TONY MARTS - 25 YEARS AFTER - REUNION
A quarter century after Tony Marts nightclub closed its doors for the last time, Carmen Marotta decided to throw a memorial party, and he may make it an annual affair.
Marotta, the son of the legendary club owner Anthony "Tony Mart" Marotta, Sr., and a former city councilman, sits on the city arts committee and helps put together the entertainmnet for the Friday night beach concerts and the annual Goold Old Days Picnic at Kennedy Park.
For musical entertainment, Marotta draws heavliy on his experiences growing up in an apartment above the nightclub, and his two-year stint owning a club in New Orleans, where Levon Helm's Classic American Cafe became a musician friendly hang out in a town that spawned jazz.
So with Marotta at the helm of the music committee, the beach concerts, Day at the Bay and Good Old Days Picnic have been really special the past few years, with a nice ballance of good, local talen and national recording artists on tour, many of whom happend to be friends of Carmens from New Orleans.
And the 2007 beach concert season and the 29th annual GODs picnic were really special, as anyone who was there can attest.
With the Good Old Days set in stone for the Saturday after Labor Day, it's quite a tradition for the locals to come out and mix it up and mingle with the Weekend Warriors after the summer season is over.
Scheduling the Tony Marts Reunion for the evening of the picnic made for a long day, but a really good one if you paced yourself, like Danny Eyer.
Now looking back on it, the picnic turned out pretty much as predicted, with the music beginning in the early afternoon and going continuously on two stages - just like Tony Marts - until 6 pm, with the Tony Marts Reunion starting after 7 at Stumpo's Italian Grill [ http//www.Stumpositaliangrill.com ], on the other side of town.
The weather was great, though there were some compliants from boaters that the hurricane way offshore sturred up some four foot swells and there were small craft advisories, even though some fluke were still running at the end of the flounder season. So picnic instead of fishing was the order of the day.
The most notable change at Kennedy Park is the new, really sharp, Victorian style bandstand, which should be put to more use in the future. Let the record show that it was christened by wild, Asbury Park guitarist Billy Walton and his hot band, who took turns with Jacque Major and Friends in keeping the early arrivals entertained.
Danny Eyer, one of Jacque's friends, had to pace himself for the day because he started out playing with Jacque, and after they were done in the late afternoon, packed up and jumped on the Parkway South to play a couple of sets at the Carousel Bar at the old Springfield in Sea Isle.
Then, before the night was out, Danny got back onto the Parkway North and showed up at Stumpo's to play the Tony Marts Reunion with Bob Campanell and Company.
As adveritised when Walton previously played the Friday night beach concert earlier in the summer, Billy Bob played some real rock & roll on his blazing gutiar, and his band with the sidesax, ala CC in the ESB. (BTW, tickets went on sale for the Boss' early Oct. gig in Philly on this same Saturday at noon, and I didn't get mine, so if anybody's got a spare ticket give me a shout).
[ For more on Billy Walton check out: Billywalton.com ]
After Billy Walton, Jackie Major, Danny Eyers and the Pros moved on to other gigs, Zydico Master Terrance Simien took over and cast his magic over the park.
As the late Rick Danko plays on Simien's latest CD, and Rick brought his own band to play the Good Old Days a few years ago, they did a three song tirbute to Rick, including "It Makes No Difference," which makes me cry.
Herb Birch, aka Bubba and his son Mac were there, promoting the upcoming and totally cool Mid-Atlantic Blues Fest at Benny Robbins Stadium in a few weeks, which I'll write a preview of and post as soon as I get around to it.
With Bubba adding some of his distinctive vocals they did the now manditory "The Weight" before they went into a New Orleans funk to end the set. Then came back for a three song encore.
Kuddos to MC Greg Gregory and mayor Dan for making this a great day.
And it's not over yet.
The Tony Mart Reunion then got underway over at Stumpo's.
It took me awhile to make my way across town - the Crab Trap, the Inlet, the Clam Bar and the Anchorage were all jumpin', full to the hilt and an hour wait. Stopped at Mac's, whose owners recently paid more than $1.5 million for a liquor license in the burbs, where there was a wedding going on, and Charlie's, where Jack Thomas was directing traffic at the door and patrons were waiting to get inside.
Hooking up with Tom Murphy, Esq., we went over to Stumpo's, passing some of the guys in Terrance Simien's band, who really were pretty hot. The lead guitarist is from Mexico City and the keyboardest is a midget, who can really really play. Now they were done playing and checking out Somers Point.
Stumpo's was happening too, with a full bar and crowded dining room. The TMR was in the back banquet room. Bouncers at the door wore black "Bader's Raiders" T-Shirts, and were on the lookout for Timmy or John Hurt, flagged from Tony Marts and rumored to be on their way in disquise, threatening to crash the party. Moe and his partner, Lynda, the daughter of Lynn Bader, former SPPD officer responsible for Bay Avenue. Bader's Raiders also sported a softball team that played the Tony Marts All-Stars every Monday, a day off for the bartenders and boys in the band, one of whom included Conway Twitty, just off a try out with the Phillies. I warned security that I heard the Hurts were on the way.
Set up like a wedding, with large round tables of ten and twelve, it seemed more like an Irish wake than a memorial service for the 25th anniversary of the end of a nightclub.
There was a table for the Somers Point Histoical Society (SPHS), curators of the rock & roll Bible - Tony Mart Scrapbook, which was there for perusing, and $5 photos [ http://www.somerspointhistory.org/ ]; the Spurlock Family table - from Ray's Bay Avene Barbershop and culinary cousine fame; Lew Steiner of the Whoot [ Atlantic City Weekly ], who documented the original Tony Marts last of four decades; Steve, of Steve & Jerry from Merrals in Margate, where so many great rock bands performed, especially Bobby Campanell and the Shakes, who would lead the band this night.
There was Uncle Willy from South Philly, Mayor Dan Reilly, EHT mayor Sonny McCullough, a former Tony Marts bartender, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, and the head of the local Federal Emergency Management Agency, who had put out an all points bulletin asking for the whereabouts of the notorious Hurt Brothers.
A young, local, teenage Dylan freek opened the proceedings and played while everyone got accliminated. He went from really not that bad to hey the kid's pretty good to wait a minute, maybe there is something special going to happen here.
Bobby Campanell, as Carmen introduced him, could be where Springsteen is today, given a few breaks here and there. Bobby does come from the same Asbury Park school of rock vein, he plays with the same passion, and has a bunch of great and original tunes in him, so whether its at an arena or Stumpo's back room, it's still rock & roll.
I remember the first few times I saw Bobby and the original Shakes at Mothers, just across the crab fishing bridge, and 40 yards on EHT side of the creek from Somers Point. EHT at the time, didn't have a municipality, a police department and all night liquor sales, spawing such after hour joints as Jack's Grove (The Attic/Boatyard), Brownies, the Dunes "till Dawn" and Mothers, which had previously been O'Byrne's, the Purple Villa/the Mug, a shot and beer bar in the meadows.
After the regular Somers Point nightclubs closed by law at 2 am, the after hour joints came alive, some not even opening until midnight, and going all night until noon the next day. It's dark when you go in but the sun's coming up when you leave, and the new light is blinding at first, but then, once you get accliminated to it, in the distance you can see the Atlantic City skyline from the front door of Mothers.
When the Shakes first came to town they were flush from the vibrant Asbury Park music scene, while the Atlantic City/Somers Point and Wildwood clubs mainly featured the hotest bands out of New York and Philadelphia. Few of the big Asbury Park bands - SSJ & the Jukes, the ESB, et al, never made it South of Atlantic City, except for the Shakes.
After getting fired by Tony Mart for playing their own music and, as Tony put it, "not for the People," they got a quick gig at Mothers, down the street, around the corner and across the crabbers bridge.
While O'Byrne was a legendary local bar family, the old clammers bar became something different entirely when it was bought and renovated by Andrew Carnaglia, whose family also owned the historic Anchorge Tavern in Somers Point, and hence his nickname, Andrew Anchorage. Andrew fixed the old joint up and converted it from a shot and beer dive to what Vince Renich called a "carpet joint." There were even carpets on the wall, which made for great accoustics.
It was at Mothers where Bobby Campanell and the Shakes expanded their original audition to a steady job playing every night as the house band, just as Levon & the Hawks were the house band at Tony Marts that watershed summer of '65. And it was at Mothers where Bobby had the Shakes set the beat while he told a little story, the story of how they got an auditon at the world famous Tony Marts Nightclub "the Showplace of the World," and got on stage and were playing away when the owner himself, Anthony Marotta, pulled the plug and gave them the hook.
Then Bobby and the Shakes went into a rousing version of "Hit the Road Jack, and never come back no more, no more....."
And that was Tony Marts Flashback #034, with Bobby Campanell now on stage at the Tony Marts Reunion, thirty some years later, still playing rock & roll with a passion, but without his lead guitarist Danny Eyers, last heard from driving north on the Parkway, having jammed with Jacque Major at the Carousel Bar at Shennagans in Sea Isle.
While waiting for Danny to get there, Carmen took the microphone and mentioned a number of people who were a big part of Tony Marts who had passed away, including his mom and Harry Goldenberg, Esq., the bald headed Kojak of court room fame and former Tony Marts bartender.
Anticipating Danny and his guitar sparked another Shakes flashback, when they were suppose to open for Southside Johnny at a big Philly college concert when Bubba, the Shakes' drummer, overslept and arrived too late to save the gig, another opportunity missed.
Then Danny arrives, takes out his axe and plugs it in and Shazamm!, the band is back in business.
"Rock Around the Clock," Dion's "Runaround Sue," and all the top Tony Marts tunes got people up dancing right from the get go, and while I didn't keep a song list, they didn't play "...Across the Water..." which I recall vibrating the whole neighborhood every night.
Standing in the back of the room and taking it all in I suddenly realized that I was standing next to Terrance Simien, who had put on such a great show that afternoon. We talked briefly about Rick Danko, God bless him, and Bobby Sheehan, Gold bless him too, as good musicians who got seem to have gotten swollowed up in the melieu.
TS asked me if the party was what Tony Marts was like, which it of course wasn't, so I tried to describe Tony Marts to Simien - if you can imagine, three stages, eight bars, two dance floors and a low ceiling, with wall to wall people dancing where ever they were, as the whole place rocked.
TS then went up on stage, sans his axe, and sang the manditory "the Weight," with Bobby, Danny and company, bringing an historic and entertaining evening to a close.
Carmen said that he now has plans to make the Tony Marts Reunion and annual affair on the night of the Good Old Days Picnic, though not necessarily at Stumpo's, which was fitting for this occassion, but not big enough for what he really wants to do.
Since the Scarboroughs are reportedly buying the place, Stumpo's might not even be there this time next year.
Time will tell.
The Tony Marts Reunion held after the Good Old Days Picnic at Stumpo's last September was such a great success [See: Tony Marts Reunion], Carmen decided to do it again on the first Saturday of the new year.
Stumpo's Italian Grill in Somers Point will once again will be host of the party, which will feature guitarist Billy Walton and piano wiz Dr. Bobby Fingers.
Last time out, Bobby Campanell, whose band The Shakes were twice fired from Tony Marts, led the Reunion jam. This time, while neither Billy Walton nor Bobby Fingers played the Mart, both fit into to the kind of act Tony used to like, and Carmen certainly does.
Both Billy Walton and Dr. Bob played the Somers Point beach concerts this summer. I caught Walton, and got some pix that I'll post when I figure out how to do it.
Walton's also played JR's Pub last winter, the first foray into the Point by the Asbury Park rocker, whose band resembles the E-Streeters, but he has his own flair.
Bobby Fingers plays D'Orio's Circle Cafe once a week in the summer, and packs them in, especially the girls who like to sing along with good docktor, who does all the Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce the boss requests, and personally, is a cross between Larry Ferrari and Soupy Sails.
The show, this Saturday night, begins at 7 pm, and is $10 at the door, $25 with a Tony Marts Reunion t-shirt.
More to come on this show, as details become available.
And I have a feeling that if we have two Tony Marts reunions within six months, we're going to have some more.
For those who want more info immediately, call (609) 653-6090.
I also have an email for Carmen and Nancy:
Here's some more links I found:
Bruce Baldeson has some Tony Marts T-shirts for sale:
Here's an article from the Pointers:
Here's an Eddie & the Cruisers Link:
Link to Tony Mart's Scrapbook story:
I now realize why Carmen's email is TonyMarto - because there's a lawyer in New Hampshire whose name is actually Tony C. Mart, and he's got it all wrapped up.
I don't believe there's no Tony Marts web site, as there's certainly enough material.