Asbury Park’s Springwood Avenue Harmony: Celebrating The West Side’s Unique Musical Legacy

Long before Asbury Park became known for rock music, the city’s African American community rocked on Springwood Avenue. Between 1910 and 1970, the city’s West Side pioneered the sounds of jazz, gospel and rhythm & blues. The Asbury Park Historical Society and Classic Urban Harmony LLC, in connection with the Light of Day Foundation and Monmouth University’s Center for the Arts, have assembled a gallery exhibit that highlights Asbury Park’s black music scene from Count Basie to Billy Brown.
1957 Asbury Park R&B vocal group, the Vibes, featuring Bobby Thomas & Lenny WelchThe exhibit contains scores of rare photographs plus phonograph records, sheet music, posters, musical instruments and other memorabilia from Asbury Park’s West Side. It covers jazz, gospel and R&B music, and also highlights black radio, record labels, record stores and Springwood Avenue nightclubs.
“This is the first, and probably only, exhibit of its kind ever presented to the public and I urge everyone to stop by and see an important part of Asbury Park’s rich musical heritage that is often overlooked,” Historical Society President Don Stine said.
Music historians Charlie & Pam Horner of the Asbury Park Historical Society, who designed and assembled the exhibit, point out that the West Side music scene from 1910 to 1970 laid the groundwork for and was a major influence on Asbury’s rock music of the 1970’s and beyond.
“Springwood Avenue was the place to go for the area’s hippest, cutting edge music,” Horner said. “From jazz to R&B and their roots in gospel music, this ten block area had it all. West Side music touched the lives of Count Basie and Duke Ellington as well as Lenny Welch, Billy Brown and Clarence Clemons. Springwood Avenue clubs and musicians introduced black music to countless shore area performers.”
The exhibit will first open in the Heaven Art Gallery, 721 Cookman Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ, from Sunday, Jan. 11 through Monday, Jan. 19 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) during Asbury Park’s annual Light Of Day concert series. Gallery hours are Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays from noon to 5 PM and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 7 PM. The gallery is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Following the exhibit’s close in Asbury Park, it will be expanded even further and moved to Monmouth University’s Pollak Gallery on the university’s campus at 400 Cedar Avenue, West Long Branch, NJ. There it can be viewed for the entire month of February, Mondays through Fridays, 9 AM to 7 PM. Admission is free at both locations. For more exhibit information go to