Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes summer tour includes Two New Jersey stops
When you put together your list of who to see in concert this spring and summer, go into your phone calendar and schedule a block of time to see Monmouth County native Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
They've got two shows that'll take place in parts of the Jersey Shore over the next several weeks and on top of that a new album coming out next month.
On Sunday morning, the New Jersey Hall of Famer (2019) Southside Johnny was a guest on 'Shore Time with Vin and Dave', which airs weekly from 6-8 am on 94.3ThePoint and 105.7TheHawk and discussed the years of touring, his career in music, playing at local venues like the Stone Pony, the release of the album, and much more.
For Johnny Lyon, his journey began with growing up listening to some of the big names in music.
"My mother and father listened to Louis Armstrong and Big Joe Turner and Ray Charles, T-Bone Walker -- a lot of R&B, lot of Jazz -- so I just naturally thought everybody listened to that," Southside Johnny said. "When I started listening to 'rock and roll' it seemed normal to me, it wasn't like a revelation, it was just fun music -- rhythm and blues, rock and roll -- I just had the facility for all of the words."
Then he had an opportunity one day to get on stage and sing, perform a little bit and have some fun following those years of listening to all kinds of music.
"I used to hang out with a band called 'Sonny and the Starfires' -- a friend of mine was drumming for them before Vinnie Lopez took over the drum set and they would let me come up and sing and I kind of got that feeling that maybe it'd be something I'd like to do," Southside Johnny said. "I never believed in it as a career until I met Garry Tallent -- Bruce's bass player -- in high school and then Steve Van Zandt and then Bruce and they all said 'we're going to be musicians'. There was no fallback system, there was no plan-b, that's what they were going to be, hell or high water. And I thought, 'I want to do that too', and that's 50-something years ago."
When Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes were touring in the early years, they would be on stage for most of a calendar year.
"We used to play 250 shows a year and I just saw a poster from 77-78 -- in England, we played virtually five nights a week and that's with travel -- it was France, Scandinavia -- and I'm thinking back, 'how the hell did I do that?' ya know. You just -- every night you're on stage -- it was good to be young, I couldn't do that now, that's for sure," Southside Johnny said.
When you have that many shows even in that little period of time, there tends to be changing the order of what's on the setlist and even how you plan on greeting the crowd that night.
"I just sort of let it flow. I mean, we do a different show every night, I didn't have the same setlist night after night, that sounded too much like work to me. You got to keep it fresh for the band too, it might be the first time you're playing in some little town in England, but the band has played these songs a million times so you have to do different songs every night so the people don't get complacent," Southside Johnny said. "After that, I just kind of let myself be myself, whichever mood I was in whether I was happy or angry or disgusted -- you kind of just go with how you're really feeling and it seems to work. We're not putting on an act up there, we're really glad to be playing music but I'm also glad to be bantering with the audience."
The mood sometimes can determine what songs get performed and in what order that given night.
"If I feel like I want to crank it out, we'll do five or six fast songs in a row, if I feel like it's -- there's certain clubs that bring out the more -- studied songs, those slower things -- instead of the straight-ahead rock and roll and you have to know the audience, you have to know the club, and you have to know how you're feeling," Southside Johnny said.
Where will Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes be touring in New Jersey this summer?
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will be performing at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City on May 21 and then close to home at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park on July 2.
The Stone Pony in Asbury Park is always a special time for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
"They do a great job, I mean, the outdoor stage and it's thousands of people but it sounds good, and people sit on the boardwalk -- it's just a fun night -- you don't take it that seriously in the sense that you're not worried about it, you know everybody's going to be really ready for Freddie there," Southside Johnny said. "For us, it's you jump on stage, everybody goes crazy and two hours flys by."
One of the most impactful and turning point career places that the band played at was the Agora Theater in Cleveland on May 2, 1977.
"What had happened was we got signed to a record contract for Epic Records by Steve Popovich who's from Cleveland -- he was head for A&R for Epic in New York City -- came down to see us, really liked us, came down a second time with secretaries from the building and they really liked us," Southside Johnny said. "So, he signed us to a contract but we had made a demo of 'I Don't Want To Go Home' and 'Fever' I think and maybe two other songs -- with a bunch of high school kids from Asbury Park High School as horns, because we didn't have a horn section, we wanted horns, Steve Van Zandt and I -- and he had sent that demo to the Kid Leo, one of the big DJ's in Cleveland and he started playing the demo which was all out of tune and everything like that and I couldn't believe it -- it was in Billboard Magazine 'Up and Coming: I Don't Want To Go Home by Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes' -- I said "we haven't even made the record yet!", I called up and yelled at him, we became good friends after that."
Soon enough as well, they found themselves playing in Cleveland to people who loved listening to them.
"We became very popular in Cleveland before we ever played there, so when we first went there we played to this place called 'The Agora', which is where this was recorded (Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes Live in Cleveland '77), and they were sold out and I thought, 'okay, we better be good', and the people were crazy, they had heard the album finally, once we got the album to Leo and they really liked it and we had a great night and Ronnie Spector came out and they just went completely berserk," Southside Johnny said. "The energy level was so high that it just carried you through, there was no nerves or anything, it was just crazy from beginning to end."
That very concert Live in Cleveland is now being released to the public for the first time.
When will “Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes Live in Cleveland ‘77” be released?
The concert which took place Live at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland, is scheduled for CD release in early June and, there will also be a limited-edition vinyl release later this year as well.
As mentioned, Ronnie Spector joined Southside Johnny on stage for that show and they performed Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” together.
Steven Van Zandt played a big role in the band and wrote the liner notes for the record and wrote the liner notes.
Cleveland International Records is releasing the album next month which will include songs from that show including “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” Bruce Springsteen’s “The Fever,” “Havin’ a Party”, “Without Love”, “This Time It’s For Real”, “Got to Get You Off Of My Mind”, “It Ain’t the Meat, It’s the Motion”, and “When you Dance”.