SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Carson Drive is taking the stage at MJ's Restaurant Bar and Grill on Saturday, September 14 for the first in a series of Saturday night music events featuring local bands.
"Recently, when time came to scheduling our music entertainment for the fall/winter, I really wanted to take a refreshed approach to live music specifically at MJ`s Spotswood, as compared to our six other locations," explained MJ's David Lance DeLisa. "My intent this year, unlike prior years, was to better forge relationships with local musicians, specifically whom were either raised, or currently reside, in or near the Spotswood community. When researching homegrown music talent, including questioning guests of MJ`s Spotswood, the band Carson Drive kept appearing and reappearing, time and time again. I personally reached out to the band and their local community profile exactly matched my preferences. Incredibly pleased to be building a lasting relationship with this talented group of professionals."
Carson Drive's name comes from the name of the street where the group practices. The band features Spotswood's Mark Lesniak, Rick Hanley, Helen Radtke, Jerry Daily and Tony Verrilli. Lesniak sings and plays keyboards, guitar and bass while Hanley handles the percussion. Daily also sings and plays lead guitar and bass. Radtke sings, provides background vocals and also plays the acoustic guitar and fiddle. Verrilli sings and plays bass and guitar. All of the band members hail from New Jersey. Hanley lives in Colonia and Daily is an Iselin resident. Radtke calls Metuchen home while Verrilli lives in Middletown.
What kind of music does Carson Drive play? Well, the answer according to the Elizabeth native and longtime borough resident is more along the lines of what the band doesn't.
"We cover everything from the 50's thru today," Lesniak explained. "You'll hear a wide range of songs each set, from Roy Orbison to Bruno Mars and Michael Jackson to Janis Joplin and Heart. There will be a little something for everyone, including some fiddle favorites like the "Devil Went Down To Georgia."
Carson Drive was supposed to have their debut performance at S'woodstock back in June, but Lesniak was sidelined with an unforeseen illness that landed him in the hospital. Lesniak is back and ready to perform and the band has had two performances this summer, but is hoping to make a late summer splash at MJ's on September 14.
"MJ's is where we are hoping to make a huge impact," Lesniak continued. "Management and ourselves have a bit of a vision, on what we can bring to and share with the community of Spotswood. Music and food bring people together and having a local place for both, really can help bring things together."
Lesniak has been a lifelong musician that started when he was a young boy. He vividly recalls how his mother was impacted by the death of Elvis Presley in August of 1977. The following Christmas he asked for a guitar and was on his way to growing his passion for music, a love he passed on to his children, Hannah and Mark. He formed his first band in high school back in the day, but didn't perform until 1990 when he joined a country band called Movin' On. He sang and played with the band for a decade before connecting with Visions.
Lesniak briefly retired from music for about a month in 2014 after the sudden death of a bandmate. He came back from the respite with a local band called Good To Go. Good To Go featured some of the current members of Carson Drive. Lesniak and his bandmates have known one another for years and are good friends as well as talented, hardworking musicians with day jobs.
Carson Drive has a number of local dates coming up in addition to the September 14 show at MJ's. The band will be playing at the American Legion Post #253 for its annual holiday party for the Menlo Park Veterans Home in December and has another MJ's date on tap for November. For more information on Carson Drive, visit the band's website.