Asbury Park mourns the man who named The Stone Pony
It's nearly impossible to imagine Asbury Park without The Stone Pony and its equine silhouette logo. Fans and veterans of the city's music scene are remembering the co-founder of the landmark venue and the man responsible for its enduring name.
Wall resident Robert “Butch” Pielka passed away on Saturday after several years of undisclosed health issues. He was 71.
The story is told by the Pony's own website. Pielka and John “Jack” Roig met while working in a club on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. Roig set his sights on Asbury Park and bought a building, which had gone from Mrs. Jay's restaurant to a short-lived disco (The Magic Touch). Pielka helped him transform it and The Stone Pony opened its doors on Feb. 8, 1974.
After years of telling people the club name had come to him in dream, Pielka changed his story in 2014, suggesting a female companion's horse-print shirt had been the real inspiration. Whatever sparked it, The Stone Pony has stuck and is more recognizable than ever. It certainly doesn't hurt that over the decades, Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Van Zandt have been repeat performers on its stage.
Pielka had been dealing with undisclosed health issues for several years. A benefit for him held in April 2011 featured Glen Burtnik, Bobby Bandiera, Lance Larson and drummer Vini 'Mad Dog' Lopez. (By then, the Pony had changed hands a couple of times.) You can see video from the show below.
Pielka is survived by his daughter, Jessica, and a granddaughter. A memorial gathering is set for Thursday, June 21, in Toms River.
Asbury Park music veteran Tony Amato, who fronts the band Boccigalupe & The Badboys, shared his own tribute on Facebook. Along with a throwback photo, Amato wrote of Pielka, "The man that kept us all working." He added, "RIP Bear, I'll miss you."
Proud Jersey Girl Erin Vogt’s first reporting gig involved her Fisher Price tape recorder. As a wife and momma of two kiddies, she firmly believes that life’s too short to drink bad coffee. A fan of the beach, Dave Grohl and karma, in no particular order.