BELMAR, NJ — Bruce Springsteen may have put Belmar’s E Street on the rock ’n’ roll roadmap, but the borough is long known for its deep-rooted musical history that spans a multitude of genres.
In its current exhibit at the municipal building, the Belmar Historical Society (BHS) pays tribute to those musical artists — past and present — who call Belmar home or have brought their talents to this shore community.
“The history of Belmar music records artists and bands that have entertained and inspired, and not just locally. The sound waves have gone from within its borders to beyond,” BHS president Spencer Heulitt said. “Viewing this display will help you appreciate why Belmar is so proud of its musical history.”
Although the exhibit is a small sampling of the musical talent associated with Belmar over the years, it is a diverse collection of photos, news clippings, performance programs and other memorabilia that dates back to the early 1900s. That was when the St. Rose boys band wowed the crowd at the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade and was considered one of the best to perform in the event. Another highlight of that time includes a visit by the late composer George Gershwin, who brought an entourage of well-known artists and actors to Belmar's Atlantic Hotel to vacation at the Jersey Shore.
During the 1950s, Trudi Benton, aka “the Boardwalk Belle,” led community singalongs at the 13th Avenue pavilion. In August 1965, Sonny and the Starfires, a group of Belmar musicians led by Jersey Shore guitar legend Sonny Kenn, opened for Jerry Lee Lewis who was performing nearby in Eatontown.
Fast-forward to more current times, the American Wind Symphony Orchestra performed in 1986 on the Shark River aboard the Point Counterpoint II to the delight of Belmar residents.
The exhibit also spotlights an eclectic array of current local favorites, such as singer/songwriter and St. Rose graduate Nicole Atkins, John Luckenbill Pops Band, Kenny “Stringbean” Sorensen and the Stalkers, Pat Roddy Band, Paul Marino Band and the beloved Belmar Elementary School Band.
And of course, no Belmar display on its musical history would be complete without a photo circa 1973 of Bruce Springsteen and the original E Street Band, including Belmar’s own David Sancious. It was at his mother’s home on E Street, where the band practiced in the garage during its early days. There also is an outdoor guitar tribute to Springsteen at the Belmar Public Library on the corner of 10th Avenue and E Street.
The BHS exhibit can be seen during regular business hours in the Sixth Avenue lobby of the Belmar Municipal Building, 601 Main Street.
An all-volunteer, nonprofit organization, BHS welcomes donations of Belmar memorabilia to add to its historical archives at its museum, located at 900 E Street in the annex of the Union Firehouse.
The Belmar museum is open to the public every Monday from 2 to 4 p.m., every Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon, and the second Saturday of each month from 1 to 3 p.m., or by appointment.
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