Article 1979-04-00 Asbury Park, NJ

Bruce and The All-Stars

Before there was Sparky's Flaw or Dave Matthews Band or even the Skip Castro Band, the first Charlottesville band to gain national attention was a scrappy blues ensemble known simply as the Allstars.

After years of playing seemingly every juke joint and dive bar on the East Coast, they landed a deal with Adelphi Records in 1978 for nationwide distribution of their first album, Tip Your Waitress. By the fall of that year, the hard-driving quintet had drawn the attention of Rolling Stone, who raved of the debut LP, "This leaves no doubt that this crew is just about the best blues band in the southeast."

Evidently the magazine's editors weren't the only ones to get the tip about Tip Your Waitress.

Four months later, in April 1979, the band took the stage at the Fast Lane, a club in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Little did they guess that the town's most famous resident would be in attendance.

"Someone noticed Bruce at the bar, in the dark, drinking some orange liqueur alone," recalls harmonica player Doug Jay.

"We'd worked with a few different musicians from the area, but I'd never met Bruce Springsteen," recalls Allstars bassist Steve Riggs. "I'd never even seen a concert of his."

Guitarist Dick Green was even less a fan.

"I held him in some contempt," Green says, "not having listened to his music enough to get it, and resenting his popularity, contrasted with my own relative obscurity."

During a break between sets, and before the resentful Green could protest, he found himself led over to the bar by a Jersey-based friend who introduced him to Springsteen.

"Somebody must have helped him into his jeans because they laced up in the back," Green recalls, "but he seemed like a nice guy, and I said if he wanted to sit in, just walk up to the stage."

Little did Green know that Springsteen would take him up on his offer, with a little friendly goading from those in attendance.

"By the time we finished, the crowd had detected him and began the 'Bruce, Bruce' chant," he says. "I was walking over to thank him for coming, and as I approached, he took my offered hand, pulled himself out of his seat and said, 'Let's do this.'"

"He didn't have a guitar, so he had to borrow our guitarist, Steve Bliley's, cherry red Gibson," says bassist Riggs. "So he gets up there and starts playing the Chuck Berry song 'Oh, Carol.'"

It didn't take long for Riggs to be won over.

"I was mesmerized," he says. "We had already played with a lot of big names like Muddy Waters, Jimmie Vaughan, B.B. King. This guy was the most engaging showman of them all, and an incredible guitar player. He just created so much energy on that stage."

Or, as Jay puts it, "Needless to say, the crowd went nuts."

Still, Green had yet to be convinced.

"I had assumed that, like Elvis, he wore the guitar but couldn't much play it," says Green. "So when the time came around for solos, I decided to cut him a new one."

To Green's surprise, he had sorely misjudged the superstar.

"We kept trading bars, and I kept playing faster, more tasteless, stuff, and he'd smile and kick them right back at me," says Green. "Then I sank to the lowest plane of guitar playing and started playing behind my head. He looked perplexed. I knew I had him. Except then he hauled that big Gibson up over his head and joined me, note for note, until the blood ran out of our arms, and we had to give up."

After the show, Springsteen hung around to give the band his regards, and then disappeared into the New Jersey darkness as quickly as he had emerged, never to be seen in person by any of the Allstars again.

An online article regarding this gig was published in 2008.
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