Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Vini Lopez talks about the birth of Jersey rock
I so enjoy the music scene here in New Jersey. There are so many talented musicians that have gone on to such successful careers. That’s the case with my friend Vini Lopez.
Vini grew up in Neptune, NJ with fellow world class musicians Garry Talent and Southside Johnny. Garry of course went on to become a member of The E-Street Band as did Vini, and Southside became a prolific songwriter and performer in the '70s and '80s which still keeps him at the forefront of Jersey rock and roll today.
They were all part of the Upstage music scene that ran from 1968 to 1972. The Upstage was on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park. It was a club that didn’t serve alcohol but served up a lot of music, rock and roll music. Bruce Springsteen was part of that scene.
The Upstage is where many local musicians would go and jam. One of the rules of The Upstage was that you had to play original music. Bruce would call on Vini, Garry and eventually guys like David Sancious and Clarence Clemons to jam. Stevie Van Zandt would jump in.
Bruce put a band together that included Vini, Garry, David Sancious, and Vinnie Roslin called Steel Mill. It was Vini Lopez who contacted a local promoter, Carl “Tinker” West, who became their manager, and Tinker would be responsible for taking Bruce and the band outside of New Jersey and introducing them to the rest of the world.
Things started to escalate and Bruce meets with Clive Davis who signs Bruce to Columbia Records with a multi-record deal. As a matter of fact it was Clive Davis who gave Vini Lopez the nickname “Mad Dog.” They changed the name of the band to Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band, make a few personnel changes and the two albums are out and well received.
Although Vini left the band before the third album came out, Born to Run, he was an original member of the E-Street Band and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April of 2014. He would on occasion be called upon by Bruce to play at certain concerts and has carried the name Steel Mill Retro and played under that banner showcasing his music.
He and his lovely fiancé’ Dawn are great to be around and he’s always stepping up to helping those in need. Check out my interview with Vini from my TV Show The Big Joe Henry Variety Show from a few years back. Thanks for the music Mad Dog.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.