The opening of the venerable Stone Pony — This day in NJ history
On February 8th, 1974, one of New Jersey’s most famous entertainment venues opened: the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
The club was co-founded by Jack Roig and Butch Pielka. Roig says he picked the name because of a woman’s shirt that had a small horse on it. The receipts for the first night, which was held during a snowstorm, were $1. The club was far from an immediate success and was in danger of closing when a local band, The Blackberry Booze Band, started attracting crowds to the Stone Pony. The band featured Southside Johnny and Steve Van Zandt. I don’t think any other explanation is needed.
Memorial Day concert by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes was broadcast over a network of radio stations. It featured guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen and Darlene Love. The concert brought national attention not only to the band, but to the Stone Pony and Asbury Park, as well. Through the late 70s and early 80s, bigger and bigger acts were drawn to the club, including Sam & Dave and many, many, others including (but certainly not limited to) Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Cheap Trick, Meatloaf, Blondie, and Blue Oyster Cult. Local bands continued to be showcased with Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, Bobby Bandiera and Glen Burtnik, Joe Grushecky, and Gary US Bonds. Of course, Bruce Springsteen and various members of the E Street Band were also known to hop on stage.
Due to the rising costs of hosting live music, the Pony filed for bankruptcy protection in 1991 and it was bought in bankruptcy court. After fits and starts and occasional success, the club closed in 1998, only to be reopened in 2000. The revitalized club went back to featuring musical acts as well as hosting a score of charity concerts, becoming part of the fabric of Asbury Park. As the revitalization of the city took off, the Pony changed hands again, being sold to Asbury Partners, the primary redevelopers of the city. The Stone Pony continues to bring local and national acts to the stage, cementing its status as one of the premiere venues in rock and roll history.
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