Southside Johnny's show goes on
He made a lifelong commitment to be a musician.
By NANCILYNN GATTA
Summertime entertainment usually means outdoor concerts, enjoying the warm weather, and sunshine with family and friends. OK, so Mother Nature hasn't cooperated this year, but hopefully, one of the last weekends of the season will bring it all together when Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes play Morley Pavilion at Mill Creek Park.
If not for some early encouragement, Southside Johnny Lyon would have been working at the post office and playing local bars and clubs on the weekend like his dad did. Instead, the New Jersey native has gathered a diehard legion of fans throughout the world as he enters his third decade of being a performing and recording artist.
"My father, God Bless him said, 'Listen, I worked in the post office to make money. If you're going to be a musician, now is the time. You get caught up in the post office before you know it 10 years will pass and you'll be like me. Don't work in the post office. Go play music," said Lyon.
Lyon worked at the Ocean Grove, New Jersey Post Office for a year. The postmaster there also encouraged him to pursue music. He told the aspiring musician that he could always return to his government job if the music world didn't embrace him.
"It was great support. I always liked money in my pocket. I liked the ability to buy things, but it's not worth giving up your whole life," said Lyon.
Gave up day job
When he decided to be a musician, he didn't want to have one successful song and then return to his day job. He was going to be in it for the long haul.
"The guys I wanted to emulate were BB King and Bill Turner, who spent their entire lives until they keel over dead making music. I was not interested in having hit records in the sense that I didn't want to be a flash in the pan. If I was going to be a musician, I was going to be a lifelong musician," said Lyon.
He learned this credo from fellow Asbury Park area musicians and friends Bruce Springsteen and members of his E Street Band Garry Tallent and Steve Van Zandt.
"As early teenagers, they decided to be musicians. I thought well if they're going to do it. I'm going to do it too," said Lyon.
Along the way, he's created a collection of standard songs such as, "Don't Want to go Home," "Talk to Me," and "Having A Party," seasoned with their signature horn sound that were put out on major labels. Recently, he embraced the independent route by putting out "Going to Jukesville," and "Messing with the Blues," on his own label, Leroy Records.
"It's a lot easier. This way when the money comes in, it comes in to you. You pay your people and if there's any left over you get it. Much more friendly. Nobody's pressuring you to do anything. Nobody's throwing songs at you. There's no executive I have to please. The only person I have to please is myself and hopefully the audience will like it too," said Lyon.
This year, concertgoers turned their backs on exorbitant ticket prices charged by many artists, which resulted in empty seats. With reasonable ticket prices and the party atmosphere that Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes create, they remain a popular concert draw. Lyon views the business side of music in a different light.
"I didn't get in this thing to get rich. I'd love to have millions of dollars, but I never will. After awhile you start settling into this comfortable acceptance of what your life is. I love playing. I love traveling. I love making music. So what could be wrong?" he said.
"It is about getting together and playing and it isn't so much about what number you are on the charts or what your bank account says. It's better for the soul that way. It's not so good for the pocketbook maybe."
No matter the weather, a Southside Johnny and The Ashbury Jukes show is a reprieve from the real world that'll send you home smiling.