The Jersey Shore sound is a genre of rock and roll popularized at the Jersey Shore on the Atlantic Ocean coast of New Jersey, United States.
The Jersey Shore sound evolved from the mixing of pre-Beatles rock and roll, rhythm and blues, doo-wop, and the urban culture of the Mid-Atlantic states, especially Pennsylvania (more specifically Philadelphia), Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and, of course, New Jersey. The form has a strong Italian-American influence, in as much as many of the form's key precursors and artists, from Frankie Valli through Bruce Springsteen, are of Italian ancestry and urban background.
Jersey Shore music shares two thematic elements with its contemporary (and in many respects related) genres of heartland rock and roots rock: a focus on the daily lives of people (in this case, those living in the stereotypically industrial society of Northern and Central Jersey), and a sense of being the underdog (a theme in the genre from The Four Seasons' "Rag Doll", "Walk Like a Man", and "Big Man in Town" and through Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town). The New Jersey sound has also been heavily influenced by Italian accordion music. In the example of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band there are three musicians who are accordion players: organist Danny Federici (now replaced by Charles Giordano), guitarist Nils Lofgren, and pianist Roy Bittan. All three practiced accordion in its classical form and played in their younger years. This music has carried onto the stage and became an integral part of the music that shaped the New Jersey sound. Many piano and keyboard parts have a distinct sound of a call and answer reaction to the lyrics sung. Solidly thrumming guitar lines echo American V-8 engines so beloved by Jersey teenagers of the era. Piano, Hammond organ, and glockenspiel emphasize the melody lines. The glockenspiel sounds were provided by a Jenco Celestette, a unique compact version of the full sized celeste or celesta, that Danny Federici owned. In the E Street Band the keyboard parts are arranged with the glockenspiel and Roy Bittan's top notes on piano being played in unison. This combination is distinctly a New Jersey sound; Springsteen has said the keyboard parts are an extension of the calliope sounds heard on the carousels located on Jersey Shore boardwalks. Danny Federici was instrumental in creating this sound in Springsteen's music. Many New Jersey horn sections have used similar phrasing that the keyboards play. This is evident with the Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes sound. There has been influence from Van Morrison in terms of some song structure and with keyboard parts as well.
There are other characteristics, however, that distinguished the "Jersey Shore" sound from its related genres:
- Danceable - In contrast with Heartland rock, Jersey Shore music lent itself to dancing.
- Instrumentation - Jersey Shore music tended to borrow more keyboard, brass, and horn-based arrangements from its R&B roots than did its related genres. Many bands incorporated horns as a part of the band (rather than sideman attachments), from Clarence Clemons' saxophone in the E Street Band to the full brass and horns sections of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul
- Romanticism - the genre exhibited a broad streak of romanticism, adding outsized emotion to relationships, personal struggles, and life in general.
- Stax Records - The raw, horn-heavy, danceable soul of Stax/Volt records contrasted with the more heavily produced soul of Motown, and was a key precursor to the Jersey Shore sound.
- The Four Seasons - This North Jersey-based rock band, mostly Italian American in ancestry, was among the biggest American bands in pre-Beatles rock and roll.
- Gary U.S. Bonds - Most famous for his 1962 hit "Quarter To Three" (one of seven top-40 hits between 1960 and 1962), Bonds laid down one of the key precepts of the genre: it was fundamentally party music.
- Blues and soul music - In addition to African-American blues and soul musicians, white soul singers like Van Morrison were key influences.
- Bruce Springsteen - While Springsteen and the E Street Band did more than anyone to popularize the genre, Jersey Shore rock is an influence on all of his studio albums, rather than a motif. The elements of the genre appear as accents on songs like "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" (from Born to Run), "Racing in the Street" (from Darkness on the Edge of Town) and "Incident on 57th Street" (from The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle) among many others, mixed heavily with bits and pieces of Van Morrison and Bob Dylan early in his career, and evolving more into Heartland rock later on. But it was in his live performances (captured on innumerable bootlegs and on his Live/1975-85 album), as well as on songs and albums he wrote for other artists ("This Little Girl" by Gary U.S. Bonds, Hearts of Stone by Southside Johnny) that he let his Jersey Shore roots show most frequently.
- The Drifters - Though not exclusively Jersey Shore sound by any means, the Drifters performed Jersey Shore sound music on their hit song, "Under the Boardwalk."
- Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes - Immensely popular in the Mid-Atlantic States and in their native New Jersey, the Jukes never really broke out of the region. Their seminal album was Hearts of Stone.
- Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul - Although Van Zandt's solo career spanned five albums, only the first one - Men Without Women - recorded in a day with members of the Asbury Jukes, The Miami Horns and the E Street Band, The Young Rascals, and other Jersey shore bands, was a classic. Van Zandt's future efforts and live performances without Springsteen failed to live up to the early promise in relation to the "Jersey Shore" sound; however, he produced a number of albums in different styles. Classic Rock magazine rated his 1984 album Voice of America as being musically more viable than Paul Simon's classic Graceland album released two years later, as it creates new sounds and styles with African music instead of merely placing it in his own work. 1986's Freedom-No Compromise and 1989's Revolution were heavily influenced by dance music, while his final solo album, 1999's Born Again Savage was a masterful effort at his first love, garage rock.
- Bon Jovi - although achieving fame through glam metal pop a decade later than the peak of the era, the band is still in the core tradition with evident R&B and heartland rock influences; at the time, they were termed a rediscovery or evolution of the Jersey sound, sometimes the "New" Jersey sound.
- The New Jersey band Salvation played a record 11 summers at the Osprey Hotel, Manasquan, New Jersey, home of the world's longest bar. Salvation had recordings with United Artists and Elektra Records. They played New Jersey nightclubs for more than a decade from 1969-1981. They had a huge cult following regionally and fans packed area nightclubs.
- Sonny Kenn and the Wild Ideas
- The first, the original and still going strong. A legend on the Jersey Shore, credited with the beginning of the Jersey Shore sound.
Other Jersey Shore artists
- Willy DeVille - Mink DeVille - The Willy DeVille bands of the early 1980s exhibited a pure Jersey Shore sound with accordions and a full-throated sax played by Louis Cortelezzi. Critics sometimes compared Mink DeVille's Coup de Grâce (1981) and Where Angels Fear to Tread (1983) to Springsteen and Southside Johnny. Allmusic said about Coup de Grâce, "The band's sound combined with Nitzsche's timeless production style, which combined with that voice to create a purer rock & roll noise than even Springsteen's in 1981." Allmusic said about Where Angels Fear to Tread, "Why (Mink DeVille) didn't catch and George Thorogood and Southside Johnny (briefly) did is a mystery that will be up to '80s historians to figure out."
- The Rest. Early '80s band at The Fast Lane, Asbury Park. John Bongiovi, vocals. Jack Ponti, guitar, vocals. Mick Seeley, keyboards, vocals. Walter, bass. Peter Barnett, drums. Tommy, drums.
- James Deeley and the Valiants
- Part of the second wave of the Jersey Shore scene, late 1980s and early 1990s. Members of the band went on to form other, label-signed bands, to include The Churchills (featuring Ron Haney.)
- John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band
- A long-time staple in Mid-Atlantic bars, Cafferty's band had a brief flash of national stardom with their soundtrack to the movie Eddie and the Cruisers. Their follow-up album, Tough All Over, also had two modest hit singles, the title cut and "C-I-T-Y." (This band was actually based in Rhode Island, although its sound has much in common with the Jersey Shore rockers.)
- Vinnie James
- Raised in Newark, New Jersey and the "inlet" ghetto of Atlantic City his RCA debut, All American Boy, and his 2007 follow-up, Songs for the Long Journey, are both written and produced in the classic Jersey Shore sound. Vinnie James worked with Southside Johnny in pre-production on All American Boy, and provided backing vocals in the studio with Little Steven and Jon Bon Jovi on Jon's first solo album. Vinnie James is the only African-American songwriter in this genre. His first band was called Rumbletown and was named after Pleasantville, New Jersey, a suburb of Atlantic City that was given the nickname "Rumbletown" by the news media, because of the intense race riots there in the mid-1970s.
- Looking Glass
- Glen Burtnik
- From the Jersey Shore, released a pair of records on A&M and then joined Styx. His songs have been covered by artists such as Patty Smyth and Randy Travis. Also was part of Slaves of New Brunswick and toured with The Orchestra.
- John Eddie
- A very popular artist from the Jersey Shore who released albums on Columbia Records and Lost Highways.
- Bobby Bandiera
- Cats on a Smooth Surface
- Holme, popular Jersey Shore band from West Orange, popular in the late 70s/early 80s, of which Bobby Bandiera was a member.
- Garland Jeffreys
- Lance Larson
- The Spartans, The Cahoots, Cold Blast & Steel, The Lord Gunner Group, Lance Larson and Heat - was one of the most popular unsigned acts on the East Coast in the 1970s and 1980s with opening acts including The Smithereens and Jon Bon Jovi and the Wild Ones. Larson's band toured with Sly and the Family Stone and David Johansen. As a composer, Larson rewrote music for Steve Earle's "The Devil's Right Hand" and Jimmy Webb's "Still within the Sound of my Voice". Larson's version would be recorded by Steve Earle and Johnny Cash. Glen Campbell recorded Larson's version of Jimmy Webb's song and in 1988. It would eventually reach number 5 on the US Country singles chart. Larson released three albums - To make a long story short produced by Garry Tallent in the 1990s, Songs for the Soldier in 2008 and Werewolves of London ~ Tribute to Warren Zevon in 2012.
- The Trinity
- a power pop trio formed as a reaction to the Jersey Shore sound, were seen by some in the industry as America's answer to The Jam. They disbanded after touring North America with The Lords of the New Church in 1983.
- Cozy Morley
- The essence of the Jersey Shore, was the original performer to sing the local classic "On The Way To Cape May" as well as many other notable songs.
- Colie Brice
- Former lead singer and guitarist for Phantom's Opera and Gemini, former guitarist for Brian Saint and the Sinners, Geena and Dragster, and Capt. James and the P.A.I.N., currently the owner/operator of AERIA Records in Asbury Park, NJ, and a recording artist with 33 solo releases on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes and other leading digital distribution sites. In 2008 Colie Brice and the New Age Blues Experience won Top Avant-Garde act at the Asbury Park Music Awards.
- The Hesh Inc.
- Singer, songwriter, and keyboard player whose music and lyrics are very influenced by the classic Jersey Shore sound, particularly on his most recent release, Soul In Exile II: Jersey Shore Baby, on AERIA Records; nominated for Top Jersey Roots Act in the 2007 Asbury Music Awards.
- Phantom's Opera
- Formed in 1969 by legendary songwriter and keyboard player Jack Young (aka John Paul Yanoso - died August 2008) Phantom's Opera contributed to NJ's music scene for nearly 40 years. The band had at one time of another included members of Bon Jovi (Alec and Tico), Symphony X (Michael Romeo), Ace Frehley Band, Arcara (Karl Cochran), Prophet (Dean Fasano), Message (Dean Fasano), and Gemini (Colie Brice, Eric Walz). Originally known as a theatrical inspired club band featuring lead vocalist Joe Fog and Lead guitarist Lou Russomanno, the band went on to release four independent albums.
- Mike Rocket
- Singer, songwriter, and leader of Mike Rocket And The Stars who is co-writer of the song "Gotta Get To The Jersey Shore". He is also writer of the following songs: "The Princess of New Jersey", "Hey Bruce", "Hey Bon Jovi" & "Exit 102". Mike has been nominated three times in the Asbury Music Awards.
- The Tides (1967-Present)
- Staple at the Jersey Shore since the late 1960s.
- Sensational Soul Cruisers
- popular 11-man vocal harmony group under the tutelage of sax player Screamin' Steve Barlotta (Gary U.S. Bonds Musical Director 1987-98) While the group has been known as the Soul Cruisers since 1992, the rhythm section was known for many years prior to that, being the band behind Eddie Testa, as "Eddie and the Cruisers". That band and its name inspired the somewhat popular (albeit entirely fictionally based) movie of the same name. Nominated for Top Jersey Roots Act in the 2005 Asbury Music Awards.
- Astronaut Jones
- Singer, songwriter, and guitarist described as having an atypical Jersey Shore sound. He has been featured on the Howard Stern Show for his song parodies and was nominated in the 2007 Asbury Music Awards as Top Male Acoustic Act.
- The Baby Seal Club
- a group part of the shore's second wave
- LaBamba and The Hubcaps
- Hot Romance
- part cover band, part original band. Short lived but highly influential on the Jersey Shore. The band included noted shore blues guitarist/singer Billy Hector and Steel Mill bassist John Luraschi.
- Atlantic City Expressway
- Band originally fronted by Jon Bon Jovi in the late 1970s, this cover band featured a powerhouse horn section which featured Al Chez, currently with the David Letterman Band. Commonly known as ACE, the Expressway was featured primarily at the now-defunct Fast Lane in Asbury Park. Most members of ACE were in their late teens when they broke into the AP music scene. The band was influenced by Springsteen, Asbury Jukes, Stax, Motown, and blue-eyed soul. Currently, the revived EXPRESSWAY, featuring some members of the original band, are playing the Jersey circuit.
- The Gaslight Anthem
- Smiley and the Frowns
- During the 1970s they were a popular party band in the Seaside to Point Pleasant area.