I’ve had quite a week, this week. I went to two concerts, which is really not out of the ordinary for me. But the contrast of the two shows certainly is out of the ordinary.
Tuesday night (May 1) I went to The Saint in Asbury Park NJ. The Saint has been presenting nothing but live, original music since 1994. The Saint barely holds 200 people. I was there to see my friends David Ford from England, with Emily Grove and Anthony Walker, two Saint regulars from New Jersey. You can see some of that night in my previous entry.
Wednesday night (May 2) I met another Jersey Shore songwriter, my friend Rick Barry, on a NJ Transit train bound for the still-brand-new Prudential Center in Newark NJ for the debut performance at “The Rock” by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. (Yes, I – he who drives everywhere – took public transportation.) There are already several videos from the night posted on youtube. Spoiler alert: The setlist included the almost-never-performed “Bishop Danced” and “The Weight” in tribute to the late Levon Helm.
I’m not sure it’s possible to experience two more different consecutive nights of music. And both were extraordinary, exceptional, beautiful nights of music. All by themselves, David Ford (with his drummer on the world’s smallest drum kit and electric suitcase), Emily Grove and Anthony Walker commanded as much appreciation and adulation from a relative handful in a local dive bar (I mean that in the best way) as Bruce Springsteen and a 15 member E Street Band did from 20,000 in a hockey arena.
Both nights remind me why it is I do what I do and love what I do. And why I love the musicians and music fans I know.
Standing in the Prudential Center watching The E Street Band (admittedly, sitting periodically) I was reminded of a Myspace blog my old co-worker and friend Bryan Cichon posted back in 2008 after seeing a Springsteen show in Orlando Florida. I emailed him after the Newark show and asked him if he’d mind me reblogging it here. I had known Bryan for several years while we both worked at WHTG-FM on the Jersey Shore and I had no knowledge of most of what he wrote about in 2008 when I read it for the first time. It’s a touching story of one of the biggest rock stars in the history of rock and roll taking a few minutes to meet and speak with two brothers that he’d never met before. To simply show his appreciation of their father and uncle, both of whom they barely knew due to the cruel circumstances of life. And, perhaps knowing some of what had happened 30 or 40 years earlier, helping to “fill in the blanks” for a couple of brothers from New Jersey. I’m really glad that Bryan didn’t mind me bringing the story back to light because I think, though it’s a very personal story to Bryan and his brother, it’s a story that’s meant to be shared. So, thank you my friend. Here is Bryan’s story…
Thank you Bruce Springsteen
April 24 2008
Last night was a night to remember and one to tell my children and grandchildren about but you get to hear about it before all of them. For those that know me personally, you know that I look exactly like my Dad and that my Dad was “idolized” by Bruce Springsteen. For those that don’t know me personally (at least yet), my Dad had a band at the Jersey shore in the Sixties called The Motifs. They had a Top Ten hit on WMCA, the top New York City AM station of the day, and a huge following before being drafted for Viet Nam, being taken prisoner and, as best as the government can discern, dying in Viet Nam. After visiting the Wall in Washington D.C. Bruce wrote a song for my Dad that he performed and dedicated to him a few years back called, “The Wall.”
Yeah, so last night my brother and I went to Orlando to see Bruce play. We had been given backstage passes to meet him after the show. First, let me say, very, very few people talk to Bruce after a show. Some bands/artists have a party after their shows. My brother and I were two of 4 people with backstage passes with Bruce’s name on them. I mean, we knew Bruce knew our father but really did not know to what extent.
Well, when Bruce opened his dressing room door his eyes got wide, he took two steps back and said, “Whoa! Whoa! I feel like I am looking at your Dad. You are the spitting image of him.” To have a rock icon be taken aback by seeing you is a little unnerving, I have to say. The hug that followed, even more so. The band packs up and is gone 45 minutes after a show so we had a few minutes to talk to Bruce and we learned a lot about our father Walter and our Uncle Ray who was also in the band.
Bruce said our Dad was the “first rock star in New Jersey” and that he was “one of the best front men he has ever seen” and that he learned a lot about performing from him. He also told us that Uncle Ray (who was killed by his ex-wife’s family 29 years ago) taught him how to play a lot of what he knows on guitar and in fact gave him his first two good guitars, a Stratocaster and an Epiphone. He said all his first guitars were our uncle’s hand me downs. Telling us this Bruce just stood there with his eyes closed and said that he could still picture the band in his mind as if it was yesterday and that they were his mentors.
There are a few articles and stories online that tell the story (the links are at the bottom of this blog) but hearing from Bruce personally was indescribable. The loss to the music world due to a senseless war (good thing we don’t have those anymore…) can never be defined but hearing about our father’s band from one of the most talented rock performers of last 30 years and having him describe what they meant to him tells me that more than a father was lost.
Thank you, Bruce, for taking the time to meet with us and tell us about our Dad and Uncle and their impact on you and the music in New Jersey at the time. Thank you for remembering him and sharing the memory in song.
And thank you all for listening to a part of my life.