The Stone Pony Celebrates 50 Years
New Jersey’s iconic venue, a cornerstone of musical history, The Stone Pony announces its 50th anniversary.
To honor the occasion, The New Jersey State Legislature, Monmouth County, and the City of Asbury Park proclaimed Thursday, February 8th, as “Stone Pony Day”.
An Early History We All Know
Founders John P. “Jack” Roig and Robert “Butch” Pielka first opened the doors to the venue in 1974. It was a rough opening night, with the area seeing seven inches of snow on the ground. The heater blew out, and according to the Stone Pony’s website, the night receipts only totaled $1.
By December of that same year, foreclosure seemed inevitable. It was not until the first of the club’s many house bands “The Blackberry Booze Band” started drawing in regular crowds, ultimately saving Stone Pony.
The band featured Ocean Grove resident “Southside” Johnny Lyon and Middletown’s Steve Van Zandt.
Van Zandt (Little Steven), would eventually leave Blackberry Booze to join his friend Bruce in a new version of his band… a little group known as The E Street Band.
Popular bands would continue to show at the Pony through the 70s and 80s, building a reputation as one of the hottest spots in the area.
Due to rising costs of insurance and other expenses, many clubs offering live music were struggling. The Pony was no exception. In 1991, a forced sale in bankruptcy court ended the first tenure of the club.
A Pillar Of The Community
In May of 2000, The Governor of New Jersey at that time, Christie Todd Whitman, rededicated the Pony. As she reopened its doors she said “A visit to The Stone Pony has been considered a pilgrimage to rock ‘n’ roll fans around the world.”
Opening weekend saw performances by the Smithereens, Gary U.S. Bonds and Lance Larson.
Since that opening weekend, the club dedicated much of its time to working with the Asbury Park community. The Pony sponsored a weekend-long festival along the oceanfront. The event was so large, that the U.S. Postal Service created a special cancellation for the event. Hundreds of people showed up to have envelopes stamped for the occasion.
Stone Pony would continue on its promise of hosting events involving community groups on charities. Following the tragedy of September 11th, Jon Bon Jovi and other musicians would join at the Pony to help raise money to assist families of the fallen. They were also a designated drop-off point for Food Banks of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
The Stone Pony continues to be a pillar of the community and a focal point of nationwide conversation. In 2020, the club took part in the “Red Alert Restart” Campaign. This was meant to pressure Congress to provide financial aid to entertainment and live event venues that were crippled during the coronavirus pandemic.
50 Years in the Making
The venue is going to kickstart this occasion with two weeks of special events, starting with the proclamation ceremony.
Original owner Jack Roig and current General Manager Caroline O’Toole will raise a toast to 50 years of music and memories. This will be followed by the spinning of the Pony’s greatest hits by house DJ, Lee Mrowicki.
Continuing the fun into February 10th, the Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music is presenting a special event. The event is called “Celebrating the Stony Pony Anniversary: Spotlighting 50 Legendary Years of Music Memories.
Looking ahead to the festivities, the Stone Pony wrote a statement on its website. It reads..
“As we look ahead to the next chapter, we’re filled with excitement for the future of the Pony and the continued journey we’ll embark on together. Thank you for making The Stone Pony the iconic institution it is today. Cheers to 50 years of unforgettable music, memories, and moments shared at The Stone Pony…and many more to come.”