Singing and dancing those rocking Bavarian blues
The rockin’ blues man with 17 albums and thousands of live performances to his credit is headlining the two-day Oktoberfest celebration this weekend at Beaver Creek with his band, the Asbury Jukes. The rambunctious crew takes the stage at 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.”There’s one thing I’ve always wanted to do, and that is to sing,” said Johnny. “I grew up on music. We listened to Billie Holiday, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters and Big Joe Turner. My parents loved music, the louder the better.”Born and raised on the Jersey Shore, Johnny’s fascination for the club scene started early. “My father played in bands for years, and my mother actually went into labor with me at some seedy New Jersey club. I guess some things were just meant to be.”Singing and playing in a number of blues and R&B bands at what is now the legendary Upstage Club, often joined by pals Bruce Springsteen, “Miami Steve” Van Zandt, and Garry Tallent, Johnny worked the club constantly. They played for years on the shore, but it wasn’t until Springsteen hit the big time with “Born to Run” that the A&R guys would drive to Asbury Park to see what was happening.His friends call him Southside, a nickname picked up because of his bent toward the blues sounds of the Southside of Chicago, and his band, eventually called the Asbury Jukes, worked on their growing reputation as a dynamic live band through the late ’60s and early ’70s.”We built a big band, a home for lots of musicians, horns and all: sure we called it Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, but it was really just a bunch of guys getting crazy on stage,” he said.Then, in 1975, they signed with CBS/Epic Records and released the critically acclaimed “I Don’t Want To Go Home.” Things began to happen for them. What followed was two decades of recording and touring and solidifying a place in rock ‘n’ roll history.In 1992, following the release of “Better Days” and its unexpected lackluster reception, Johnny took a hiatus from the studio, though he continued to work the road.”I went through some really bad times and never wanted to record again,” he said.The musician spent eight years working on the massive record collection he shares with E Street bassist and childhood buddy, Garry Tallent, ruminating on life and his music, and just plain mopingS until, in 1999, the light finally came back on.The release of “Messin’ With the Blues,” in 2000, on his own Leroy Records label, was a return to making music for the sheer joy of it. It’s a collection of old and new true-blues songs that Johnny had long coveted but couldn’t record in the pop single-driven, major label environment. Recharged and energized now, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes are brassing their way onto the scene the same way they always did: no holds barred, good time rock ‘n’ roll.”I’ll stack my group against any group out there. We enjoy playing, and the audience enjoys having a good time. Music is a shared emotion. We distill it down to that.”As all the music and entertainment of Oktoberfest is free to the public, it’s a risk-free opportunity to see if he’s right. This will mark his first Eagle County performance.”We are heading to the town of Avon, Colorado,” he wrote on his on-line journal. “Now, I’ve heard of Avon, New Jersey, a lovely little seashore burg wherein I misspent many a youthful moment, but I’ve never heard tell of Avon, Co. One of the great joys of playing in a band is seeing new places. Of course, just a few hours ago I was watching the Weather Channel and they HAD to report “A tornado in the Denver area.’ That’s where we’re flying. I’m pretty sure the manufacturer of those big ol’ jet airplanes doesn’t recommend flying them into tornadoes, but hey, what do I know?”Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will be performing from 4 to 5:30 p.m. both today and Sunday in Beaver Creek. For more information call the Beaver Creek Information Center at 845-9090.