SOUTHSIDE JOHNNY LYON
Southside Johnny Lyon is an American singer, harmonica player, and songwriter who usually fronts his band, The Asbury Jukes. His musical roots can be traced back to his youth in Ocean Grove, New Jersey listening to songs on Newark’s WNJR. When he recalls those formative years, John acknowledges that he “had a great teenage life in that I grew up in Asbury Park/Ocean Grove, played in all these bands without the scrutiny of record labels. We did whatever we wanted and found ourselves and learned so much from each other.”
Southside Johnny first achieved prominence in the mid-1970s as the second act to emerge from the Jersey Shore music scene, following Bruce Springsteen. John was a member of the Blackberry Booze Band, which evolved into Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes in 1972. The Jukes’ first album was I Don’t Want to Go Home (1976). The highly popular Hearts of Stone was released in 1978. In all, Southside Johnny has released 27 albums in the four decades of the Jukes’ existence, including the 2005 release, Into the Harbour.
More than 100 musicians can claim to have been members of The Asbury Jukes. In fact, John’s longtime friend Jon Bon Jovi was a member of the Jukes and toured with the band in 1989. Southside has performed with a wide array of musicians during his career, including luminaries Bruce Springsteen, “Miami” Steven Van Zandt and Tom Waits. John always made it a point to pay homage to his musical roots by his collaborations with performers like Lee Dorsey, Ronnie Specter and The Rascal’s Felix Cavaliere.
Having become disillusioned with big record companies sometime back, Southside founded his own record label in 2001 under the name of Leroy Records. He continues to perform with the Asbury Jukes with upcoming shows.
Kim Simmonds has been making music for over 40 years. He founded the legendary British blues band, Savoy Brown, in 1965 and has continued to play and record new music ever since. His worldwide tours have taken him to clubs, arenas, and blues festivals around the globe. He ranks among the all-time greatest guitar players.
Born in 1947 in Newbridge, Wales, Simmonds learned to play guitar at the age of 13. The formation of Savoy Brown in Soho, London established him as part of the hierarchy of white British blues guitarists that included Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Peter Green. Kim Simmonds, who now makes the US his home, continues to grow artistically. On his latest CD, Struck By Lightning, he delights us with a glorious combination of acoustic blues, jazz and folk. Though born in the UK, he continues to enlighten us with a journey through Americana music forms.
While Savoy Brown is still Simmonds’ vehicle to play electric blues and rock, his solo forays have always been all acoustic. When he’s touring, which is a great deal of the time, Kim has been using “my cheap old 12 string for my solo performances.” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And considering the sounds he produces with that old guitar, it ain’t broke. E
Elmore: What are you listening to right now?
Southside Johnny: Bluegrass. I just listened to Alison Krauss—brilliant. Some jazz things, and still blues. R&B and a little rock and roll.
Kim Simmonds: I’ve got the new Eric Burdon record, which I like… I’ve got the Cream BBC Sessions; the new Delbert McClinton… and the new Paul McCartney.
Elmore: What was the first record you ever bought?
SS: Actually, the first records I remember buying were over at CJ’s Record Store in Asbury Park—they would have cutouts for 99 cents. I bought a John Lee Hooker album, a Jimmy Reed album and, I think, a Lightning Hopkins album.
KS: “Twist & Shout” by the Isley Brothers…. I loved the excitement on it —the rawness. I loved the Gospel /Blues-ish hybrid… and on the back was an instrumental version of “Twist & Shout”…and I just loved the drums. I was very young at the time… it was the mixture of Gospel / Blues / Rock.
Elmore: What was the first instrument you played?
SS: Harmonica….that’s it.
KS: The first instrument was the tambourine in the school band (laughs)…and from there right to guitar.
Elmore: What brought you to the instrument you now play?
SS: My brother Tom wanted to be a folk star earlier. He saw Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez brought it out on stage so he went out and bought a harmonica and a guitar. He didn’t buy the bracket, so I stole the harmonica.
KS: I think it was Chuck Berry. I listened to those Chuck Berry records and those were the first records I tried to copy. I loved his guitar playing—because again, it was a hybrid. It was a mixture of country, blues and rock. I’ve always liked those hybrid styles. So I think it was Chuck Berry that brought me in, and then I went from there.
Elmore: Who would you like to write with that you haven’t?
SS: I don’t know. It’s funny when you sit down to collaborate…….there’s a song on this album with Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals. He was in Nashville and he came over and right away we hit it off , and that happens…. Bobby and I can do it, Jeff (Jukes piano player Jeff Kazee) and I have done it a number of times, but there are times you sit down and you say to yourself, “Do I really want to write with…”
KS: That did cross my mind the other day… I think I’d love to sit down with Keith Richards and jam on the guitar together. That would be great! And I’d love to play with B.B. King.
Elmore: Who would you like in your rock and roll heaven band?
SS: I’m happy with the band I got!!
KS: (Laughs) Do they have to be alive—or anyone at all? In my ultimate rock and roll band, of course I’d have Elvis Presley singing, I’d have Willie Dixon on Bass, Ginger Baker on drums, my old friend Bob Hall on piano, Paul Butterfield on harmonica and myself on guitar!
Elmore: What’s your favorite album of all time?
SS: That’s an impossible question to answer. If I had to choose one LP, I guess it would be The Best of Little Walter, a ’50s Chess album from the Chicago harmonica genius. But then I would miss out on all the great soul, rock and roll, bluegrass, classical, jazz………
KS: It would probably have to be Freddie King Sings, because again, he had that mixture of blues and that element of rock & roll in his playing. That energy —the guitar sings like a violin, his voice soars… he’s one of my favorites. It’s got all of the elements there… a great singer, great guitar, great songs, great band, —just the whole thing, a great recording. It’s got everything.
Elmore: Where do you buy your music?
SS: Flea markets, junk stores, yard sales, I’ve been doing that for a long time. I buy some things over the internet now …I’m trying to remember the last thing I bought …..a Billy Boy Arnold song I didn’t have on Vee Jay for 20 bucks…..
KS: I’ll go to Amazon.Com like anybody else. Actually, those last records I told you about, I went into a store and bought them. I still collect some of the old vinyl—I have my vinyl collection. You don’t have to go anyplace esoteric to buy the music, the hardest thing is digging deep and finding the good music… it’s all there on Amazon.com. You don’t have to go to rare record seller…just use your intuition and good sense, and find the good stuff beneath all the other stuff . If you want to buy some Otis Spann records—and you’ve never heard of him before—you just put “Otis Spann” in and you can buy some of his records. In the old days, that wasn’t the case, so you had to go to the rare jazz and blues import stores to get your records. But again, back then there weren’t so many records being made. There’s only ever been so many good records being made—and you have to only go with the good ones… you cannot go across the board. Especially when you’re young, you have to listen to the cream of the crop… To develop taste in music you have to really know what the cream of the crop is… you start there, and use that as a benchmark for everything else.
Elmore: What was the song that made you realize you wanted to be in music?
SS: I used to sing along with the doowop groups on the radio in the early ’60s. All of those sweet romantic ballads and the jive up-tempo stuff really tickled me. Then I heard James Brown sing “Please, Please, Please” and I was hooked. Such emotion! And yet, still cool. Something I will never be. Oh, well.
KS: It was Elvis Presley in the ’50s doing something like “Treat Me Nice”… one of those great songs he would have done back then… a bluesy-type of thing.
Elmore: What musician influenced you most?
SS: My father. He played bass in local jazz bands, and he had a great collection of old 78s from the ’30s and ’40s…jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues. But I think the thing about him that influenced me the most was his love of music…all kinds of music. He would come home from the Post Office, where he worked for 40 years, crack open a can of beer and put on some Count Basie or Louis Armstrong, and sit back and groove. It was a joy to see him so happy. My Mom was the same way. I was very lucky to have such parents.
KS: Freddie King, BB King, Peter Green, Eric Clapton.
Elmore: What’s your desert island CD?
SS: The entire Library of Congress music collection on one CD…and an iPod.
KS: Oh, wow… nowadays it would probably be something like Brahms or Beethoven… I’d want to listen to something totally different if I was stuck! (laughs) But no, really, it would be a Muddy Waters compilation… it would be three or four CDs—all of Muddy Waters stuff!