The Stone Pony in Asbury Park is more than just a music club.

It’s a “whole ‘nother world,’ said Harry Filkin, formerly of the Pony house band Cats on a Smooth Surface.

Filkin and others participated in “Celebrating the Stone Pony Anniversary: Spotlighting 50 Legendary Years of Music Memories” at the club on Saturday. The symposium, presented by the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University, featured four panels of Pony managers, musicians, concert promoters, deejays and more.

The event was part of the venue’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration. The Pony opened Feb. 8, 1974.

Panelists Tony Pallagrosi, David Meyers, Jack Roig, and Bob Santelli. The Springsteen Archives hosts Spotlighting 50 Legendary Years of Music Memories at the Stone Pony. The event takes place at the legendary venue.   
Asbury Park, NJ
Saturday, February 10, 2024

Panelists Tony Pallagrosi, David Meyers, Jack Roig, and Bob Santelli. The Springsteen Archives hosts Spotlighting 50 Legendary Years of Music Memories at the Stone Pony. The event takes place at the legendary venue. Asbury Park, NJ Saturday, February 10, 2024

Filkin, seated on stage on Saturday, recalled his first visit to the club later that year.

“I walked into the place,” Filkin said. “It was like ‘The Wizard of Oz’ where you open one door and it’s black and white and then you open another and it’s color.

“Outside were people with long hair, Sgt. Pepper moustaches, and tie-dyed shirts on. You walk into the Stone Pony and there’s 10 guys on stage (Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes) with velveteen suits on and these big hats. Like drug dealer hats.”

“Pimp hats,” interjected former Jukes member Tony Pallagrosi, who was also on the panel. “Pimp hats and pimp suits.”

“The energy in that room was amazing “ Filkin said. “What is this? This is like a whole ‘nother world.”

Cats later became the Pony’s house band and Sundays at the Pony in 1982 gained national attention as Bruce Springsteen frequently guested with the band. The appearances became so regular that at one point Springsteen wanted to rehearse with the band.

“One time at our rehearsal hall in Wall there was a phone call. Bruce Springsteen’s on the phone,” Filkin said. “He wanted to come over and show us some songs for the following Sunday. OK. So he taught us ‘Jersey Girl,’ which I don’t think I had heard before. He’s sitting there showing us a song we never heard before, he’s performing it for us and we’re like (stunned). Not just because I love him but something magical happens when he performs.”

The Stone Pony musicians had fun on stage, but they also took their musicianship seriously, said panel members.

“We came in and did our late ’80s rock ‘n’ set and then Bobby Bandiera and his friends came on stage and that was going to school for us,” said Jon Leidersdorff, formerly of the Pony house band the Outcry and now owner of the city’s Lakehouse Music.

“We were just blown away and we realized the depth and breadth of this music scene at that time. Bobby would get up on stage and do Roy Orbison so beautifully, sing and playing the guitar parts so perfectly. The guys behind him were amazing musicians and you realized these were guys were playing seven days a week their whole lives — they were hustling to get gigs so you saw some of the best musicianship.”

Jon Leidersdorff and Gordon Brown. The Springsteen Archives hosts Spotlighting 50 Legendary Years of Music Memories at the Stone Pony. The event takes place at the legendary venue.   
Asbury Park, NJ
Saturday, February 10, 2024Jon Leidersdorff and Gordon Brown. The Springsteen Archives hosts Spotlighting 50 Legendary Years of Music Memories at the Stone Pony. The event takes place at the legendary venue.   
Asbury Park, NJ
Saturday, February 10, 2024

Jon Leidersdorff and Gordon Brown. The Springsteen Archives hosts Spotlighting 50 Legendary Years of Music Memories at the Stone Pony. The event takes place at the legendary venue. Asbury Park, NJ Saturday, February 10, 2024

More: Stone Pony Day celebrates legendary Asbury Park club’s 50th anniversary

The musicians on stage — and Pony staff — sometimes took a break away from the club. The Pony Express softball team would play the E Street Band at Holmdel High School in the ‘70s.

“The deal was Bruce and Obie (Dziedzic, band assistant), God rest her soul, would pay for the food, making a big barbecue out of it and we’d bring a couple kegs of beer and soda,” said Stone Pony deejay Lee Mrowicki. “That got to be a weekly event for a while until it got too hot, and then we said nah, we don’t want to do that.”

Until then, “we had a lot of fun,” Mrowicki said.

Moderators on Saturday included Bob Santelli and Eileen Chapman of the Springsteen Archives; Jean Mikle of the Asbury Park Press; and Nick Corasaniti, author of the upcoming book about the Pony, “I Don’t Want to Go Home.”

More: I’ve spent 1,000 nights at the Stone Pony, and found a community of music lovers

Jack Roig, the founding owner of the Pony, and music photographer Danny Clinch were also among the panelists.

Feb. 8 was proclaimed Stone Pony Day in Asbury Park by the city council. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will play anniversary shows on Feb. 16 and 17.

Visit stoneponyonline.com for more information.

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Chris Jordan, a Jersey Shore native, covers entertainment and features for the USA Today Network New Jersey. Contact him at @chrisfhjordan; [email protected]

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Stone Pony called ‘whole ‘nother world’ at Springsteen Archives event

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