By Charlie Wuth and Larry Adelman
June 1988 – The very first JSJBF Festival. In order to understand the motivation of the co-founders, which led to the establishment of JSJBF, describing the blues and jazz scene is important. The founders and supporters loved this music and believed in it. They all felt a festival was needed in order to keep our music alive.
Jazz, blues and swing were the styles of music that put Asbury Park and Red Bank on the map since the turn of the 20th century. However, as rock and roll took over the venues, these were seen as stepsisters of Rock and Roll.
The Hudson Clearwater Festival played a key role in helping the JSJBF to get off the ground.
Bob Santelli’s quote summarizes it, saying in Patti Martin’s Asbury Park Press interview, published Sunday June 5, 1988, “It’s time we recognized the wealth of jazz and blues talent we have at the Jersey Shore. It’s always struck me that rock and roll got the press attention and the recognition, while jazz and blues players were left kind of on their own.” He went on to say, “it’s our goal to prove to the public and to the working press, the Jersey Shore blues and jazz scene is alive and well.”
More than 20 bands signed up for this festival, including such notable artists as Ira Brodsky, Sammy Pugh, West Side Blues, Too Tall Tom Dimock and Fresh.
The festival did not have Marine Park as its home yet, so bands played at local blues and jazz venues such as The Old Mill Inn, Jason’s, The Stone Pony, McLoones, and Café Bar. There was only a shoestring budget, so all venues suspended their usual fees, and musicians played for free.
An estimated 2,500 people attended the festival in 1988. The first festival was considered a success, and opened up the door for more festivals and the establishment of the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation for many more successes.