Jersey Music and Down the Shore: Perfect Together

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Carousel at Wildwood. Credit: Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten

As it is now Memorial Day Weekend and many of us head down the shore, we often can’t help but think of our youth. Our first car, driving down after prom, windows open, and music blasting.

We have great pride in this state; especially pride for our music. Whether you come from the era of Connie Francis (from my hometown of Belleville), The Four Seasons (from the city of my birth, Newark), Frank Sinatra, Bon Jovi, South Side Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, or The Boss, just like everything else, if you live in Jersey, you have strong opinions about our music.

There is a special sound that comes from Jersey music. As soon as you hear it, you know it is must be a Jersey Guy. But what makes that “Jersey Sound?”

One word: Calliope.

What? Let me explain.

When you go down the shore, you may not head to the rides like The Scrambler anymore, but we all look forward to a ride on the merry-go-round. No matter your age, we all turn into little kids when we head to that special ride that has been on the boardwalk for generations. That unique music mixed with pipe organ and bass drum is one of those happy memories we think about in January when the temperature is in the single digits and the snow is above your knee. While the correct name for the instrument that provides that music is the band organ, most people refer to it as the Calliope.

Now with that in mind, listen to the last minute of Springsteen’s Jungleland or the first 30 seconds of Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, thanks to Roy Bittan. Hear that right hand? That’s the homage to that wonderfully unique sound of the calliope. Add to that Danny Federici’s organ, glockenspiel, and accordion playing, and you have what is known as “that Jersey Sound.”

You can hear this same sound when you listen to Love on the Wrong Side of Town by South Side Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. By the way another Jersey favorite son, Jon Bon Jovi also gigged with the great Southside Johnny.

Many will argue that the prominent use of a horn section is a big part of what makes up that unique sound, and they would be correct. After all, what is The E Street Band without Clarence Clemons? And the use of trumpets hitting the high notes in Southside’s band is a mainstay of his band. But that piano and organ combo is what makes up that special sound.

So as the weather gets warm and we all head down the shore, windows down, wind in our hair, remembering our youth and blast our favorite Jersey music, you can thank the carousels of our childhood for that special music that sets us apart from the rest of the country.

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“Down the Shore” – Part One in a Series

There are many places I would love to live in my beloved state of New Jersey. Some of them include Morristown, for its connection to our nation’s history; Frenchtown, for its lovely town center full of historic buildings; of course my home town of Belleville; Denville, for its quaint shopping district and small lake communities; and Layton, for its proximity to fly fishing on the Flatbrook and the art center of Peters Valley School of Craft. Well, you can now add Wildwood Crest and Cape May to my list.

Going “down the shore,” as it is referred to by Jersey residents, is a right of passage for the state’s teenagers. Like many high school seniors, I headed to Seaside Heights prom weekend to “walk the boards.” When I was dating my now husband, we would take day trips to Sandy Hook and Island Beach State Park. Other than that, however, I didn’t spend much of my youth enjoying the Jersey coastline. My parents preferred going a little further south – Captiva and Sanibel in Florida.

This past week, however, we took a vacation to Wildwood Crest and took a few day trips to Cape May. I can now say I officially “get it.” It was a glorious few days.

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A lone seagull on the beach in Wildwood Crest.

We spend the week at Water’s Edge Ocean Resort in Wildwood Crest. Each morning, I sat out our oceanfront deck and enjoyed the sound of the ocean while I sipped my morning coffee and took walks on the beach in the late afternoon. If you watch the families in the area, the electronics we are all so attached to are put away most of the time and are exchanged for ping pong, playing cards, and swimming in the pool or the ocean.

I hope you enjoy this multi-part series about the Jersey Shore, Wildwood Crest, and Cape May.

Stay tuned…