Southside Johnny

New Jersey shore icons Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes tour constantly, except when they're recording new music. The singer/harmonica player and his band have a devoted fanbase, which has stuck with them despite the up-and-down commercial fortunes of their albums.

John Lyon was born 50 years ago today in Neptune, N.J. Lyon loved R&B while growing up and played with Bruce Springsteen and Miami Steve Van Zandt in bands such as the Sundance Blues Band and Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom.

Lyon spent some time in Virginia in a group called Studio B before returning to Asbury Park, N.J., to form Southside Johnny and the Kid with Van Zandt. After Van Zandt departed, Lyon sang in the Blackberry Booze Band with Kenny Pentifallo on drums. They soon added a horn section and became the Asbury Jukes, the quintessential R&B/rock bar-band. Van Zandt joined them for a spell before becoming a member of Springsteen's E Street Band.

The Jukes, who include bassist Al Berger, guitarist Billy Rush, and keyboardist Kevin Kavanaugh, became regulars at the Jersey Shore's top music club, the Stone Pony. After Van Zandt hit it big with Springsteen, he helped his former bandmates get a recording contract with Epic.

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes' 1976 debut, I Don't Want to Go Home, featured Ronnie Spector and Lee Dorsey, and became a hit. Springsteen contributed two tracks to the LP, which spawned the popular title track. The following year's This Time It's For Real featured songs by Van Zandt and Springsteen, as well as appearances by the Coasters, the Five Satins, and the Drifters.

The Jukes (1979), including "I'm So Anxious," was written mostly by Lyon and Rush. The band's last LP for Epic was the live Reach Up and Touch the Sky (1981). Chic leader Nile Rodgers contributed to 1983's Trash It Up! on Mirage Records. After Rush left the Jukes, the band issued 1986's At Least We Got Shoes.

Lyon released 1988's Slow Dance without the Jukes, but it was a temporary solo move. Southside Johnny and the Jukes reunited with Van Zandt and Springsteen for 1991's Better Days. Van Zandt produced the LP, which included the single "It's Been a Long Time." The video for the single featured Lyon, Van Zandt and Springsteen. The Best of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes came out a year later.

On December 26, Southside and the Jukes will play New York City's Irving Plaza. They'll ring in the New Year at an appropriate venue: Tradewinds in Sea Bright on the Jersey shore.

"Those were wonderful days," Lyon told Time magazine about the time he spent playing in bands with Springsteen and Van Zandt in his youth. "We were all young and crazy."

Other birthdays: Freddie Cannon, 59; Chris Hillman (Byrds/Flying Burrito Brothers/Desert Rose Band/McGuinn Clark & Hillman), 56; Terry Woods (Pogues), 51; Gary Rossington (Lynyrd Skynyrd/Rossington-Collins Band), 47; Mark Kingsmill (Hoodoo Gurus), 42; Bob Griffin (BoDeans), 39; and Dennis Wilson (Beach Boys), 1944-1983.