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John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band LIVE! in Somers Point, NJ

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

From the swing era through the early 1980s, the Tony Mart Café in Somers Point, NJ was a premier destination for experiencing live music performed by such legendary artists as Bill Haley and his Comets, Del Shannon, Joey Dee and the Starliters, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, and many more. The fictional band, Eddie and the Cruisers, can even be seen performing on the club’s hallowed stage in the 1983 MGM motion picture which was filmed on location at the fabled Jersey Shore music venue.

Fast forward nearly four decades to Friday, September 2, 2022 where the real-life musicians behind the sound of Eddie and the Cruisers are here at William Morris Beach in Somers Point to continue Tony Mart’s musical legacy with a free Concert on the Beach by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band.

Following a soundcheck in which early-arriving music lovers are treated to a sneak peek of several new John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band compositions, show producer Carmen Marotta welcomes the crowd to tonight’s performance and thanks the city of Somers Point for its help producing the town’s 29th year of Concerts on the Beach.

Marotta reminds the audience about how, 40 years ago, his sister’s “princess phone rang” and a voice said “We want to make a movie!” to be filmed at his dad’s club, the Tony Mart Café. Marotta also reveals that there are three performers from Eddie and the Cruisers who are here for this evening’s event — actor David Patrick Wilson who played the Cruiser’s drummer, Kenny; musician Michael “Tunes” Antunes, who was cast as Wendell, the band’s saxophonist; and Marotta, himself, who portrayed a bartender in the motion picture which, over the years, has gone on to achieve cult status.

The audience cheers as Marotta introduces John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band — Gary “Guitar” Gramolini on lead guitar, John Cafferty on rhythm guitar/vocals, Don “DC” Culp on drums, Dean Cassell on bass, Michael “Tunes” Antunes on saxophone, and Richard McMahon on keyboards.

The band takes the stage and Cafferty takes a look out at the large crowd and exclaims, “Hey! How are you guys doing? I can’t believe you guys!”

Cafferty and the band rock the beach on their opening number, “Tough All Over.” In his bluesy voice, Cafferty’s croons “Well, all over and all over/Things are tough all over” on this driving rocker before Michael “Tunes” Antunes wails a saxophone solo that gets people tapping along to the beat.

Music lovers cheer when they recognize the keyboard intro to “On The Dark Side,” the first of several selections from the Eddie and the Crusiers soundtrack. The years melt away as Cafferty sings, “The dark side’s coming now, nothing is real/She’ll never know just how I feel” before the crowd happily joins in singing the memorable “On the dark side, oh yeah” refrain. Audience members clap overhead to the driving beat and concertgoers dance in the sand before reacting with avid cheers and applause.

Cafferty declares, “Turn on the heat!” and the group launches into the rockin’ “Heat of the Night” which features a soulful “Tunes” Antunes sax solo. The band follows up with a cover version of Dion’s “Runaround Sue” where Cafferty jokingly changes the lyric on the intro to “She took my love and ran around/With all the guys in Beaver Brown.” After Cafferty inquires, “Are you ready” and “Are you willing?” he and the band pick up the tempo and launch into the “I should have known it from the very start” verse before the audience happily joins singing on the well-known “Keep away from Runaround Sue” refrain.

“What a beautiful evening this is!” exclaims Cafferty as he and the band launch into a slow and sensual rendition of The Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk” before segueing into the Eddie and the Cruisers’ rock ballad,Boardwalk Angel.”

As Cafferty cries, “So meet me out on the boardwalk tonight/Meet me down by the sea/We can dance in the carnival lights/On the shores of Jersey,” music lovers enjoy the perfect soundtrack to a summer’s eve in Somers Point.

The extended instrumental intro to the funky “Runnin’ Through the Fire” has the crowd clapping as Cafferty and Gary “Guitar” Gramolini engage in a heated guitar duel. Antunes ’ sax and Richard McMahon’s keys add their unique voices to the intricate mix of musical sounds emanating from the stage as the songs’ driving beat sets the beach on fire.

After inquiring, “Do you want to dance?” Cafferty and Co. perform two additional cuts from the Eddie and the Cruisers soundtrack — The Rolling Stones-inspired “Down on My Knees” and the 1958 Chuck Willis rocker, “Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes,” where mid-song, Cafferty tells the crowd about a conversation he recently had with his buddies who can’t believe he still plays in a rock and roll band at the age of 71.

Getting the crowd clapping to the beat, Cafferty contends, “If you’re looking for some action, you must come to Tony Mart’s!” Here, a twangy guitar introduces the rockin’ “Where the Action Is.” Cafferty quotes Martha Reeves and The Vandellas declaring, “Summer’s here and the time is right!” prior to segueing into another Eddie and the Cruisers’ number, “Wild Summer Nights.” Music lovers on the beach happily sing along on the “Wild summer nights” chorus before stopping to cheer for Cafferty and his high-energy band.

Cafferty and Antunes dance onstage while playing the lively shuffle, “Some Like It Hot,” which has audience members singing along on the “Some like it hot!” refrain before erupting in cheers and applause. Referring to the pandemic, Cafferty recounts, “It’s just unbelievable thinking where we’ve been the past few years and how tonight we’re under this blue sky with the moon rising. It’s taught us to think of all those we’ve lost and live our lives the way they would want us to.” Here, Cafferty and Co. perform the mystical “Blue Moonlight Drive” where Cafferty’s electric guitar and Antune’s sax play a melody solo in unison.

Concertgoers recognize the wailing sax intro to the Eddie and the Cruisers classic rock ballad, “Tender Years.” After Cafferty croons the song’s “A summer love, a beach romance” verse, the crowd joins in singing on the wistful “Whoa-oh-oh tender years/Won’t you wash away my tears” chorus before Richard McMahon perfectly recreates the music box-sounding keyboard coda.

The crowd whistles and applauds and the group begins to play a slow, rubato snippet of John Sebastian and the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” before Cafferty switches gears and announces, “Somers Point! Are you ready? Do you want to dance?” Here, audience members stand and dance beside the bay to Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band’s high-energy Top 20 hit from 1985, “C-I-T-Y.”

Cafferty introduces the members of the group, music lovers stand and applaud, and Cafferty responds, “Thank you so much! We had a ball!” Explaining, “We did a song for the movie, Rocky IV, and it goes like this,” for an encore, he and the musicians perform their anthemic rocker, “Heart’s On Fire.”

As the sky in the west begins to turn pink and dust purple, Cafferty and the band conclude tonight’s show with an encore of Cafferty’s “Voice of America’s Sons.” Following the catchy “Turn the radio on” chorus, music lovers bop to the rhythmic rocker, and the band plays an extended ending where Antunes’ sax rocks high and low following Cafferty’s lead, eliciting a standing ovation filled with enthusiastic hoots and hollers.

While the crowd continues to cheer and applaud, Marotta exclaims, “Ladies and gentlemen, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band! They belong to us! They’re a part of our musical legacy!”

As music lovers ready themselves for a second set of music by The Tony Mart Allstars band, we chat with several concertgoers on the beach who share their thoughts on tonight’s performance by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band.

Remarks Bob from Somers Point, “John Cafferty was absolutely excellent, and his band is so tight.” Recalling, “In the early ’80s, I used to go to Tony Mart’s, where they had great live bands playing all kinds of music,” Bob asserts, “Producer Carmen Marotta has done a really great job of carrying on the Tony Mart tradition here in Somers Point,” pointing out, “Just look at this crowd — there are people here tonight from all over!”

Mary Jane from Ventnor concurs, adding, “I went to Tony Mart’s, too,” before describing tonight’s show by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band as “Awesome!” and explaining, “For me, getting to see Michael ‘Tunes’ Antunes playing the sax was the best part!” Barbara from Egg Harbor Twp. agrees, exclaiming, “Tonight’s show was just great! It made me relive being 21 again!”

Meredith from Northfield calls John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band’s concert tonight “Fantastic!” acknowledging, “I’m here for all of the Friday night concerts on the beach with my daughter and we always have a great time together.” Her daughter, Mia, 9, concurs, declaring, “My favorite part was the drums!” explaining, “My friends and I were running around to the beat and we were swaying and clapping, too. It was pretty cool!”

Mike from Somers Point insists, “John Cafferty’s show tonight was great! As a performer, I’d put him right up there with Mick Jagger. At 71, he’s still got it — his voice is still amazing — and from the moment he came out on stage, he didn’t hold back for a second.”

Lastly, we chat with Harold from Linwood who contends, “John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band sounded absolutely great tonight!” Recalling, “I watched the movie, Eddie and the Cruisers, at least ten times or more,” Harold admits, “I come to these concerts every week. The beach here at Somers Point is a perfect venue for a concert. It’s beautiful, and it’s free,” before concluding, “How could you possibly beat that?”

To learn more about John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, please go to johncafferty.com. To learn more about future free Concerts on the Beach in Somers Point, NJ please click on somerspointbeachconcerts.com.

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