New Jersey rock royalty was onstage Sunday night in the state’s musical cradle as rocker Jon Bon Jovi brought soulful crooner Southside Johnny Lyon with him into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
The two rockers played a duet at Asbury Park’s Convention Hall, a place where both had performed many times on their way up from Jersey shore local bar bands to worldwide stars. Bon Jovi and Southside collaborated on “I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” backed by the band Kings of Suburbia.
“I am very proud to be from New Jersey,” said Lyon, who is from Neptune and best known for his cover of “We’re Having A Party,” the Sam Cooke standard. “When we started out making music, making records, that was not something you could say. If you tried to play in New York City and you said you were a New Jersey band, they didn’t want you.
“I learned from going to New York and Philadelphia and other places to play that there was an axe to grind,” said Lyon, whose hits also include “Talk To Me” and “Trapped Again.” ”It made me stronger, more aggressive, and I worked my ass off.”
Bon Jovi, a Sayreville native, recalled his days in Asbury Park as a teen rocker playing in clubs where he was too young to legally buy a drink, and credited Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg, a member of Southside’s Asbury Jukes, with showing him the right way to play several soul songs.
“Without Southside Johnny, there never would have been a Jon Bon Jovi,” Bon Jovi said. “I always wanted to be an Asbury Juke,” calling the band’s leader “a friend, a mentor, a bad influence and sometimes a cranky S.O.B.”
Bon Jovi and Southside’s performance came shortly after the induction of The Smithereens, the pop rock band with members from Carteret and Scotch Plains whose hits include “Blood And Roses,” and “A Girl Like You.”
In the performing arts category, Jason Alexander, who grew up in Livingston and played the iconic character George Costanza on “Seinfeld,” was inducted. He called the award “a very unexpected honor.”
“All the honors in my life have been pretty unexpected. Many would say ‘undeserved,’ but the hell with them,” Alexander added.
“This is great for me, but I don’t know what the hell it does for New Jersey,” he said. “This night is proof positive that I was right and my father was wrong when he told me I should become an orthodontist like my cousin Ronnie — not that there’s anything wrong with it.”
In the category of arts and letters, inductees include “Jaws” author Peter Benchley of Pennington, longtime Star-Ledger sports columnist Jerry Izenberg of Neptune, “Game of Thrones” author George R. R. Martin of Bayonne and photographer Timothy White of Fort Lee.
Inductees in the category of enterprise included businessmen J. Fletcher Creamer Sr. of Saddle River, F.M. Kirby II of Harding and Arthur F. Ryan of Newark. They were joined by restaurateur and entrepreneur Tim McLoone of Little Silver, businesswoman Mary Roebling of Trenton, and businesswoman and TV personality Martha Stewart of Nutley, who was previously selected but is being inducted this year.
In the public service category, activist Elizabeth Allen of Hoboken was honored. She was a teachers’ rights advocate, and the first female president of the New Jersey Education Association. Newark physician and professor Victor Parsonnet was also inducted. He’s a cardiac surgeon who helped advance pacemaking.q