Southside Johnny’s summer soul soirées

aaaSouthside Johnny - photo by Kirstine Walton - HI-RES - 005

Southside Johnny is ready to rock … again!

Gearing up for the annual Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes Fourth Of July blow-out bash in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Southside took the time out of his busy rehearsal schedule to call Goldmine’s “Filled With Sound” with an update. It should be noted that this man, besides being one of the great hard-working rock-soul singing bandleaders of his generation, is a mad scientist digging down deep into the dust bin of time to secure sounds from bygone eras, sounds that still sound vital, funky, ballsy, soulful and oh-so-fine and alive with the kind of delicious doo-wops or honky-tonk flourishes or Southern sass that stands the test of time. He plays records from his personal collection before and after each show and those tunes alone are worth the price of admission.

“Soultime!” (Leroy Records) is the current CD and it’s filled with the kind of instant classics that may have very well been written in the studios of Memphis, New Orleans or Muscle Shoals in the late 1960s … only it’s not. They’re all new songs written by Southside with Juke keyboardist Jeff Kazee and it’s the best damn CD he’s ever recorded. Period. But it’s those old sounds that still rock his world.

Filled With Sound: I was listening to some crazy Larry Williams stuff today.
Southside Johnny:
Oh yeah! That’s Dave Bartholomew, who wrote a lot of the Fats Domino stuff, and what a band he put together for Fats, Larry Williams and Lloyd Price too. Rock’n’Roll Hall of Famer Earl Palmer, of course, was in that band. I had been haranguing them for years because he kind of invented rock’n’roll drumming just like Johnny Johnson, if not invented, at least showed people early on how to play rock’n’roll piano when he was with Chuck Berry.

FWS: Rumor has it he co-wrote most of Chuck Berry’s hits but Chuck wanted all the royalties to himself.
SJ:
Maybe. It’s water under the bridge now.

FWS: I bet you have “Tossing and Turning” by Bobby Lewis in your collection.
SJ: Sure! Great band on that one too. I’ve always wondered if that was Dave Appell & The AppleJacks on that because it has that solid drum/bass thing. They were on all the Chubby Checker records out of Philadelphia on the Cameo/Parkway label. That band was smokin’! Don’t forget, if there’s anything you want to know that’s actual fact, you’re asking the wrong person.

FWS: Very funny. You seem to be on some kind of Southside Johnny renaissance, no? You’re touring like wild. Ever since you came out with that non-Jukes Americana Masterpiece “Songs From The Barn” CD with The Poor Fools in 2013 and then “Soultime!” with the Jukes just last year, your stock has risen. It’s great to see. I won’t soon forget your concert versions of the Stones’ “Happy,” the Association’s “Walk Away Renee” and, most of all, The Band’s “Ophelia” with your kickin’ horn section pumpin’ away like a giant heart bursting at the seams.
SJ: All I can say is that these last few years making records and playing live have been very satisfying to me personally but I have been thinking lately that maybe I might retire.

FWS: No!
SJ: Just kidding. You never retire. Being a musician is like being a painter.

FWS: Hell, I’m retired but I still talk to guys like you.
SJ: That’s hardly work.

FWS: But that’s all I’ve ever done is listen to music and tell people about it.
SJ: Then how lucky are we. God bless rock’n’roll. I can tell when an interviewer is just doing his job. Enthusiasm for music—as you and I have—keeps you going, man! I still love just listening to records for hours like when I was a kid. And I hate the blasé attitude I hear from some reporters doing their job. Some people can’t seem to get excited about anything. You only have one life, man. In fact, I gotta go, because I gotta listen and research more vinyl for Asbury Park, New Jersey July 3.

FWS: At a special starting time of 5:30!
SJ: Really?

FWS: Don’t be late, dude.
SJ:
I hate to be late for a gig. I actually have nightmares about that.

Those who have not yet seen the biggest baddest rock’n’roll circus since the days of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen should do themselves a favor and go to Freeman Stage at Bayside in Selbyville DE July 2, The Stone Pony in Asbury Park NJ July 3, The Paramount in Huntington NY July 9, Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown NJ July 15, Riley Rink at Hunter Park in Manchester Center Vermont July 23, Beacon Theater in New York NY July 30, Jergel’s Rhythm Grille in Warrendale PA August 4, The Hard Rock in Northfield Ohio August 5, House of Blues in Chicago August 6, Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury MA August 18 & 19, and Payomet Performing Arts Center in Truro MA August 20.

About Mike Greenblatt

A longtime music journalist, Mike Greenblatt is a contributing editor with Goldmine magazine.

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