Since the '70s they have established their reputation as the world’s greatest (Jersey) bar band.
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes were the second band after Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band to emerge from the New Jersey shore scene, and though they carried over a significant influence (and some key personnel) from their predecessors, they were a more generic white R&B horn band in the Memphis Stax Records tradition. The group was organized in 1974 by singer John Lyon (b.
December 4, 1948, Neptune, NJ) and guitarist/songwriter "Miami" Steve Van Zandt (b. November 22, 1950, Boston).
Van Zandt decamped for the E Street Band in 1975, but he continued to direct the Jukes, managing them, writing their songs, and producing their records. The original Jukes lineup was: Billy Rush (b.
August 26, 1952) (guitar); Kevin Kavanaugh (b. August 27, 1951) (keyboards); Al Berger (b.
November 8, 1949) (bass); Kenny Pentifallo (b. December 30, 1940) (drums); Carlo Novi (b.
August 7, 1949, Mexico City) (tenor sax); Eddie Manion (b. February 28, 1952) (baritone sax); Tony Palligrosi (b.
May 9, 1954) (trumpet); Ricky Gazda (b. June 18, 1952) (trumpet); and Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg (trombone).
The group signed to Epic Records and released I Don't Want to Go Home (1976), which featured songwriting by Springsteen and cameos by Ronnie Spector and Lee Dorsey. This Time It's for Real (1977) contained more Springsteen tunes and appearances by the Coasters, the Drifters, and the Five Satins.
Critical consensus said that the third album, Hearts of Stone (1978), was the Jukes' peak, but they failed to break through to mass success and were dropped by Epic. Moving to Mercury, they made The Jukes (1979), on which all songwriting was handled by Lyon and Rush, and followed with Love Is a Sacrifice (1980) and the live double-LP Reach Up and Touch the Sky (1981).
Moving to the Atlantic Records subsidiary Mirage, they worked with producer Nile Rodgers on the uncharacteristic Trash It Up! (1983), then returned to form on In the Heat (1984). The group had suffered personnel shifts all along, but the departure of Billy Rush left Lyon to write much of At Least We Got Shoes (1986), after which he made a "solo" album, Slow Dance (1988).
Southside and the Jukes reunited with Springsteen and Van Zandt for Better Days (1991). After a nearly ten year hiatus from the studio, Lyon started his own label, Leroy Records, and released Messin' with the Blues in 2000.
Going to Jukesville followed in 2004. Grapefruit Moon: The Songs of Tom Waits appeared in 2008.
~ William Ruhlmann.