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Ladies and Gentlemen, Live From South Jersey…

by Big Daddy Graham

It all started with a casual caller on 94WIP asking me “What were your all-time favorite concerts?” My listeners know how much I love music and many of them also check out my podcast “Big Daddy’s Music Throwdown.”

I was so intrigued by the query that I decided to turn my search into a nightly segment on my WIP show. What I would do is go through my 14,000-song iPod in alphabetical order and when I would come upon an artist or a band that I had seen live I would then discuss that concert on the air.

It turned out to be 841 concerts. Now many of these artists I have seen multiple times—Bruce Springsteen (75 times), The Who (31 times)—but I have also gone to many concerts where I do not have a single song by that artist on my iPod, so the number would actually be higher.

When I had seen an act more than once, I picked the one show of theirs that I loved the most and mark it with where I saw them and the exact date when I could find it. The whole segment was a lot of fun and you can check out the Top 20 at

For this article, I am going to spotlight the South Jersey venues in alphabetical order, leaving Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore out of the mix.

The Who, Blockbuster-Sony Music Entertainment Centre, Camden (Aug. 6, 1997)
This venue may have changed names a few times since, but the memories of this special night remain. The Who was the first rock band I ever saw. I was 13 and my older brother took me to see them at the original Electric Factory in 1968. It was a life changing experience. Before I walked in all I cared about was sports and girls and after the show, I had to add music to those loves. They were so loud, so violent, so much fun, that after the show I ran up 22nd Street heading towards the trolley stop like I had been shot out of a cannon. I knew from that moment on that I had to find a way to get up on a stage. I saw them about 25 times and then Keith Moon died. He was not only the greatest drummer who ever lived, he was certifiably insane. To see The Who without him was blasphemy to me. So I stopped going to see them for 20 years. Then a friend of mine called me with an extra ticket and wouldn’t stop hounding me until I went. Boy, was I glad I did. Pete Townshend was at his wind milling best, John Entwistle’s bass playing was fluid and exciting and Roger Daltrey’s voice stole the show with “Love Reign O’er Me.” I haven’t missed them since. I was in the Wells Fargo Center on March 14 of this year and although they weren’t what they used to be, I still enjoyed the hell out of the show. As for the venue now known as BB&T Center, I’m not nuts about the lawn, but if you get a seat anywhere under the roof, you’re good as gold.

Jerry Lee Lewis at The Broadway Theatre, Pitman (June 3, 1983)
I love this venue so much that I once wrote an entire feature on The Broadway for this magazine. This grand theater opened in 1926 and the likes of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and George Burns once performed there. Later on it became a popular venue for country artists and comics. (It was one of George Carlin’s favorite places to perform.) However, this Jerry Lee Lewis show was a complete disaster. He used an unrehearsed local band and songs would awkwardly start and clumsily finish. He maybe did 35 minutes, introduced his fifth wife (who was in the audience) and left the stage. The wife was mysteriously dead in a couple months. I saw him again twice and he was awesome the second time and really old and bizarre the third, but this is the show I choose to remember. And now I perform at this legendary theater.

Leon Russell at the Cherry Hill Arena (Oct. 23, 1971)
This was the only time I was ever in this long-gone venue that was known as the “Ice House.” In ’71, there’s a good chance I might have been drunk for this one because my only memory of this arena was that it was dark and damp. Guess it was the ice or the Pabst.

The Mavericks & Lucinda Williams at Cooper River Park, Pennsauken (Sept. 26, 1999)
Like most outdoor venues, it’s a beautiful place to experience a show if the weather cooperates which it did for this one as well as the night I opened up for Chubby Checker. Now as we all know, Cooper River is under major construction, so many of the shows that are usually put on here are being farmed out to various parks this summer.

The Pretenders at Emerald City, Cherry Hill (March 22, 1980)
Their first time in the area and guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon were still alive. What an amazing night, and the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Chrissie Hynde. This cool building was once the infamous Latin Casino before it morphed into Emerald City; a disco which then transformed itself again into a hip rock club from about ’78 to ’83. I saw the Talking Heads, the B-52’s, George Thorogood as well as many others during this time period. As for the Latin Casino, I only went there once (Lily Tomlin & the Manhattan Transfer) and didn’t dig that whole “tip the maître’ d” bit. Come to think of it, no one else did either, since that type of nightclub has virtually vanished.

The Temptations at Scottish Rite Auditorium, Collingswood (March 6, 2011)
Before I get into the show itself, I must shout this from the highest rooftop. You absolutely MUST see a show here. The design of the auditorium is so unique, and every one of its 1,000 seats is right on top of the action. There are endless nooks and crannies everywhere you look with big comfy chairs and suits of armor and supposedly even ghosts. The dressing rooms have barber chairs. I have worked with Al Jarreau, Robert Klein, Southside Johnny, Dave Mason and many others there. As for this Temptations show, I went in jaded knowing that Otis Williams was the only original member left and I could not have been more wrong. They were sensational and Otis (who I got to rap with for close to a half hour) runs a very tight ship and two of their lead singers have been with them for over 25 years. Again, let me repeat, you must see a show here at least once.

I did not get around to mentioning the Dennis Flyer Theater, Washington Township High School’s Performing Arts Center, Wiggins Park, the Grange in Mullica Hill and many others, but the important takeaway is to go out and support live music!

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 1 (April, 2016).
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