One of the legendary clubs that was a part of the Asbury Park scene in the 60s and early 70s, a scene that was the spawning ground for what came to be known around the world as the “Jersey Sound” was the Upstage. And one of the premier bands playing regularly at the club was The Odyssey.
The Odyssey would often play two gigs a night at the Upstage. They started out in the downstairs room, which stayed open until midnight, and then headed upstairs, where they played from 1 a.m. until the club closed at 5.
The group consisted of Kevin Kavanaugh on keyboards, Richie Holmes on drums, Tom Cron on bass, and Tom Dickinson on guitar. They played a mix of oldies and blues, and included songs by the likes of Paul Butterfield, John Mayall, Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and even some early Grateful Dead before they became known. “At the time that was considered hard core blues,” laughs Kevin. “Most white guys hadn’t gotten into the real hard core blues stuff yet. At least not suburban white kids around Asbury Park.”
As far as audiences went, the band had good nights and bad nights. Southside Johnny Lyon often used to come around, as The Odyssey was his favorite band at the time. Bruce Springsteen used to hang out there also. It was a big part of the R&B/blues/rock scene that was developing. “It was real cool for a kid that age,” recalls Kevin.
“That age” is 16 years old, which is how old Kevin was at the time. The band was able to play at the club because it was a coffee house kind of place, and no alcoholic beverages were served. “People would come in after the other bars closed,” remembers Kevin. “A lot of drugs were going back then, whatever kind of drugs kept people going until 5 in the morning.”
The Odyssey eventually broke up, and the members went their separate ways. Richie, tragically, committed suicide in the early 1970s. Tom Dickinson now manages an auto parts store, while still playing on the side, mostly jazz-fusion. “Tom Cron I haven’t heard from in 20 years,” says Kevin.
While a lot of his cronies were going on to college, Kevin was interested in a journalistic career. But he kept playing around the area, mostly jamming with different musicians. He would often join Garry Tallent and Steven Van Zandt in backing up various singers from the Upstage, and make a few dollars here and there.
Steven was then a member of the well-known Blackberry Booze Band. He soon had the idea to start a new band, and he asked Kevin to join him and Southside in forming Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. “It was really just changing the name and material, with Steven and Johnny taking over the group,” says Kevin. “Steve being the forceful personality… that’s the way he is.”
Kevin stayed with the Jukes for 14 albums, and did numerous tours with the band. He became a part of Bobby Bandiera’s Jersey shore band, and continues playing the shore area today, with Joel Krauss. Joel was a former member of Holme, and one of the original members of Cats On A Smooth Surface.
And so, the young group known as The Odyssey ended up leading to a musical “odyssey” that continues to this day at the Jersey Shore!
Copyright © Hal B. Selzer/The Aquarian/East Coast Rocker and transcribed with permission.