The year the music almost died – The Origin Story

By Charlie Wuth and Larry Adelman

1988 the 1st Annual Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Festival

Did you ever wonder what the blues music scene would be like today if there had never been a Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation? Do you sometimes wonder how it all started? Well, it came up in discussion at a Board meeting two years ago. Rich Skelly was on the JSJBF Board was involved in the early years of the foundation.  The Board also mentioned Bob Santelli and Eileen Chapman. Contact with them had been lost over the years.  

So began a mission to research our origins and gather information regarding the history of JSJBF. A call went out to our Board members, and the search yielded a great deal of fantastic information about the terrific and very successful jazz and blues festivals they organized in the foundation’s early years.

  • Would you believe that the roots of JSJBF lie in the Clearwater Festival at Sandy Hook?
  • Would you believe the foundation had its first festival in 1988?  

The people who developed the festival idea and made it real were Bob Santelli, Eileen Chapman, Tal Farlow and Mel Hood. At that time, Bob was producing music for the Clearwater Festival at Sandy Hook. He and Eileen Chapman arranged for bands to play this ecologically themed festival. Eileen was in charge of organizing the event and was also the treasurer for Clearwater. Bob has since achieved great things in our industry, as he is presently the executive director of the Grammy Museum. Bob was previously the CEO and artistic director of the Experience Music Project in Seattle, and is the executive director of the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University. Eileen’s achievements include her present position as caretaker of the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center of American Music, located at Monmouth University. 

Mel Hood owned Jason’s Jazz and Blues Club in Belmar. He was a strong supporter of jazz and blues, and Jason’s was a locally renowned club dedicated to the genre. The early meetings were held at Jason’s, where the plans for a jazz and blues festival were formulated.

Tal Farlow was an internationally renowned jazz guitarist who lived in Sea Bright and gave jazz lessons to Bob. He fell in love with jazz as a result and felt that jazz and blues were music forms that needed to be kept alive.

JSJBF History is a new feature being added to the newsletter that will appear each month. Its intention is to share with our volunteers, members, and the community its amazing origin and contribution to jazz and blues music, community education, and youth education in the shore area. JSJBF has a 36-year history of providing music festivals, community outreach, education, and youth music programs, beginning with our first festival in 1988.

In spearheading this project, we discovered memorabilia saved by board members. Amazing stuff! We had no idea of the history of JSJBF and how important a role the foundation played in carrying on the legacy of the Asbury Park and Red Bank area musical traditions that began in the early 1900’s, all the way to the present day. We wanted to share this with all who read the newsletter. The history will be presented in written articles as well as in a timeline format focusing on key events throughout the years. Hope you all find this recurring feature interesting and worthwhile!