Asbury Park’s Black music history being rediscovered

In Asbury Park, music fans come from around the world to see the sights and venues made famous by Bruce Springsteen and the musicians who came of age in the ’60s and ’70s.

But on the West Side of Asbury Park, an African-American musical and cultural legacy was all but lost.

It’s now being rediscovered.

The hope by residents is that the new interest in the former music and cultural scene on Springwood Avenue, and the stirrings of new music there, will generate the interest of residents and out-of-towners alike.

“Young people in the community, they don’t really understand the history of their hometown,” said city resident Nina Summerlin of the city’s West Side Citizens United group.  “We’re talking for 50 years there’s been nothing on Springwood Avenue. Our kids don’t understand what used to be there. As long as I’ve been growing up, there’s never been anything there.”

Reclaiming history

The Asbury Park vocal group the Vibes in 1956, left to right,  Bobby Thomas, Lenny Welch, Joe Major and William Penha.

In the past two years or so, community groups have organized with the mission of reclaiming the West Side’s history. Cultural landmarks are being recognized, and Springwood Avenue Park hosts weekly concerts in the summertime.

In the shell of the former Turf Club at 1200 Springwood, the last remaining club on the strip, the Asbury Park African-American Music Project is seeking to renovate the venue, partly with revenue from their “Tuesday at the Turf” summer series.