The Stone Pony, one of Asbury Park’s most famous clubs, opened its doors in 1974. Founders Jack Roig and Butch Pielka initially became acquainted working on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. Blackberry Booze Band featured Steve Van Zandt, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. In 1976, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes signed with Epic Records. The Jukes attracted a large and loyal following throughout New Jersey.
Backstreets became the epitome of the tribute band with their take on popular Springsteen songs. The ’80s brought a “new wave” of rock and dance music to the club. The Pony concert series began in 1977 with shows by Sam and Dave, who inspired Bruce Springsteen. Legendary performances included Elvis, The Ramones, and Blondie. Van Morrison used the club for the shooting of a music video because of its “cool atmosphere”.
Local favorites such as John Eddie and Joe Grushecky were receiving national recognition. Jersey Artists for Mankind signed a large contract with the recording company Arista. The group sold more than 300,000 copies of their world acclaimed charity record. T.M. Stevens has been called on stage to join artists such as Buddy Miles.
The Stone Pony also started a tradition of hosting charitable events and benefit concerts. The club played host to acts like Live, Hootie and the Blowfish, Helmet, The Ramones and more. In 2000, Cuban native and Jersey City restaurateur Domenic Santana bought the venue. He guaranteed it would open up by Memorial Day weekend. The reopening set list was highlighted by the Smithereens and local legend Lance Larson.
Revenue generated by the opening weekend’s sets were donated to the Stephen Crane House, where author Harry Chapin lived. “Light of Day” is a concert given by local and national musicians to raise money for Parkinson’s Disease research. The event was the brainchild of Bob Benjamin, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1996. In its 5 years, Bob’s fundraiser has hosted performances by Bruce Springsteen, Michael J. Fox, and many other artists. Domenic Santana sold the historic venue to Asbury Partners in July of 2003.
Kyle Brendle has organized shows for all the different Stone Pony owners since the 1980s. Young performers have gone on to be multi-platinum and Grammy-award winning artists. Concerns had been raised about the club’s future, and what place it may have in the new development. Live Nation has been able to develop Asbury Park as a primary musical market for national touring acts. Some more recent acts include Snoop Dogg and The Black Crowes.