; Tribute to Bob Dylan & The Band at the Somers Point Beach.
Ray Gaskins Quartet do Chicken Bone Beach at Kennedy Plaza
Aug. 8-21
Donny & Marie, Caesars
Aug. 9
Bobby Vinton, Golden Nugget
August 15 – Friday
Southern Hospitality: BMA Piano Player of the Year 2013 Victor Wainright with JP Soars and Damon Fowler; One of the hottest Jammin’, Funky Rock & Roll Supergroups at the Somers Point Beach.
Danny Mixon Chicken Bone Beach jazz at Kennedy Plaza
Aug. 16 – Saturday
Soul Generation; The Jones Girls, The S.O.S. Band at Gardners Basin, AC Inlet.
Jim Gaffigan, Borgata
K.C. & The Sunshine Band, Tropicana
Aug. 20-24
Cirque du Soleil Varekai, Boardwalk Hall
. 22 Friday
Howard Isaacson Band With Special Guest “Rosie O’rielly” Gazarra: Popular Soulful Melodies and the smooth sounds of virtuoso saxophone plus a vocal tribute to the Great Judy Garland at the Somers Point Beach
Lee Smith Quartet does Chicken Bone Beach jazz at Kennedy Plaza
Chicago, REO Speedwagon, Borgata
Howie Mandel, Borgata
Aug. 23
Credence Clearwater Revisited, Tropicana
Rod Stewart, Trump Taj Mahal
August 29 – Friday
Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience: Two Time Grammy Award Winner; World Music, Louisiana Zydeco, Classic Rock and New Orleans Funk at the Somers Point Beach
Alan Nelson Lines at Chicken Bone Beach at Kennedy Plaza http//
Aug. 31
Aerosmith, Slash, Boardwalk Hall

SEPTEMBER - TBA - To Be Announced 

Sept. 5

The Hawkins Rosad Band with Special Guest Jack Zwacki on fiddle at the Somers Point Beach