Musician Tony Pallagrosi Keeps Light of Day Winterfest Concerts on Track

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ASBURY PARK, NJ (SBN)—For the 19th year, the Light of Day Foundation will present “Light of Day Winterfest 2019,” a 10-day music festival (Jan. 11-21, 2019), to raise money and awareness for research hoping to defeat Parkinson’s disease and related neurological illnesses “through the awesome power of music,” according to LOD Foundation executive director Tony Pallagrosi.

The Foundation’s mission is to fund research into possible cures, improved treatments and support for patients who suffer from those diseases, their families and their caregivers, to help improve their quality of life.

Pallagrosi, a trumpeter who once played with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, has gone on to a musical career that includes promoting concerts worldwide.

Pallagrosi visited the SBN studios in December to chat about the Light of Day Foundation and the Winterfest concerts.

Tony Pallagrosi, left, and Carlo Novi, toasting the announcement of their new group, "The Main Street Shots," in June 1977 in Asbury Park, NJ. (Steve Lubetkin photo/Asbury Park Press)

Tony Pallagrosi, left, and Carlo Novi, toasting the announcement of their new group, “The Main Street Shots,” in June 1977 in Asbury Park, NJ. (Steve Lubetkin photo/Asbury Park Press)

It was a reunion of sorts: In 1977, when Pallagrosi and musician Carlo Novi were leaving the Asbury Jukes to start a new band called “The Shots,” they approached SBN correspondent Steve Lubetkin, then a music writer for the Asbury Park Press, to break the story. You can download a PDF with the original interview from the Asbury Park Press at the link below.

Asbury Park Press – Main Street Shots 1977-06-28.

Listen to the interview with Pallagrosi and music publicist Randy Alexander in the podcast player below.

In 2018, Light of Day WinterFest raised enough money to catapult its 18-year cumulative total past the $5 million mark. Light of Day WinterFest 2019 is expected to push the 19-year total past $5.5 million. The festival has gained international notoriety for surprise performances by Bruce Springsteen in 11 of its 18 years, including his most recent appearance, in 2015.

Read Full Transcript

Radio Jersey Interview – Light of Day Winter Fest
Tony Palligrossi, executive director, Light of Day Foundation (www.lightofday.org)
Randy Alexander, president, Randex PR (www.randexpr.com)

Steve Lubetkin: The Light of Day Winterfest concert festival returns to the northeast including venues in Montclair, New Jersey, New York City, Philadelphia, and of course, in Asbury Park next month. More than 150 bands are scheduled to perform at dozens of venues in all of those cities.

The 10-day festival takes place January 11-21. It’s being presented by my alma mater, the Asbury Park Press.

The festival is entering its 19th year of raising money and awareness to defeat Parkinson’s Disease related neurological diseases in our lifetime.

Light of Day grew out of a surprise birthday party for Bob Benjamin. Bob was a member of the Asbury Park music scene who got an early diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. He and his friend, musician Tony Palligrossi, used Bob’s birthday party to raise a couple of thousand dollars for Parkinson’s Disease, and that was the beginning of the Light of Day Foundation.

In 2018, Light of Day WinterFest raised enough money to catapult its 18-year cumulative total past the $5 million mark. Light of Day WinterFest 2019 is expected to push the 19-year total past $5.5 million. The festival has gained international notoriety for surprise performances by Bruce Springsteen in 11 of its 18 years, including his most recent appearance, in 2015.

I first met Tony in June 1977, when I was reporting on music for the Asbury Park Press and doing news on the Press’s radio station, WJLK. Tony and Carlo Novi played with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and had decided to leave and start their own band, The Shots. And they decided to break the news by giving me an exclusive on the story. We met to discuss it at an open air bar down the street from the Stone Pony. You can download a copy of my original article about The Shots at State Broadcast News dot com. As luck would have it, Tony was in South Jersey this week doing interviews about the Light of Day Foundation and the Winterfest tour, and he stopped by our studios with Randy Alexander of Randex PR, who is handling PR for Winterfest.

Tony and Randy thanks for being here today to talk about the program. You guys get to say...

Tony Palligrossi: Thank you.

Steve Lubetkin: Thank you it's nice.

Tony Palligrossi: ...for having us. It's great to be here.

Randy Alexander: Steve always a pleasure.

Steve Lubetkin: It's good to see you. So Tony you've had a long journey through the musical world and into this fund nonprofit world. Tell me a little bit. It's been over 40 years since the last time we spoke when you and Carlo Novy were setting up the Main Street Shots, it was called.

Tony Palligrossi: Well yeah it was the Main Street Shots initially, which morphed into just The Shots,.

Steve Lubetkin: Right.

Tony Palligrossi: Then it was Donnie B and the Main Street Shots.

Steve Lubetkin: OK. So. So take me forward from there. Bring me up to date.

Tony Palligrossi: I don't. I was there so I don't really remember it but as far as Light of Day goes, I do remember that. How that started. In 1998 Bob Benjamin who was managing Joe Gruscheki and the House Rockers at the time he was also I think working for had worked for Billboard and worked for Crazy Eddie's. Many a record label called Schoolhouse Records. He was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's. And Bob and I were friends, and a few other friends of mine and his, without him knowing, decided to throw him a birthday party, 38th birthday party, kind of to pick up his spirits, because it was about six months after the diagnosis. And so was gonna, it was gonna be a surprise party, but as most surprise parties go, the the person of honor usually ends up knowing more about it than anyone else. So a couple of days before the party, Bob calls me up and he says, "Tony you know that surprise party you guys are throwing for me at the Downtown in Red Bank?" And I said, "I guess you do." And he said, "Well, why don't you, why don't we, just pass the hat around and collect some money and donate it to the PDF, which was the Parkinson's Disease Foundation in New York City?" And I said, "Great idea, let's do it." And we had a little party and we collected about $2000, and we sent it off to the PDF.

Steve Lubetkin: That's not too shabby for a first effort.

Tony Palligrossi: No it's great. It was great. We're just passing the hat. Bobby Bandiera played. Jon Eddie played, Joe Durso played. And it was in this little bar upstairs in the Downtown, which is actually still there in Red Bank. But that morphed over the last 20 years into over $5 million and 85 events.

Steve Lubetkin: That's amazing. It's unbelievable. How did you get it to grow like that?

Tony Palligrossi: It grew organically. We were just fortunate that we kept having success, and success breeds more success. If something works you go well let's try this and then let's let's let's try it over here. And basically over the last 20 years that's what's happened. And then folks in Europe, folks in Australia, folks in other parts of the country, learned about it, and they call us up and they say, "Well, we'd like to do a Light of Day event, and we'd like to do a Light of Day event, and you have any suggestions? Can you help us?" And we you know we try to allow the people outside of the United States do their own things. You know we'll supply musical artists because there's there's plenty of artists who are willing to donate their time and their talent, their passion, to our cause. And for instance, last night I just picked up a third of the touring, the European touring party, that was over there for three weeks playing in 12 different countries, 16 shows. And they got back, we start Light of Day Winter Fest on January 11th in Montclair New Jersey, January 12th it'll be in Philadelphia, the 13th it's back in Asbury Park, the 15th it will be in Rockland County, the 16th it'll be at the Cutting Room in New York City, and the 17th through the 21st, it's back in Asbury Park for the majority of the events. And then, we actually have a group in Canada that does five or six events a year, Light of Day Canada, and we have a group in Australia, Light of Day Australia, that does three days now. It went from one day to three days in Ocean Grove, Australia. Which is really fascinating, because, first of all, I didn't know Ocean Grove, Australia existed, but Ocean Grove, New Jersey, and Ocean Grove, Australia, were founded by the same group of Methodists.

Steve Lubetkin: Interesting. I lived in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, for a couple of years right out of college because it was convenient to Asbury Park and cheaper.

Tony Palligrossi: And cheaper. And Jessica lived there from the Asbury Park Press.

Steve Lubetkin: OK.

Tony Palligrossi: Did you know Jessica?

Steve Lubetkin: I don't think so. Jessica...?

Tony Palligrossi: It's been a long time.

Steve Lubetkin: OK.

Tony Palligrossi: I remember the first name.

Steve Lubetkin: There were there were a few people from the press who lived in Ocean Grove. We would walk across the bridge and we had to park our cars in Asbury of course Saturday Night Saturday nights because you couldn't you couldn't drive on the streets in Ocean Grove.

Tony Palligrossi: But anyway so these folks from Ocean Grove, Australia, who wanted to do something for Parkinson's, were Googling Parkinson's organizations, and I guess they put in, they were, they were from Ocean Grove, and Ocean Grove, New Jersey, and Jean Mickle, who now works for the Asbury Park Press, who's a board member on the Light of Day Foundation...

Steve Lubetkin: I know Jean...

Tony Palligrossi: ...Popped up and they contacted her. So suddenly...

Steve Lubetkin: There's a connection.

Tony Palligrossi: There's a connection.

Steve Lubetkin: ...like sister cities.

Tony Palligrossi: And then I find out that they are sister cities because they were founded by the same people, which I had no idea. And so since then and that was about there was four years ago, we have Light of Day Australia.

Steve Lubetkin: How hard is it to organize these concerts? The ones overseas, I gather, are done independently, but logistically, how how hard is it to organize the program here in the States?

Tony Palligrossi: Well you know I've been doing it for a long time, so I kind of have it down. But every year, it's, it's trying, in it's particular way that year. We don't have a big staff. Matter of fact, we don't have a staff, we have people that we kind of spot hire to do certain things, and then everything else is done by volunteers. I mean, essentially, you know, I'm a concert promoter. That's been my business for the last 30 years. So this is kind of what I do in my sleep. And we're fortunate that the venues that we deal with, are real venues and they have real staffs of people who know what they're doing. And in Asbury Park of course, it's full of that, you know, all of the venues there are professional venues.

Steve Lubetkin: And they're accustomed to bands in and out.

Tony Palligrossi: Yeah. Yeah. And really everyone that I made sure that we deal with is on the same level. The Outpost in the Burb has been doing shows for 23 years and Montclair, The Cutting Room is a professional venue in New York City, certainly the World Cafe Live is a professional venue doing touring acts all the time. So we know, we're fortunate to have this extended family of pros that make that make it all happen. But the booking is really, the kind of, you know, nightmare coordinating all the bands, not not not making, you know, not slighting people accidentally, making sure that everybody who's been there before has a place, even when you have to take into consideration that things have to change, to stay the same, and a lot of the musicians don't necessarily agree with you, but we work it out.

Steve Lubetkin: Are there any particular bands you want to highlight that are gonna be on the tour this year?

Tony Palligrossi: Yes sure. We have it at the Paramount Theater we have a great lineup, we have Jesse Malin, we have Joe Gruschecki and the House Rockers, we have Willie Nile we have James Maddock we have Jon Eddy and his and his dirty old band, we have Joe Durso and Stone Caravan and we have a great band out of Philadelphia called.

Randy Alexander: Low Cut Connie.

Tony Palligrossi: Right. Low Cut Connie.

Randy Alexander: They have sort of a retro vibey kind of act, they're really hot. You know Dan DeLuca at the Philadelphia Inquirer, hi it's Randy, Dan DeLuca at the Philadelphia Inquirer really high on them, they get a lot of national buzz, they performed on Late Night with Seth Meyers. In fact, you know, they got, they got a pumpin' piano player, sort of like a rowdy retro Jerry Lewis style kind of thing. Adam right now is great yeah. So he leads this band, they're just a fun kind of party-ish band and they've got a great vibe, and I think they'll blend in terrific, and I think the crowd go nuts over them.

Tony Palligrossi: Oh yeah they're gonna be awesome. They've played Light of Day before, but this is their first time at the Paramount Theater.

Steve Lubetkin: What kind of mix of people do you get at the concerts? Is it is it mostly music lovers, or is the Parkinson's community, who may not necessarily know these bands, are they out as well?

Tony Palligrossi: Well the more and more every year there are more there are more people from the Parkinson's community coming to the events, which has been a conscious thing on my part, as the executive director. The music is great, and it's the the awesome power of music, is how we exist, and how we've gotten to the point we've gotten to, certainly having an angel like Bruce Springsteen in our camp has been a wonderful thing.

Steve Lubetkin: That might help you...

Tony Palligrossi: Just a tad...and and his fans who have become Light of Day fans, are very very loyal. But over the years over, the last three or four years, my efforts have gone to, not not obviously you know, distancing us from music, that's impossible, and we're musicians, and we don't want to do that, but we want people to come, not just for the music, we want them to come for the cause. And so, we've been, we've been promoting the cause, and we've been letting people know more and more obviously exactly where their money's going, exactly what we do, and why they're all there in the first place, for that week of Winter Fest, and why they go to Europe, and why people in Canada do it. Why people in Australia are participating. So, so education and promotion has been a big part of what I've been doing for the last three or four years, and hopefully converting people who are simply music fans, who wanted to come and see, you know, X number of days, you know, one hundred and fifty bands. But it's a great deal by the way. Taking those people and turning them into supporters of the cause as well.

Steve Lubetkin: So if people want to take a look at the bands that are playing and maybe buy tickets or make a donation where should they go?

Tony Palligrossi: Well they should go to LightOfDay.org, www.lightofday.org. You can donate there, you can see our schedule there, also you can go to the Light of Day foundation on Facebook. There are hotel deals for the event. Our Paramount show is, for all intents and purposes, sold out. There'll be a handful of tickets we'll be releasing slowly over the next couple of weeks. But maybe there are one hundred left, but we have 44 other events that are going on, plus a free all day event called The Asbury underground. That's going to be happening on Saturday during the day.

Steve Lubetkin: Saturday...?

Tony Palligrossi: On January 19th. Yeah. So if money is an issue you can still participate.

Steve Lubetkin: Is there advice for people who are trying to take in as much of it as possible is there some tips for how to do it?

Tony Palligrossi: Well, hopefully we're going to have an app. There's going to be a program which will list all the venues. Hopefully we'll have an app again like we did last year. So you be able to download that on your phone, and that'll make things a lot easier, but just go to our Website into our Facebook page and familiarize yourself with the schedule and with the the venues. I would suggest some sets, certain shows certainly on Saturday night the Paramount show is the show but there's a great show with a band called The White Band ,which has X members of The Band, and they perform the music of The Band as well as their own original music. That's at the Stone Pony on Saturday the 19th. On Friday the 18th at the Stone Pony, the world's most successful instrumental surf rock band, The Ventures, are headlining, along with America's most unique tribute to the muse and the music of The Beatles, The Weaklings, are supporting, as well as the Black Flamingos, a great surf rock band from Asbury Park. Billy Walton Band, Billy Walton was the lead guitar player in the Asbury Jukes for a number of years, plus a slew of acoustic performers. That's at the Pony on the 18th. We also have Jeffrey Gaines on Saturday the 19th at McClune's supper club.

Randy Alexander: That's a matinee by the way.

Tony Palligrossi: That's at noon, right.

Randy Alexander: Yeah around noon...

Tony Palligrossi: And there are some great shows at the House of Independents on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park. There are kickoff show on Thursday the 17th with Remember Jones with Mark Riblers and members of the Disciples of Soul doing a Who tribute. Williams Honor, a great country rock band from Asbury Park, and Johnny Pie's Rock 'n' Roll Pizzeria, Johnny Pie's Willie Niles' bass player. Then on Friday at the House of Independents, it's Dramarama returning, and Saturday at the House of Independents, it's Quincy Mumford's soul and funk revue with Quincy Mumford and the Reasons Why, along with Colossal Street Jam. So there are events at the Saint, and all throughout Asbury Park. So you've got to check it out here.

Randy Alexander: And he said he did that all from memory by the way.

Steve Lubetkin: It's amazing.

Randy Alexander: He didn't use his cheat sheet. He had it written all up his arm too, he didn't read it.

Steve Lubetkin: I was watching. No he did not look at any notes.

Tony Palligrossi: Nothing up my sleeve. All right.

Steve Lubetkin: It sounds like there's something for everybody. And it's a huge departure, it seems to me, for Asbury Park, from the way it was 40 plus years ago when we first sat on the streets toasting your new group. What's your take on how things have evolved in Asbury over the last couple of decades?

Tony Palligrossi: Well, I had a little something to do with that, because my company...

Steve Lubetkin: Well I hope so!

Tony Palligrossi: Yeah. My company, Concerts East, which I founded with Jerry Bacall back in 1992, pretty much set the tone for contemporary Asbury Park. We reopened Convention Hall and the Paramount Theater with the city of Asbury Park in the mid 90s, which was very important, in terms of the burgeoning alternative music scene, because those venues fit that, particularly Convention Hall. We created the Stone Pony summer stage. We used to call it The Stone Pony Landing. And before that it was called the Stone Pony Big Top, because literally, we put a circus tent on the property next to the Stone Pony, and did shows all year round in the circus tent, for two or three thousand people. And we brought the alternative music scene to Asbury Park, in large part, because we brought the Warped Tour to Asbury Park, which is really the pre-eminent alternative rock festival that actually lasted for almost 20 years which is unheard of.

Steve Lubetkin: My confession is that I never went to the Warped Tour, but my younger daughter lived for the Warped tour.

Tony Palligrossi: That was great was great. Kevin Lyman, who was the creator of the Warped Tour, it was was brilliant. It was just amazing that he could keep it going for 20 years. I think, I don't think there's any other tour that lasted that long like that. But in any event, the alternative music scene kind of set the stage for for the Asbury Park of the 2010s, and from what I see, the development is just going tremendously, the boardwalk is thriving. I mean, when we did that interview 40 years ago, you could pretty much, like our president said, "You could shoot a gun down the beach, but you wouldn't hit anybody." So you definitely wouldn't go to jail.

Steve Lubetkin: No, it's true.

But today, you know, there are hundreds of thousands of people that are going to the beach in Asbury Park every summer. Every business is open on the boardwalk. All of the businesses are open in the downtown area and that thrives all year round, 52 weeks a year.

Randy Alexander: Cookman Avenue is thriving, with all these Arts, Arts boutiques, and stores and things. Restaurants, great restaurants. Beautiful.

Tony Palligrossi: Parking is an issue. It never was before, for all of those years, and it's just great to have to see life come into, come back into Asbury Park and stick. And you know, a lot of, you know, there are a lot of old school people who say, oh we like the old days and all of that while you can't get the old days.

Steve Lubetkin: Yeah, I don't think you want the old days.

Tony Palligrossi: Yeah and I don't think we want it either. I was there. And there's certain aspects of it that were charming, sort of, but it's great what's going on, and the musical community is just thriving. People are coming in from all over the country and moving to Asbury Park. And and for the first time, people are actually creating their music in Asbury Park. So I feel that this is really the beginning of a true music scene. That's a complete music scene. Because in our day, yeah, it was Bruce, it was Southside. And that was it. And we left Asbury Park to record. We left the Asbury Park for our careers.

Steve Lubetkin: There wasn't anything there except the clubs,.

Tony Palligrossi: Except the Pony, yeah. But now people are coming, they're recording, they're making their music, they're writing their music in town, and they're performing it in town, because the venues are just thriving,.

Steve Lubetkin: And the food and the drink, and the atmosphere, the whole vibe is just completely changed.

Tony Palligrossi: Yeah. Yeah well you know it's it's kind of like what Asbury was like in the 50s and in the 60s, except people don't put suits on and dresses to walk the boardwalk.

Steve Lubetkin: I said to my wife almost 40 years ago, as we were driving around Asbury Park, "Man, I wish I had money I could put into land here in Asbury Park, but I'd have to buy it and hold it for about 30 years or more."

Tony Palligrossi: And you were right.

Steve Lubetkin: And I was right. I just, I was just poor.

Tony Palligrossi: And that's what my friend Pat Scavino did.

Steve Lubetkin: Put money into land?

Tony Palligrossi: Yeah. He bought, he ended up buying like 40 houses in Asbury Park that he got for next to nothing. And it almost bankrupted him. But just at the right time it turned around.

Steve Lubetkin: And he's probably a very happy man.

Tony Palligrossi: And he's doing very well. He's a great guy. Nobody deserves it more than him.

Tony Palligrossi: Wonderful Tony great to talk to you again. Great to connect. Randy, thanks for setting it up today.

Randy Alexander: Steve, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Tony Palligrossi: Thanks Steve. Good to see you.

Randy Alexander: And we hope to see you out. We hope to see you out at Winter Fest this year.

Tony Palligrossi: Yeah you're gonna try to come?

Steve Lubetkin: We'll try to come to some of it.

Randy Alexander: Bring Judy.

Randy Alexander: We'll be out there.

Steve Lubetkin: All right.

 


UPDATED 12/30/2018

Fabrizio Fontanelli of the band Mardi Gras contacted SBN after this podcast was released, and told us about the song “One Guitar,” written by Willie Nile and recorded by Mardi Gras. Proceeds from sales of recordings go to the Light of Day Foundation. You can hear the song in the player below.

You can purchase the recording here.

More information about the Foundation and the concert schedule are available on the Light of Day Foundation website.

 

About the Author

Steve Lubetkin
Steve Lubetkin is the news director for StateBroadcastNews.com. Steve’s journalism background includes print and broadcast reporting for NJ news organizations. In May 2019, he began anchoring and reporting for the new weekly podcast, "The CRE News Hour," a news and features program focusing on the commercial real estate industry. From 2014 to 2019 he was New Jersey and Philadelphia editor for GlobeSt.com and filled in covering Chicago/Midwest and Atlanta. He has won numerous awards for his audio and video news reporting from the Garden State Journalists Association, and he has also been recognized for video by the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has produced audio podcasts on CRE topics for the NAR Commercial Division and the CCIM Institute. Steve has also served (from August 2017 to March 2018) as national broadcast news correspondent for CEOReport.com, a news website focused on practical advice for senior executives in small- and medium-sized companies. Steve also reports on-camera and covers conferences for NJSpotlight.com, a public policy news coverage website focused on New Jersey government and industry; and for clients of StateBroadcastNews.com, a division of The Lubetkin Media Companies LLC. Steve has been the computer columnist for the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey, since 1996. Steve is co-author, with Toronto-based podcasting pioneer Donna Papacosta, of the book, The Business of Podcasting: How to Take Your Podcasting Passion from the Personal to the Professional. You can email Steve at steve@statebroadcastnews.com.