Stone Pony founder Robert “Butch” Pielka, right, died on June 8 after a long illness. Many friends, such as Boccigalupe & the Badboys vocalist-keyboardist Tony Amato, also pictured, pay tribute to the influential soon-to-be Asbury Angel in this week’s Scene Report. Photo courtesy of Tony Amato. Also featured this week are the new ‘Jersey Rock Podcast,’ Jernee Mill, and Blackthorn in New Brunswick.
I got my start as a music writer my junior year of Point Pleasant Beach High School previewing shows at the Stone Pony for the Asbury Park Press Youth Page. That would not have happened without the help and kindness of the club’s DJ/promoter Lee Mrwocki, with whom I still work to this day, and his boss, founding Pony co-owner Butch Pielka. For nearly 30 years, I watched Butch be really hard and tough on people, but for some reason — maybe because I was press — he was always really nice to me, always very accommodating. Maybe it was because he knew I cared about the scene, and the scene — and his stake in it — meant more to him than just money.
I’m sorry to say we lost touch after he lost the Pony, but I’m happy to say that Butch had a massive, enormous influence on the direction of original music in Asbury Park, fostering the Sounds of Asbury Park by paving the way for Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes and the many fantastic original bands who followed their and Bruce Springsteen’s lead, such as The Shots, The Shakes, Cold Blast & Steel, Hot Romance, Lord Gunner Group, Paul Whistler & the Wheels, John Eddie & the Front Street Runners and many more. Without Butch and his partner, Jack Roig, they wouldn’t have had the hopping, happening home-base that the Pony provided. Also, without Butch, there’s no Lee, and without Lee, there’s no me.
Here’s what some close friends also had to say about this Asbury Angel:
Lee Mrwocki, founder of AsburyMusic.com’s “Radio Jersey” and host of “Beyond the Palace” — “There were good times and there were bad times ... and there were the times when Butch would say to me, ‘What are we gonna do now?’
“In all the years that I would bring up an idea to Butch, he never said, ‘No,’ to any of them ... never concerned of what it would cost him ... never hungry for the spotlight ... He knew I had the club’s best interests in mind, as well as helping others in some way. We did countless benefits for people and organizations through the years... and I thank him for never saying, ‘No.’ We were Polack brothers, always checking each other’s watches for the bands to go on or for last call, yellow lights.
“I am saddened, and I know there will be tears ... but glad he is free from the pain and troubles he had. Hey Polack ... keep an eye out on all of us, will ya’?! God bless!”
Tony Pallagrosi, owner-president, UMT Presents Concerts and Events — “He had been dealing with serious health problems for a number of years. Butch and co-owner Jack Roig opened the Pony in 1974, creating a home for Asbury Park musicians that's lasted over 40 years. Thanks Butch, for giving it life because we probably wouldn't be here without you. Rest In Peace ...”
Kyle Brendle, house promoter, Stone Pony — “Rest in peace. May God bless you.
“John Cafferty at the Stone Pony on Saturday, June 23, is dedicated in memory of Robert ‘Butch’ Pielka. Join us as we raise a glass, share a story and enjoy some music. From the heyday with the classic sounds of the Jersey Shore, JC plays the music from ‘Eddie & the Cruisers,’ along with all the Beaver Brown hits and lots of great R&B! Always a great live show. Tickets on sale now at stoneponyonline.com.”
Tracey Story Prince, bartender, Monmouth Park, and formerly the Stone Pony — “I’ll always love you Butch. Him and Jack hired me as a bartender at Ryan’s Club and a cocktail waitress at the Pony when I was 18. He threw me out when I was 17. Fired me three times, once for painting my toenails at the fireplace at the back bar. There are those of us that called him dad: me, Ressa, Lucky, F**kin Billy, Kevin Buell, Jace Smith, my sister, Christie. I waited all year for his birthday parties in June, more than once waking up in his pool naked. We were family, and you will always be missed.”
Eddie Manion, original Jukes saxophonist — “Always good to me! RIP Butch! Thanks for making the Stone Pony our home.”
John DiCapua, Stone Pony sound engineer — “Rest In peace, Butch. Many owe you a debt of gratitude for what you started. Thank you.”
Al-Vis Al, veteran Asbury musician — One of the most iconic and important figures in our local history. Without him and his partner, Jack, Asbury Park likely might have stayed just another seaside town. With him, it became a town whose rock and roll legacy is up there with Memphis, Chicago, NOLA, etc.
“Some of us are proud to be part of that legacy and knew him well, but even those who didn't know or know about him owe him a lot. I think Asbury Park should name at least something after both Jack and Butch, maybe Roig Street or Pielka Way. Who knows how they did it, but they did it best, and for the longest time so far! RIP Butch. It was a great ride!”
Mike Dalton, musician — “Rest easy, Butch Pielka ... Thank you for being so good to me, and for making me feel at home at The Stone Pony. You and Jack Roig really made an impact on me, taught me so much, and I'll never forget what you did for me.”
Lenny DePiano, musician — When I lived in Bradley Beach from the mid ‘80s till about 2000, I was working for Backstreets, IATSE (The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees), and the Stone Pony. Back then, Butch and Jack owned the Pony ... Today it is an amazing venue and — under the management of Kyle — has been kicking ass. But back when Butchy had it? the place was different. Dirtier and more beat up for sure ... but there was a different feel. Today, it's c$rpo$rate owned, which is the reason they can do such amazing outdoor shows. Back then there was no Summer Stage. That land was occupied by Mrs. Jay’s .. .
“Butch was 100 percent accessible if you ever had a problem … Butch lost the Pony I believe because of some IRS bullshit. He then went to The Tides in Neptune, right across the street from the Headliner. I lost touch with pretty much everyone, but I always remembered my days at the Stone Pony with fondness and appreciation. I got to see some amazing bands while on that crew. I stood 8 feet away side stage as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble tore it up. Johnny Winters and, of course, Bruce, Bon Jovi and Southside. Tuesdays with TT Quick, The Nines, Cats on a Smooth Surface ... So many great times ...
“It's been a very long time since I saw Butch, and, quite honestly, I doubt he'd remember who I was ... but I'll always remember him and his dedication to making the Pony the best damn bar in the Northeast ... Rest in peace Butch.”
Tony Amato, Asbury keyboard great of Boccigalupe & the Bad Boys — “The man that kept us all working. RIP Bear. I will miss you.”
According to the Asbury Park Press, Butch is survived by his daughter, Jessica of Ocean Grove, and a granddaughter, Alexis Ackerman. A memorial gathering will be from 4 to 8 p.m. June 21 at Timothy E. Ryan Home for Funerals, 145 St. Catherine Blvd., Toms River. And a funeral mass will be held 10:30 a.m. July 21 at St. Catherine’s in Spring Lake.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made at a future memorial to be announced. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.ryanfuneralhome.com …
Fabulous Jersey Shore blues-rocker Eryn will celebrate her birthday and the release of her “Lady E” EP on June 27 at House of Independents in Asbury Park. Collaborators include Anthony Krizan (Spin Doctors, Lenny Kravitz) and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee David Bryan of Bon Jovi. Speaking of hallowed halls, Eryn is the youngest-ever inductee of the NY/NJ Blues Hall of Fame.
Sharing the bill at House of Independents will be Shady Street Show Band and sought-after session/touring keyboardist Matt Wade in his own set. Other upcoming Eryn performances include June 21 and 28, The Grape Room, Manayunk, Pa.; June 25, Wayward Social, Brooklyn; July 13 and 27, Flagler Beachfront Winery, Flagler Beach, Fla., and Aug. 5, Long Branch Summer Concert Series, West End Park, Long Branch ...
Jersey Shore-based Just 6 Hours have released a lyric video for “One Way Doors,” the Tool-like standout track of their sophomore EP, “Sober.” The burgeoning band already are at work on a second video for the six-song EP, as well as new material to release later this year. Upcoming gigs include June 24, The Wonder Bar, Asbury Park; Aug. 19, Brighton Bar, Long Branch, with Agent Orange, and Aug. 26, Liberty Music Festival, Philadelphia. You also can check out Just 6 Hours in their impressive new EPK: https://madmimi.com/p/28d13c ...
I am honored to be featured in the debut of the new “Jersey Rock Podcast” at www.wrat.com. “The Jersey Rock Podcast” is a weekly online program featuring five NJ acts with interviews, music, and information on upcoming shows and releases. It goes live on wrat.com Monday mornings and simultaneously will be included in the free Jersey Rock E Newsletter, which also features the Jersey Rock Band of the Week and Video of the Week, as well as upcoming events and contests. Subscribe through “Club Rat” at wrat.com. Submissions can be sent to email@example.com.
Jernee Mill are a surprisingly great band from Sayreville named after the road on which they spent many an hour cutting their alt-roots teeth at Starland Ballroom. Their newest single, “Empty Throne,” is available on all major platforms. They recently followed that with a sold-out Straight-To-Vinyl session with Leesta Vall Recordings in Brooklyn, a few copies of which the band still has available. By summer’s end, Jernee Mill expect to release their first LP, which will include the outstanding single “Get Out while You Can.” See them June 21 and 22, Saint Stan’s Carnival, Sayreville; June 23, South Amboy Street; June 28, Red Rock Tap And Grill, Red Bank; June 29, PJ Ryan’s Squared, Jersey City, and Aug. 5, The Ale House, also Sayreville ...
Blackthorn Restaurant and Irish Pub in New Brunswick is presenting its first mural contest for city-based artists. The contest calls for local artists to submit renderings that reflect traditional Irish heritage. They will be accepted in physical format, such as canvas or paper, or a digital PDF or JPEG. Renderings will be showcased on TVs throughout the pub with a designated number for voting. Votes will be accepted at the bar or by management only. The artist who collects the most will paint their mural on a 8-by-5-foot wall space in the main dining room. A plaque will feature the artist’s name, title, and a special recognition.
Submissions will conclude Sept. 1, and voting will take place in-house only until Nov. 22. The winner will be announced and recognized at a Mural Reveal Event and awarded a $500 cash prize. Interested applicants can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Blackthorn events include Jam Band Sessions on Sundays; Beat the Clock trivia on Mondays; Karaoke Night on Tuesdays, including Karaoke Pride Party with DJ Melly Mel on June 26 to benefit the NJ Pride Center in Highland Park; Whiskey, Wine, Cigar Wednesdays, plus Dueling Pianos on June 27; Pong Tournaments on Thursdays, DJ Nights on Fridays, and Live Music Saturdays, including Mike Montrey Band on June 30.
Bob Makin is the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at email@example.com. And like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.