Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, January 17 2019

To hear the man tell it, “Longevity is a benchmark of greatness” — and given that the speaker is Tony Pallagrosi, the words are no mere fridge-magnet platitude. After all, this is the veteran music scene mover ‘n shaker whose unimpeachable cred extends from his days as one of the cats in the band (The Shots, The Asbury Jukes), to host of some much-missed Shore nightspots (The FastLane, Xanadu), to co-founder of major concert venues and promotion entities (Starland Ballroom, Concerts East), to manager of The Weeklings — and quite possibly all the way to “the other side,” thanks to Asbury Angels, the musical memorial initiative that he chairs.

Pallagrosi, however, isn’t referring to himself, or to any of those aforementioned feathers in his cap, but to the endeavor that may ultimately stand as his most lasting legacy: Light of Day, the music-driven fundraising vehicle that’s  illuminated some of the darkest winter days and nights in this City of Summers for well nigh two decades.

Co-founded by Pallagrosi with music promo/ management pro Bob Benjamin as an awareness resource for Parkinson’s Disease research — and inspired by Benjamin’s own diagnosis with the disorder — the annual slate of star-studded happenings grew out of a 40th birthday party for Bob at the Stone Pony; taking its name from the Springsteen soundtrack song “Just Around the Corner to the Light of Day” on its way to becoming a sprawling affair that’s spanned several continents, major North American cities and additional satellite events throughout the calendar year.

Of course, along the way Light of Day became indelibly identified with the stamp of Benjamin’s long-time friend Bruce Springsteen — not just via the organization’s name, but in the very real presence of The Boss as an onstage participant and de facto ringmaster for the majority of those all-star Bob’s Birthday concerts. As an undeniable draw (and a focal point for some tantalizing will-he-or-won’t-he buzz each year), the Bard of the boardwalk has generously shared the stage with a core cast of frequent-flyer performers (including Joe Grushecky, Willie Nile, and Steve Forbert), as well as drop-in guest stars that have ranged from Southside Johnny, Darlene Love and Gary US Bonds, to Light of Day movie star (plus high-profile person with Parkinson’s) Michael J. Fox, and  The Sopranos’ Vincent Pastore.

While the nonprofit Light of Day Foundation is a year-round entity upon which the sun never sets, the heart and soul of the positively charged enterprise remains LOD Winterfest, the mid-January jamboree of activity that commandeers the stages, storefronts and saloons of Asbury Park during the post-holiday “off season” interlude when most other Shore towns are deep into a long winter’s nap. Having offered up a couple of preliminary pace-setter events on January 13 (see the feature on Bob Burger in last week’s Coaster), the circus comes to town in full force for a long weekend that begins tonight, January 17, with a choice of tuneful entertainments that includes a “Hall of Fame Jam” featuring veteran Bruce drummer Vini Lopez (Langosta Lounge), a special edition of Sandy Mack’s Wonder Jam at the Wonder Bar, and an official kickoff concert at downtown’s House of Independents that spotlights such next-gen talents as Williams Honor and Anthony “Remember Jones” D’Amato.

“No other town this small has such a vibrant music scene,” says Pallagrosi. “And at the end of the day, I want everyone involved.”

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Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, September 13 2018

We’ve said it before in this space, but if there ever was such a thing as a Mount Rushmore of Honorary Shorecats… those “veteran rockers whose wall-of-sound work ethic has allowed them to make themselves entirely at home among the stars and bars of the Jersey Shore, despite being rooted in other states/ other scenes”…then surely the chiseled features of Mr. John Eddie would be right up there alongside the likes of Pittsburgh pirate Joe Grushecky, New England patriot John Cafferty, and New York giant Willie Nile.

Of course, the singer, songwriter, bandleader, ace live entertainer and self-described apostle of “Dad humor” is much too humble to be “taken for granite” as some sort of living-legend local monument — but when John Eddie returns once more with his Dirty Ol’ Band to the stage of the Wonder Bar this Friday, September 14, he’ll be coming up the coast in direct and defiant competition with a front of potentially wild weather; the unspoken challenge being who can best blow the roof off the joint.

“I commute just about every weekend to Jersey, and I’ve got the routine pretty much down,” says the native Virginian who’s made his home base in Nashville for much of the new century — and whose ownership of a house in Highlands keeps him keenly aware of the more delicate points of life on the coastal frontline.

“I have very rarely missed a gig; maybe once or twice with a snowstorm…I pride myself in making sure the show goes on, but when you come up against the power of nature, everything else takes a back seat!”

To say that the Grand Ole Opry-to-Garden State route is a well-trodden one is hardly an exaggeration for the “Front Street Runner” who emerged out of South Jersey in the early 80s; quickly staking a claim to fervent fanbases up and down the NJ Turnpike corridor — and getting himself signed to Bruce Springsteen’s record label in the process. While the 1986 John Eddie album (and its Gary Glitter-ish stomper of a single, “Jungle Boy”) won him some decent airplay, MTV exposure, and prime opening spots for Bob Seger and The Bangles, the follow-up Columbia LP saw a set of potentially strong songs thwarted by 80s-era production values — and a move to Elektra Records yielded little more than an unreleased third album and a lot of litigation; a fate that might have dispatched a less focused musician to a bitter post-stardom career as that “mean old cop in the Burger King lot.”

“The Elektra debacle just hit me at a time that knocked me for a loop,” says Eddie of what would become a prolonged absence from the recording studio — an interval during which the graduate of the music-biz mangler machine hunkered down and honed his room-rocking craft to a diamond-stylus point inside the working-dude clubs, casino lounges, and blues-brews-BBQs bars of an ever-expanding territory.

“I figured out pretty early on…and this was way before things like GoFundMe and Kickstarter…that my entire career could be fan-funded,” he explains. “I found people, fans, musicians who believed in me, and who really gave me the confidence to keep it going.”

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