The Background: When Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes decided to play their historic New Year’s Eve show on December 31st, 1999 they had no idea they were inadvertently triggering off the sequence of events that would ultimately become “Jukestock”.
You see long-time Jukes fan, Stan Lisowski, had tickets for the show and on the stroke of midnight, he proposed to his girlfriend, Kim. Long story short, they hired LaBamba and Hubcaps to play at their wedding and I was one of their guests. Being in such close proximity to so many of my favourite NJ musicians was an incredible experience and from the opening notes of The Fever to the closing notes of I Don’t Want To Go Home, I was totally blown away by the Hubcaps’ performance… I mean, have you ever been at a wedding where you kept a set-list during dinner?? Well, I did… and that was it! The Jukestock seed was sown.
I figured it must be possible to arrange something like this on a slightly larger scale so I ran the idea past Jane McCreery who had also been a guest at the wedding and in the blink of an eye, she expertly turned my notion into a written proposal. Both of us subscribe to the Southside Digest, an Internet newsletter that has been managed by Debbie May since 1993, and knowing the Digest subscribers would make the perfect audience, we presented the idea to Debbie to see what she thought. Debbie told us it had always been her dream to have a special performance for the Digest members but she didn’t have any experience on setting up something like this. Since Debbie knew of Jane’s expertise in organizing events, she decided it was worth mentioning to Southside Johnny.
It turned out the release of the new album Messin’ With The Blues had Johnny thinking along similar lines and in spite of being a little overwhelmed by the thought of a whole Jukes-related weekend, Johnny gave Debbie instructions to speak to his manager, Bill Durborow, about the proposal. The next thing we knew, the three of us had become the Planning Team and we were running a poll on the Digest to see what the subscribers thought of the idea. The tremendous response told us we were well on our way to having our dream turn into a reality.
The Planning: Once we knew in which direction we were heading, we set to work finding a suitable venue and date. Considering the fact that none of us live anywhere near New Jersey, it just goes to show the communication power of the Internet! Jane and I did actually meet last November to check out the Holiday Inn at Tinton Falls and we came away with a very good feeling – especially after we saw the “Jukebox” in the bar.
With the exception of a few telephone calls, we discussed every aspect of the weekend by e-mail and none of us are prepared to admit how many megabytes of text bounced between Attleboro, M.A., Pittsburgh, P.A., and Hannover, Germany during this process. We even set up a system to sell the tickets by E-mail that gave everyone an equal chance of applying regardless of their geographical location.
The first time the three of us were actually in the same place and time zone was the day before the event when it was all systems go finalizing things like the welcome packs as well as a small matter of folding several hundred specially designed t-shirts. Incidentally, it was Hood, Southside Johnny’s road manager, who inspired the name “Jukestock” through his off-the-cuff quip: “Three days of peace, love and Jukes” when the idea was first presented to him.
By the time our guests got to Jukestock the stage and sound equipment were in place, the hotel management and staff were on stand-by and the registration packs were ready to be distributed to the three hundred people who had put their trust in us. In addition, thanks once again to Hood, Jukestock had the most incredible collection of Jukes memorabilia on display that fast became one of the most talked about attractions of the weekend – Hood really does have enough material to open his own Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and Museum! And for the entire weekend, the Garden State Ballroom at the Holiday Inn, Tinton Falls, N.J., became the epicenter of the finest caliber of musical happenings imaginable.
The Event: Friday night’s programme began with a complimentary buffet that preceded an outstanding performance from Jeff Kazee’s sensational soul band, Professor Crewcut. Southside Johnny’s surprise guest appearance with them went down an absolute storm and set the precedent for the rest of the weekend. Following on was a marathon set from the inimitable Bobby Bandiera Band. Bobby dazzled the audience with his stunning guitar licks and ability to perform his original material as well as covers with a seemingly effortless precision.
Saturday’s proceedings began with an amazingly successful “Meet & Greet” session that gave everyone the chance to say hello to their favorite musicians. In addition to this we had several other activities going on that included: the chance to see some rare Jukes related video footage – this was thanks to Jukestock guest, Sam Missimer, who donated the use of his AV equipment literally at a moments notice; Rock Dreams brought along the exclusive range of merchandise from Southside Johnny’s Website store to sell; we also had CDs for sale from several of the Jukes including Bobby Bandiera, Jeff Kazee, Joey Stann, and Chris Anderson; we sold raffle tickets and raised just over $1400 in three hours for “Save Tillie” and “WHY” – this would not have been possible without the support of everyone who donated the fantastic prizes; we had exclusive Asbury Park related merchandise on sale courtesy of “Cleopatra Steps Out”; and Bob Crane from “Save Tillie” was on hand to answer questions about the campaign. Bob also introduced the premier screening of the promotional video that has been made to highlight the importance of preserving Asbury Park’s historic buildings.
Momentum was certainly gathering pace by the time the Mark Pender Band took to the stage in the afternoon and they gave a totally rockin’ performance that naturally included one of Mark’s stunning “hold that note” specialties – if you have never seen Mark’s spectacular breathing technique in action, trust me… it leaves his audience breathless just watching him!
Yes, it was all happening… and that was before Jukes’ show.
“The Right To Introduce The Band”, was the *star* raffle prize and it was won by Billy Smith who, having been a Jukes fan for the last twenty five years, achieved a major ambition by announcing his favorite band. Beginning with Next To You, the show was crammed full of magic moments all the way through to the last notes of Hearts Of Stone. Every song was a highlight; every quip was a gem and the feel good factor that was in the ballroom shot right off the top of the scale. The sound was immaculate and the musicians were inspired so perhaps it’s not too surprising that the performance went into the rock and roll history books as being the absolute l o n g e s t Jukes show EVER!
By the time Sunday morning’s brunch came round, Jukestock was still going strong and we had a winner for the Trivia Contest. Brian Reiss’ immense knowledge about the Jukes won him a couple of complimentary tickets for a show of his choice proving that sometimes “what” you know does matter.
Plan A for Sunday was a performance from LaBamba and the Hubcaps but Richie decided to change things slightly by bringing along The BIG Band especially for Jukestock. There were so many past and present members of the Asbury Jukes in the line-up, it was as if Mike Saunders’ meticulously chronicled “Jukes Family Tree” had come to life! Fronted by the charismatic charm of LaBamba who was ably assisted by the highly energized stage persona of Mark Pender, The BIG Band blasted their way through a fantastic set that included a very poignant moment for Debbie, Jane and I. Stan and Kim Lisowski stunned and amazed us by presenting us with commemorative plaques in recognition of our efforts in coordinating Jukestock. It was a very touching and thoughtful gesture that was greatly appreciated by the three of us.
Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse and the post-event party we had planned to have at the Stone Pony had to be cancelled. But in the face of adversity Jarrett Dean from “Talk Town”, the band we had booked to play for us, brought his music to the hotel bar and together with his bass player Muddy (who is also the current Jukes bass player) they entertained the hardy few who had decided to take advantage of the Holiday Inn’s “Trapped Again” special room rates.
The Feedback: The messages that appeared on the Southside Digest were, to say the least, overwhelming… so much so that we decided to take the project one stage further by creating a Jukestock Website. This was done with the much appreciated technical expertise of Klaus Boettger who helped us create the most amazing site where all of the wonderful feedback, photographs, reviews etc., are on display for everybody to share.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Jukestock was a mind-blowing success for all concerned – guests, musicians, the road crew as well as the Holiday Inn staff. Of course, everyone wants to know when the next one will be and hopefully, that will happen sometime down the road.
Jukestock began as a crazy idea that turned out to be a truly unique juncture and yes, from March 2nd – March 4th, 2001, three hundred of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes’ most loyal fans really did reach up and touch the sky at the Holiday Inn, Tinton Falls, N.J.