JSJBF Listens to & Talks with Leon Trent

Leon Trent one of the Legendary Creators of the Sound Of Asbury Park (SOAP)

by Charles Wuth, JSJB Board Member

Leon Trent
Leon Trent

While researching the music heritage of Asbury Park, I talked with a friend of mine (who shall remain anonymous, but his initials are Surfin Sandy Brodsky.) Sandy was raised and lived in this area and had played in bands in clubs on Springwood. So I picked his brain to get his ideas and impressions of what it was like back then. He mentioned a person who is still around from the early pre-riot days. Mr. Leon Trent. “You should give him a call“, my friend said. ” He is still in the scene.” I was very intrigued and found Mr. Trent’s website and phone number. Not knowing what to expect, I called him and we talked.

It was an extreme honor to talk with Mr. Leon Trent, a true gentleman and a kind spirit. You may know his name or have seen it listed on the S.O.A.P Monument, as one of the legendary creators of the SOUND OF ASBURY PARK.

The Birth of the Sound of Asbury Park: The Musical History of Springwood Avenue and the West-Side

Sounds of Asbury Park - SOAP

Leon (he told me to call him Leon instead of Mr. Trent), talked about what it was like being born and raised in the musical environment that existed Asbury Park. He caught the singing “bug” as a young child, like many young African Americans, while listening to gospel music at church and on the radio.

He graduated from Asbury Park High School and still lives here today. He is active musically with his Waterfront Duo with his new partner Mr. Al Torres, who is a much sought after solo performer who still records. Leons’ musical interests cover a wide range of influences, such as Country, R&B, Blues and Jazz. You can listen to his newest drop and purchase it on his website. www.LeonTrentWaterfront.com. Give it a listen.

Leon is also a fellow veteran having served in the US Air Force. He traveled all over the world as part of the military police. His musical interest never waned. After his discharge, Leon returned home and pursued his love of singing with a long time friend Ronnie Coleman, forming the vocal group The Uniques. The group changed their name to The Broadways after recording four releases for MGM records.

He used his incredible voice to sing in front of a kick-ass funky horn band in the 70’s. After several years singing with an R&B vocal group known as The Broadways, he put together an 8 piece band and named it WATERFRONT.

The riots that spread all over the country during the mid-late 60’s also came to Asbury, especially when Dr. King was murdered. These riots unfortunately destroyed many of the legendary clubs. Leon said it became difficult to earn a living and went with his band Waterfront. to Atlantic City Casinos. It was the place to go, to make a living singing and entertaining there which he did for over 26 years.

Leon shared his experience of his young life in the city that was already known as a music mecca. Asbury’s location between NYC and Philly made it a musical ‘pipeline’. The clubs on Springwood became a favorite spot on the touring circuit for jazz, blues and gospel national performers. It was the African-American culture that gave rise to the cities musical heritage. The West Side’s Springwood Avenue was the epicenter of the music in Asbury going as far back as the early 1900’s.

The music of jazz, gospel and rhythm & blues were heard streaming out of the clubs, churches, backyards and porches. It was in this environment that Leon was raised. His interest in becoming a singer began at an early age, inspired by the gospel choruses in the church and on the radio’s gospel station. Leon said “Before the riots, there were many many clubs on Springwood. You could walk down the street and go from club to club. You didn’t need a car. People would get all dressed up to go out on a Saturday night” Leon added “the east and west side were self integrated. A lot of Jersey Shore musical legends at the start of their careers could frequently be seen in West Side Clubs getting a taste of ‘authentic rhythm and blues as well as jazz’.. Some became ‘superstars’ There was not the racial tension, as far as music was concerned like we see today”.

It was very interesting to talk with Leon. I learned to appreciate the role African Americans played in establishing the musical heritage of Asbury Park, which eventually gave rise to its’ rock and roll fame that exists today. We, the members and supporters of the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation are proud to have as our mission to keep jazz and blues music alive.

His recent release, recorded at QUAD Studios in Nashville, Tennessee “GONNA FIND ME AN ANGEL” was originally recorded in 1973 by “The Queen Of Soul” ARETHA FRANKLIN and written by Aretha’s sister, Carolyn. His theme song “The Entertainer”, was originally recorded by Terry Clark.

Audio of Leon singing Gonna Find Me An Angel

Video of Leon Trent Singing Hanging On By A Thread

Check out the following link to see the performance schedules, once we can get out to play again, and to hear and purchase his music. www.LeonTrentWaterfront.com

Thank you, Leon, on behalf of the JSJBF Board and Members for sharing this interesting period of time.