It was on Feb. 8, 1974, that the Stone Pony in Asbury Park first opened its doors.

The club was co-founded by Jack Roig and Butch Pielka. Roig says he picked the name because of a woman’s shirt that had a small horse on it. The receipts for the first night, which was held during a snowstorm, were $1.

The club was far from an immediate success and was in danger of closing when a local band, The Blackberry Booze Band, started attracting crowds to the Stone Pony.

The band featured Southside Johnny and Steve Van Zandt and they helped the club establish a reputation for live music.

Another seminal event was a Memorial Day concert by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, which was broadcast over a network of radio stations. It featured guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen and Darlene Love. The concert brought national attention not only to the band, but to the Stone Pony and Asbury Park.

Through the late '70s and early '80s, bigger and bigger acts were drawn to the club, including Sam & Dave and many, many, others including (but certainly not limited to) Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Cheap Trick, Meatloaf, Blondie, and Blue Oyster Cult. Local bands continued to be showcased with Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, Bobby Bandiera and Glen Burtnik, Joe Grushecky, and Gary US Bonds. Of course, Bruce Springsteen and various members of the E Street Band were also known to hop on stage.

The club has experienced some ups and downs, at one time declaring bankruptcy, changing hands, and being shuttered for several years. But since 2000, the Stone Pony has been hosting live music, charity concerts, and special events. The Stone Pony is an undeniable landmark in New Jersey.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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