The Stone Pony Turns 50: Iconic NJ Music Club Prepares For Anniversary Celebration

A historic concert venue on the oceanfront of Asbury Park known for launching the careers of Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi is celebrating its golden anniversary.

The Stone Pony on North Ocean Avenue in Asbury Park, NJ.

The Stone Pony on North Ocean Avenue in Asbury Park, NJ.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons - Acroterion

The Stone Pony said it will kick off its 50th anniversary celebration on Thursday, Feb. 8, a half-century to the day the music club opened on North Ocean Avenue. The kickoff event starts at 7 p.m. and will include a special set by Lee Mrowicki, an original DJ at the venue.

The anniversary celebration will also include a concert by Asbury Park rock band The Parlor Mob on Friday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. The kickoff weekend wraps up with a "decades of rock" celebration on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m., featuring music from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.

Once a popular restaurant called Mrs. Jay's, owners John "Jack" Roig and Robert "Butch" Pielka converted the building into The Stone Pony in 1974. According to the club's website, Roig said he was inspired to name it The Stone Pony after being with a young woman in October 1973 who was wearing a shirt with small horses on it.

The Stone Pony struggled in its first two years until the Blackberry Booze Band started playing regularly there in December 1974. The band included "Southside Johnny" Lyon, an Ocean Grove native considered a pioneer in New Jersey's rock scene, and Steve Van Zandt, a Middletown native who went on to join Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.

Springsteen, who's from nearby Freehold, grew his career from his appearances at The Stone Pony. He has continued to perform there long after reaching international stardom.

The Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music will host a special 50th-anniversary discussion at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10. Roig, musicians, concert promoters, and other important figures in The Stone Pony's history will share stories and memories about the club.

National acts began arriving in Asbury Park to play at The Stone Pony in the late 70s and 80s. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Elvis Costello, The Ramones, and Blondie are just some of the performers who rocked out there.

The concert hall fell into financial trouble in the 90s, closing and reopening several times. Despite the issues, The Stone Pony continued hosting huge acts like Green Day, Oasis, No Doubt, blink-182, and The Black Eyed Peas.

Jersey City restaurant owner Domenic Santana eventually purchased and renovated The Stone Pony in 2000.  While he sold it in 2003, the upgrades cemented the club's musical legacy and historical impact on the Jersey Shore.

Former governor Christie Todd Whitman was at the rededication of the concert venue in May 2000.

"A visit to The Stone Pony has been considered a pilgrimage to rock and roll fans around the world," Whitman said at the reopening ceremony. "It is a place that is important — not just to us, but to the world."

Charity concerts have also been an important part of The Stone Pony's history, starting with the Jersey Artists for Mankind, who raised money to fight hunger in New Jersey. Jon Bon Jovi also held a benefit concert there to support families after the September 11th terrorist attacks.

The Stone Pony's 50th anniversary celebration will also include special performances by Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes on Friday, Feb. 16, and Saturday, Feb. 17.

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