Somers Point’s free Concerts on the Beach series celebrates platinum anniversary.
“Long-time Somers Point families like the Wallace Family, of the Crab Trap, and the Gregorys, the Junta family — have been there supporting this city event since the beginning,” says Marotta. “I believe the Gregorys have been a sponsor for each of the past 20 years.”
Sally Hastings, of the Somers Point Historical Society and Museum, remembers how her father used to catch the beach concerts on a regular basis.
“The concerts bring out kids up to older people,” says Hastings. “My late father started going when he was in his 80s. He loved them. He would then get together with friends and go to someone’s house for wine and cheese.”
Hastings says that the ongoing Concerts on the Beach series is likely the biggest outdoor annual community event in the history of Somers Point.
“There has just been tremendous support and response from the community,” adds Marotta, who started booking the series for its 13th year in 2004.
He and his wife still have a yellow piece of legal-size paper covered with pencil scratches, telephone numbers, and the artists they would put together for the 2004 series.
Up to that point, the series, like those held in other municipalities around Atlantic County, consisted mainly of local acts. Artists such as Jack Zawacki, the Barrelhouse Rockers, Jaque Major, Dan Fogel, Hawkins Road, the Shakes (video), Bob Campanell, Dr. Bobby Fingers (video) and Danny Eyer — the last four of which continue to perform just about every year in the series — filled up the series’ first decade of line-ups. Then, in 2004, Marotta decided to shake things up and bring in nationally touring acts for select dates.
“Today, a little more than half of the summer schedule is made up of international and regionally touring bands,” says Marotta. “There are always local bands that people want to hear every year. Bobby Campanell on July 4th, for instance, is an annual tradition. The Shakes, Danny Eyer and Bobby Campanell go back the longest, I think.”
The Billy Walton Band has been on the beach for the past six years, says Marotta.
“People sometimes say, ‘You always use the same old guys,’” says Marotta. “Yeah, we use them because they are the great ones — the best ones we have!”
Over the past three or four years, the talent has been extraordinary with local acts sharing line-ups with a blend of legendary guitarists and blues players, Caribbean and funk outfits, New Orleans and zydeco acts, as well as Latin and old-time string bands.
The 2012 schedule kicked off with multi-award winning electric violinist Lionel Young and his band, followed by the New Orleans brass band Bonerama, and the legendary Commander Cody. Other notable touring acts booked for the current season include the Persuasions (who performed July 20 on a special 20th anniversary double-bill with the Shakes); Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, the harmonica-driven Alligator Records artists (July 13); international guitar hero Walter Trout (Aug. 24), Western Pennsylvania party band Jill West & Blues Attack (Aug. 31) and the rockabilly swing of Rev. Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys.
“No more than 10 percent of [the funds it takes to put on the shows] comes from local taxpayers,” says Marotta. “The other 90 percent is supported by civic organizations and community sponsors.”
Although schedules — as well as photographs, memories and anything else — from the first 12 years of the beach concert series are hard to come by, the line-ups for the past eight years’ worth of concert series are remembered by many.
All except for one.
That first year that Carmen and Nancy took over booking the bands.
However, copied directly from that yellow piece of paper, here is what the 13th annual Concerts on the Beach schedule looked like: Franny Smith & His New Orleans Band (June 24), Blue Yonder (July 1), Bob Campanell Band (July 4), Slick Ballinger (July 8), Harper (July 15), Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas (July 22), Danny Eyer (July 29), Howard Issacson (Aug. 5), Rubber Soul (Aug. 12), Albert Cummings (Aug. 19), Tommy Castro (Aug. 26), Vineland Jazz Society Wind Symphony (Sept. 2) and the Shakes (Sept. 9).
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As usual, Tony Mart’s Presents is starting off the new year on the right foot, as the Hawkins Road All-Star Band will be the driving force behind a dance contest at Sandi Pointe Coastal Bistro Saturday, Jan. 29, in Somers Point. The event is being hailed as “Hot Music to Warm the Coldest Days of Winter.” Performing country-rock classics and popular dance hits from 8-11:30pm, including classics by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers Band and other Southern Rock classics. Hawkins Road is comprised of drummer Jimmy Glenn, bassist Rich Kurtz, acoustic guitarist Brian Conover, and the searing lead guitars of Danny Eyer and Ernie Trionfo. “[Hawkins Road] has one of the best rhythm sections around in Glenn, Kurtz and Conover, and I’ll put those two [Eyer and Trionfo] up against the best guitarists anywhere, any time,” says event organizer Carmen Marotta of Tony Mart’s Presents. “And you can quote me on that.” Dubbed the “Official New Year Reunion,” the evening will also include full-menu service and a cash bar for a $7 cover. Guests can mingle with the band members between sets, and groups of six or more can reserve a table by calling (609) 653-6069. “It’ll be similar to the reunion parties [Marotta]’s...
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