In November of 1997 in Long Branch, police Sgt. Pat King was assassinated while on duty in his car.

Sgt. Pat King had a wife and children, and it was agreed that a concert with all the proceeds for the King family would be appropriate. It would be a celebration of life. The event was held on Jan. 31, 1998 at The Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank.

Jon Bon Jovi was the first to sign up, then Bruce Springsteen and members of the E-Street Band including Steve Van Zandt, Southside Johnny, Tico Torres, David Bryan, Hugh McDonald, Richie LaBamba, Mark Pender, and Bobby Bandiera tapped as the musical director for the night. Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons joined the concert and what was unique about this appearance is that the E-Street Band split up after the 1989 tour and had only played sporadically since.

This had become the greatest assembly of New Jersey rock and roll artists for one concert ever.

My friend from the Long Branch Police Department Lt. Pat Joyce asked me to host the event. I was honored and excited to be a part of this special evening. I went to rehearsal the night before and it was such a great experience, everyone was on their A-game.

So, the night of the big concert comes, I head into the Count Basie backstage and Pat Joyce comes over to me and says, “I hate to tell you this, but you won’t be hosting the show tonight”. I was upset, who could you get that would do this? I know all the musicians, I knew Sgt Pat King, and I knew Pat Joyce. Was it some other radio guy? “Well,” he said, “Danny DeVito heard about it and flew in to host tonight”. Now he’s somebody that I could yield to, he’s a big star and to take the time to lend his support was cool.

NJ Hall of Fame
Bobby Bank, Getty Images

At that moment, Danny came over and introduced himself and started to beg me not to hit him because he had taken my “job”, we laughed and talked to music for a bit, I wished him good luck.

I went to the front of the house and was by the soundboard. The place was packed, out of respect for Sgt. King, Long Branch police officers were lined up in the aisle in uniform.

The feeling, the energy, and the music was unbelievable. The three-hour concert went on with every one of the artists belting out hit after hit with such an undeniable force. Over 30 songs were performed including hits like 10th Avenue Freezeout, Bobby Jean, Badlands, and a Born to Run version that had the plaster chipping and falling from the overhang of the balcony. Southside Johnny did This Time It’s for Real, I Don’t Want to Go Home, Bon Jovi got together for Bad Medicine, Wanted Dead or Alive, and Livin on a Prayer to name a few. There were a few collaborations with these superstars. If you appreciate rock and roll and the quality of Jersey musicians that perform it, you were in Shangri la.

I will never forget that night, I remember it fondly with all these great musicians coming together to help a family that needed a celebration of life. The concert raised close to $200,000.

This is the power of music, the power of Jersey music.

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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.

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