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 CafĂ© 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 

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