Class A Member: A Story of the Jersey Shore Music Scene

On Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park, New Jersey, an obscure building remains to this day. It stood empty and boarded up for nearly half a century. The only change in its appearance was the faded and weather-beaten logo of a shoe store that once thrived on the ground floor.
Yet within its walls on the second and third floors, a local legacy had been born years earlier. It remained dormant, frozen in time, content to share the abandoned space with the darkness. Ironically, the legendary destiny awaiting in the future would amount to an enduring testament to what it once was in the past: namely, the epicenter of the Jersey Shore Music Scene and a mirror-image of the so-called music revolution.
The club that would emerge from its opening in the spring of ’68 through ’71 was like a gym in one of those old fight films. Only instead of boxers, it was teeming with musicians and singers in training. The rivalry and competition among them were intense, striving not just to keep up but also surpass. Yet there was respect, regardless of skill level.
Today, a complete face-lift has rendered the site unrecognizable to those who were a part of those glorious days. However, at the top of the building, an elegant stone finial with raised letters now adorns the center. It reads simply:
The Upstage.

 


REVIEWS

Title: Class a Member: A Story of the Jersey Shore Music Scene
Author: Gary Allen Shann
Publisher: XlibrisUS
ISBN: 1664176489
Pages: 392
Genre: Biography & Autobiography / Music
Review by: David Allen
Pacific Book Review
Class A Member: A Story of the Jersey Shore Music Scene, is a factual account of a young man and an entire generation’s coming of age; the book is truly a treasure. Gary Shann’s loving narrative of his teenage years on the Jersey Shore between 1966-1969 will pluck many heartstrings in its tuneful evocation of a period in our history and culture that, thanks to books like this, will never be forgotten.
Shann describes in exquisite detail the glorious and often painful turbulence of the time. This was the era of Vietnam and the era of an avalanche of music and poetry that still resounds in earphones and concert halls today.
What makes Shann’s memoir particularly resonant is his personal experience as a teenager and a young man playing in a rock-n-roll band. Shann’s encyclopedic grasp of the artists, recordings and concert venues of the day make for evocative and bone tingling reading. This is a scholarly work with a heart of gold! Whoever heard of a tribute to rock n roll with 10 pages of references and citations and many more pages of archeologically sound museum-quality photographs and archives? How great!
Shann quotes Springsteen who quotes other musicians before him: You’ve got to pay to play. In both the literal and metaphorical sense! The reader becomes Gary Shann’s roadie, with front and backstage views of the arsenal of amplifiers, guitars and other equipment integral to the sound and success of a venue. Musicians and non-musicians alike will relish Shann’s lifetime romance with the props and essentials of the band experience. Shann’s readers accompany him to the exciting shows at the Upstage Club in Asbury Park and to the brash beginnings of the rock-n-roll cyclone at the Fillmore East. There is a wealth of information and memory in this book; whether you experienced the music first-hand, or only heard about it later, Class A Member keeps you glued to the page.
To his credit, the author never departs from a tone of honesty, true faith, and humility. There is none of the posing and non-essentials that often accompany chronicles of rock-n-roll. This book is a sweet reminiscence of a bold and artistically honest time in our history.

Class A Member: A Story of the Jersey Shore Music Scene
by Gary Allen Shann
Xlibris
book review by Boze Herrington
“When a star is at last discovered by the right people, who then bring with them the resources necessary for success, the results can be staggering.”
The first appearance of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in early 1964 set off a cultural earthquake in America that would reverberate through the rest of the decade. Thousands of young people picked up guitars and started their own bands, dreaming of fame and the glamour of the rock n’ roll life. As teenage consumers grew more sophisticated, the late 1960s witnessed an explosion of complex, experimental music from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, and Led Zeppelin. The simple love songs of the early British Invasion gave way to baroque pop, psychedelia, and heavy metal. But at the same time, American culture and politics were beginning to fracture under the strain of war, assassinations, and racial division. A rift was forming between teens and their parents over the growing aggression, sexuality, and drug use of rock n’ roll.
Shann was a teenager in the 1960s, blessed with an enviable singing voice and eager to join the ranks of great artists. In his book, he proves himself to be a gifted chronicler of the local and national music scene, equipped with an encyclopedic knowledge of the bands of that era and a rare knack for writing warmly and lyrically without being mawkish. His precise, fact-filled observations keep the book from descending into mere sentimental recollections. The book’s scope is broad, incorporating many of the decade’s best African American and female artists. A memoir that doubles as a coming-of-age story, the book movingly charts a young Shann’s growing realization that he’s a musician of only modest talent. The scene where he attends a concert given by a before-he-was-famous Bruce Springsteen is perhaps the saddest and most poignant in the book.
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