by Erik R. Slagle
When someone mentions musicians from the Jersey Shore, chances are they’re talking about Asbury Park’s favorite son Bruce Springsteen (who was born in Long Branch) or Jon Bon Jovi (although the Little Silver resident is originally from Sayreville). But follow the exits down and you’ll find there’s much more to the Shore when it comes to serious musical talent.
Exit 117: Rumson. In the spring of 2015, Wiz Khalifa scored a massive hit with “See You Again,” a tribute to the late actor Paul Walker of the Fast & Furious franchise. Appearing with Wiz on the track was an up and coming talent named Charlie Puth – a native of Rumson! Puth, originally a YouTube sensation, has gone on to collaborate with artists like Meghan Trainor and Selena Gomez, and his second album – “Voice Notes” – is due out this fall.
Exit 109: Red Bank. The city is the birthplace of, among others, lead singer Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem. Gaslight, best known for the 2012 hit “45,” has both opened for Bruce Springsteen and been joined onstage by The Boss! But Red Bank’s favorite son might just be Count Basie – the Count Basie Theatre is a Red Bank landmark – who fronted some of the greatest jazz and big band orchestras of the 1920s and 30s. With one of the most enduring legacies in all of music, Basie won Best Jazz Performance Grammy Awards in nine different years between 1958 and 1982. The Red Bank native also received a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985 from Ronald Reagan.
Exit 105: Deal. Is Ashley Tisdale in the same league as the others on this list? Not likely, but she was born in Deal, has a certified Gold album to her credit, and sang two tracks off the top-selling soundtrack of 2006 (and one of the top selling soundtracks of all time), “High School Musical.”
Exit 105: Long Branch. His family had moved to Texas before the future country star was a year old, but Clint Black was born in Long Branch. The “Killin’ Time” singer has gone on to sell close to 15 million records and even ran his own label, Equity Music Group, for a spell. At a time when country singers typically filled their albums with songs from other writers, Black insisted on handling most of his own songwriting – making this Jersey boy a true C&W original.
Exit 105: Neptune. Did you think we’d forget Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes? It’s not uncommon to see this band pop up at summer festivals up and down the shore (Lake Como and Bar Anticipation is a favorite haunt); front man Johnny Lyon is a Neptune native and grew up in nearby Ocean Grove. While not as recognizable (outside of New Jersey) as Springsteen and Bon Jovi, his impact is greater than most people realize. The Jukes were co-founded by Lyon and future Springsteen guitarist Steven Van Zandt, and Southside Johnny has been called “the grandfather” of Springsteen’s “New Jersey Sound.” Even Bon Jovi gives him props, once calling Lyon “my reason for singing.” The Jukes’ best-known hit is still 1976’s “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” but early albums like “This Time It’s For Real” and “Hearts of Stone” are other classics you’ll want to add to your Jersey Shore soundtrack mix.
Beyond just recording artists, the Shore has been the birthplace of stars and legends like Bud Abbott (Asbury Park), Jack Nicholson (Neptune), Kevin Smith (Red Bank), Kirsten Dunst (Point Pleasant) and dozens of others. Not a bad way to think about the Garden State if you’re going south “By the Exits”!