Bobby Strange

Opening For Southside Johnny In The U.K.

Jersey Shore veteran Bobby Strange has landed the opening slot for the Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes U.K. tour. Strange is a singer/songwriter who has been heavily influenced by Southside Johnny prior to and during his career.

During the tour, Strange will spend his off days headlining his own shows. On Southside's dates, fans in the U.K. will get the chance to sample the Jersey Shore's music from a pair of performers who have been a part of the scene for decades.

Strange will kick the shows off, playing his sincere, true-to-life compositions on his acoustic guitar. The artist has consistently been chosen to open up some top-billed shows at the Jersey Shore, including the annual Light of Day concerts that benefit the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. The fact that Strange has been slated to spend more than one week opening up for Southside Johnny comes as no surprise. Strange, a brilliant songwriter in his own right, is a fitting choice to compliment the sounds of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.

Strange, who has recently brought his music to new areas throughout the world, will have the chance to further expose U.K. crowds to his songs. It will be a chance for Strange to showcase his ability to faithful Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes fans.

Chorus and Verse recently asked Strange about what his plans will be during and after the tour.

What portion of the tour will you play? What are your plans for after it concludes?

I'll be opening during the last week of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes' England tour November 21-30. Anything more than ten days at a time and I get homesick. I'll also be headlining my own shows on their off days. The shows include the Robin 2 in Wolver Hampton, the Astoria in London, the Astor Theatre in Deal and the Stables in Milton Keynes. I've played the Stables already this past year. It is a really cool, modern theatre, located where you'd least expect it - in the middle of a sheep pasture in the English countryside.

After the tour, I just get back to the routine of writing for TV and radio projects, which I guess you could call my day job, recording and packing for the next tour!

Do you think you will have the opportunity to jam with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes during the tour?

It's my first time touring solo with Southside, so I'm not sure if I'll be invited on stage with them, but there's definitely plenty of room on the stage during my set. So, Johnny and the guys, you're invited!

Will you tour with a band or solo/acoustic? What can fans expect from you?

This tour is solo acoustic, just me and 'ol Tacky [Takamine]. The fans can expect me to bring everything I've got to stage every night! I'll stumble off the stage totally exhausted after every show!

Do you change your set or the arrangement of your show when you play outside of the U.S.?

When you play outside the U.S., obviously, folks have not seen you before, so I try to plan the show with a little more structure. Stateside, I usually don't use a song list. I usually figure out what I'm going to play as I'm yapping with the crowd between songs. On a tour like this, there are time constraints and you really want to leave the audience with your best stuff.

I try to vary the songs as much as possible. A quote I use when teaching at singer/songwriter school - did I mention that I teach at singer/songwriter school? - goes like this: "One happy, one sad, one fast, one slow, thanks you very much, now it's time to go!"

How have the audiences of England responded to your music? Which of your songs do they respond to more favorably?

This is my fourth tour of England in the past year. So I have a pretty good idea that they really do like our stuff. They especially appreciate the real Americana stuff over there. Ain't nothin' more real than Southside, and while I ain't no Woody Guthrie, I ain't no Brittany Spears either, so we'll do OK!

How did land yourself the slot opening for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes?

You'd think because I'm from the Asbury area, and I actually know some of the guys, I'd have gotten the gig through a Shore connection. Such is life that it doesn't always work that way. In England my reputation precedes me, so I got the gig through my management there; Dave Black at Forward Yo Promotions. I've been doing this a long time, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thrilled. There are certain shows everyone dreams they can get sometime in their career. Corny as it sounds, Southside and the Jukes was that for me.

How significant is the fact that you are opening up for Southside Johnny in terms of your career?

Hey, as you know, the pecking order for Shore rock stars has always been Bruce, Southside, Little Steven, Gary U.S. Bonds and John Eddie. In my case the order just happened to be a little different. For me it was Southside, Gary, Little Steven, Bruce and John Eddie. John Eddie comes in last either way because he's never given me any gigs. By the way, John, if you're reading this, opening for one of your cool West Coast gigs could bump you right to the top of that list.

I can remember where I was the first time I heard "I Don't Wanna Go Home". It was 1976 on WNEW - FM 102.7! Somebody had a radio playing in the stands at one of my freshman baseball games. My buddy, John, was playing first base and I was playing second. John called over and said, "That was a cool song. Who was that?" We found out it was Southside and the Jukes. They immediately became the cool band through the rest of high school! It wasn't a party 'till ya' put "We're Havin A Party" on the record player! Yes, I did say record player!

I'd have to say Southside's version of "Hearts of Stone" was the biggest reason I became a songwriter. So now you know who to blame! I know Bruce wrote that one, but I think on this particular song Johnny's voice made it what it is. Everything about that song killed me. The vocals just bleed soul. Little Steven's guitar solo, one of the sweetest of all time. I just always wanted to write a song like that and I guess I've been trying every since.

I'll end with a funny story. Back in 1985 or '86, I was playing with a Long Island band and we opened for the Jukes at SUNY Stonybrook. It was a homecoming show on the green and the crowd was 10,000 plus. After we did the opening set and got off, Southside's manager asked us to move our ugly truck before Southside was to play. It was located right in back of the stage in full view of the audience. Unfortunately, our roadie was the only one with the keys and he had already taken off for the kegs somewhere out in the ocean of people. Now they are paging him on the PA. He comes hurrying back to move the truck, but in his haste he catches one of the electric lines and rips it from the generator! Remember, this is an outside gig and the entire stage power is coming from two giant generators. Totally without power, the Jukes had to rig up amps from one side of the stage to the other, and half the light show was out. Everything was a big mess! The crew never quite got it all back together and I remember the band struggling with all the stuff feeding back and the light show all screwed up. Well, you get the picture. I found out later talking with Bobby [Bandiera, former Asbury Jukes guitarist] that it was one of his first gigs with the Jukes! After the show there was a fireworks display. We were all backstage watching when I got up the nerve to go over and introduce myself to Southside. So I say, "I'm from Jersey." At that point, after what had happened with the power and all, he just turned to me and said, "Yeah, you and six million other people. Big fucking deal!"

You just gotta love Southside!

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Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.