Looking back on growing up in Old Bridge, NJ, it was such a great time for the music scene. Living in Central Jersey gave us easy access to both New York City and Asbury Park. We witnessed hard rock and heavy metal music taking form.
My introduction to hard rock came in 1972 sitting in my 6th grade classroom hearing that a classmate, Lisa Bellaran,had just sung on a record with a rock band called the Alice Cooper Group. In searching her out, she told me that her, her younger brother, and some other kids sang background vocals on a song called “School’s Out”. She described her day in the studio, what a great time she had, and how cool the band was, especially the singer, a guy that called himself Alice. Interested to hear what it sounded like, I made my way to the local record store, “The Record Setter”, but it wasn’t released yet. Instead, the cashier recommended me to purchase Alice’s previous album, Killer, so with little knowledge of what the band’s music was all about, I decided to take his advice. When I returned home to listen it, I was immediately fascinated by the sound of the eerie guitars, and Alice’s sinister sounding vocals. At that time, I was into a lot of horror shows on TV, like “Night Gallery”, “Twilight Zone”, and “Chiller Theatre”, so Alice Cooper’s music fit in perfectly with what my interests were at the time.
A few weeks later my family and I decided to visit my cousins. While hanging out for the day, I went upstairs and knocked on my Cousin Bob’s locked door. When he opened the door, I walked in and was greeted by my older brother Ed, black lights, and glowing posters. The air was filled with smoke from burning incense, and from burning other things, if you know what I mean. Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”, off of the album Master of Reality, was playing on my cousin’s record player. Bob looked at me and said “Can you dig it?” I responded with “Alright now!” I guess you could say I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of the hippy era, and Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath were the bands that led me through it.
In 1973, at the “Record Setter” in East Brunswick, NJ, I was shopping for a magazine called “Rock Scene”, a magazine that informed its readers about new and upcoming rock bands. There, I noticed advertisements for a place called the “Sunshine In” in Asbury Park. It was an old bus garage that was converted into a concert hall, and would feature bands such as Humble Pie, Uriah Heep, Iggy and the Stooges, Mott the Hoople, and Slade.
One evening in October 1973, my parents took a trip to Asbury Park. They took me, my brother and some of my friends with us. As they went onto the boardwalk, they dropped us off at The Sunshine In. In there we witnessed our first live show – Slade. What we really loved was the heaviness of the music, and how it was so different than on a record. When the lead singer, Noddy Holder, commanded the crowd to get down and get with it, the place went crazy. We were hooked on rock concerts from that day on. In 1974 KISS played at the In several times when they released their first two records. When BTO released Not Fragile they played there as well, with Bob Seger opening the show. In 1975 the boardwalk Convention Hall had it going on with Black Sabbath, Robin Trower, Black Oak Arkansas, ZZ Top and Foghat. At the other end of the boardwalk was a place called Casino Arena – they had acts like Mountain, Aerosmith, Blackmore’s Rainbow, Rush, and Blue Oyster Cult performing there. Each of these shows were really something to see, and I’m happy that we got experience all of them. Asbury Park was really big on the music scene in the 70’s and still is today.
Over in NYC a theater called The Academy of Music converted to The Palladium in 1976. We saw so many new acts start off their career off there. Bands like Hawkwind, Montrose, AC/DC, Ozzy’s Blizzard of Oz, The Rods, The Dictators, UFO, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Angel, Judas Priest and even Van Halen were all acts that witnessed perform there. CBGBs had the punk rock scene – bands like the Dead Boys, The Ramones, and The Runaways. Max’s Kansas City had the whole glitter glam scene going on with people like David Bowie, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Iggy, and The New York Dolls just all hanging out there. The Great Gildersleeve was another place in the Bowery with bands like Starz, Riot, and Squadron. The music scene in New York City was in full force in the 70’s and all these shows cost anywhere between $3.50 and $8.50.
One hilarious moment from a New York concert took place in 1978, at the Calderone Concert Hall in Hempstead,Long Island. A couple of my friends, “Bulldozer” Bob, Mike Ogden, Joe Sassano, Rich Robertson, and I, all went for a Blackmore’s Rainbow and AC/DC concert. After an awesome night of some great music, we walked around to the back of the building, where our car was parked. There, we discovered an old tour bus parked just a few feet away with Bon Scott hanging out in front of it. We engaged in conversation with him, and after a few minutes, he invited us onto the bus to meet the rest of the band. While on the bus, “Bulldozer” Bob looked around and asked Bon, “Where’s the crazy little guy?” Without missing a beat, Angus jumped out of one of the bunks, got in Bob’s face, and yelled “Who’s f*cking crazy?” It scared the hell out of Bob, but Angus was only messing with him. That was one concert that will forever be remembered as another legendary night. Same thing in 1980, Philidelphia Spectrum, another great concert venue. They would call them “Dance Concerts” $7 General Admission. This night we stopped at the Hilton right outside of the Spectrum which was where you would find the bands who were playing that night staying before the show. This particular night at the Spectrum they had Ted Nugent and two bands making their east coast live debut Scorpions and Def Leppard. When we walked into the lobby of the hotel we ran into Herman Rarebell the Scorpions drummer at the time. He said Klaus Meine was in the hotel shop, after talking with Klaus he said the rest of the guys were out by the pool so we made our way to the pool to find Rudolf Schenker and Matthais Jabs sunning themselves with speedos on by the swimming pool and tasty beverages in their hands. Aside from their odd european atire , they were very gracious guys who spoke very broken english at the time but they told us some of the set list was, Pictured Life, Top of the Bill , and some other great tracks from the Uli Roth era which we were very pleased to hear. As we made our way out to the car we ran into Ted Nugent and Charlie Huhn who were very approachable and had no problem signing autographs and spending a few minutes talking music with us. While in the parking lot we spotted Def Leppards’ Steve Clark and Pete Willis ready to board their tour bus. Taking a few minutes with them and talking about the scene that was happening at the time in England, a new wave of British Heavy Metal. The concert that night was amazing aside from Ted Nugent swinging from a rope with a loin cloth on. He was so much better back in the Derek St.Holmes days when he backed up Aerosmith and Sabbath. Encounters like this were common for us because of the lack of security as compared to today’s standards.
In high school while most other kids were listening to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who and The Rolling Stones which were the big four at the time, which I had the pleasure of seeing live , we still seeked out more of the heavier underground. Bands that I have previously mentioned with the addition of Deep Purple, RIOT, Thin Lizzy, Nazareth, Scorpions, and Moxy were all a part of our daily lives. These were not bands you would usual hear on the radio. To find out about them sometimes you would take a chance with a cool album cover or a band with a cool name or by word of mouth.
A popular place to hangout, party, and listen to great music was Duhernal Lake in Old Bridge. People from neighboring towns would all come to this spot on the weekends and hangout around a bonfire. There was always at least one person there that drove up in a van with a killer sound system and blasted the music all night. Hanging out at the lake gave me a lot of great memories and allowed my group of friends to meet a lot of new people.
In the mid to late 70’s cover bands were huge in the tristate area, and often played at clubs like The Red Fox, which later became The Main Event, The Factory, and Fountain Casino. In order to figure out which band was playing where, your best bet was to pick up the latest issue of The Aquarium Weekly- a newspaper that let its readers in on everything Rock in the tristate area. The club of choice for our group friends was always at Emmett’s Inn, located in Jamesburg, New Jersey. They would host cover bands, and occasionally have national acts come in, but no matter what, the place had live music every single night. Acts like Twisted Sister, TT Quick, Phantom’s Opera, or our friends, Rocker, would play there on a weekly basis. The establishment was run by Bob Garvey, who was a real character. His brother was the Chief of Police. Whenever the crowd would get too rowdy, Bob and his private security would “handle” the situation by working over whoever was out of control. When they were finished, Bob would call up his brother to have the victim escorted to the old Monroe police station for round 2, down at Emmett’s that was called the 2 for 1 special. There the rowdy individual would enjoy the rest of the night behind bars or a trip to the emergency room. Fun had by all! There were a lot of wild times down there and a lot of great live music.
Around 1979, while reading a UK newspaper by the name of “Sounds”, we heard about a new genre of heavy music coming out of the UK. They were calling it “The New Wave of British Heavy Metal”. Some of these bands include Motörhead, Saxson, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Girlschool, Angel Witch, Raven, and Diamond Head. To find these records, we had to find a store that carried imports. There was a place called Jack’s, in Red Bank, and another called Cheap Thrills in New Brunswick that did such a thing, but sometimes we even had to travel as far as NYC and the village to Bleeker Bob’s to find these records. But once found, we took them home and were blown away. This music was a lot heavier than the music of the 70’s, and started to catch on fast. The DJ’s at clubs started to play this newfound heavy music, even the cover bands were learning to play their songs. At the time I was renting a house right next door to the house I grew up in and I had a killer stereo system. After the clubs, we used to love going back to my house and blast these new bands all night.
In December of 1981, while shopping at the International Market, an indoor flea market in East Brunswick, we ran into a man selling records. He only had about a dozen or so, mostly imports, but nothing we didn’t already have. We talked for only a few minutes before deciding to move on. A few months later, a friend said a record store had opened up at the flea market carrying nothing but heavy metal imports. When we went to check it out, it was that same man, but now with a whole store full of imports, and each week he would get more and more in from all over the globe. Some of the bands didn’t even sing in English, but people would still buy them because the music was heavy. The name of the store was “Rock n Roll Heaven” and it was owned by Jon and Marsha Zazula.
My friends and I from Old Bridge sparked up a good friendship with Jon and Marsha, and often stopped by their house that they were renting out in Old Bridge. Sometimes, he’d let us try out new albums and if we didn’t like them we could give them back to him. During the weekends if we weren’t up at the store, at a concert, or in a club, we were having parties playing the new metal. It was catching on real quick and was starting to become a quite a scene here in Old Bridge.
In May of 1982 Motörhead, Krokus, and Fist played at The Palladium. Talking about it with Jon and Marsha, they decided they wanted to go to the show too. While we rocked out at the front of the stage, Jon and Marsha watched from the balcony. They watched the reaction of the crowd, how much people loved the music and how much they were getting into it. That was one of my most memorable concerts because it was the last time Fast Eddie Clarke played with Motörhead.
A couple weeks went by and Jonny gave me a call to let me know that he was putting on a concert of his own. He rented out the empty building next door to the Route 18 market and called the Canadian band named Anvil. At the time Anvil had an album called Metal on Metal that was a big seller at Jonny’s store. Anvil agreed to do the concert and before we realized, it time to set up a show. Jonny had to start from scratch, and even needed to gather a stage, the lights, and a P.A. system. Overwhelmed, he reached out to a lot of people from Old Bridge for help. We sold tickets, promoted the show, put posters on telephone poles, and did whatever else it took to get some people in there. Some of the guys even brought in old furniture to set up a backstage area for the band. A week or so before the show Jonny asked if I could put the band up at my house, because at the time Jonny was bringing up a family. I had no problem doing it because to me it sounded like a great idea. There was a magazine out at the time from England, called Kerrang, which allowed me to read up on the band. It made us all pretty excited to know the band was going to be staying right here in Old Bridge, let alone in my own home.
On August 12th Anvil arrived in Old Bridge. They arrived at Jonny’s house first in and then my friend Keith Crigger brought them down to my house. That night Twisted Sister was playing at the Fountain Casino so we took them to see the show. We had a great time. The only problem was when Anvil invited half the club back to the house after the show was over. So by the time we got home a whole bunch of cars packed with strangers started showing up at the house. When the guitarist, “Lips”, got there he told us to get rid of everybody because he didn’t want the band to be in bad shape for the show the next day. So after a while, we were finally able to throw everybody out, except the band and road crew. The next day the Great Friday the 13th Rock Show was a great success. A local band named Prey backed up Anvil’s amazing performance that night. Everybody worked hard putting that together, and it was great feeling to watch it all come together.
Soon after Jonny put together another show called “The Halloween Headbanger’s Ball”. This time he called England and got the band Raven, whose new album, Wiped Out was a great album for our group of friends. That night Raven, along with Anvil and Riot played a killer show. Once again, we went around selling tickets and doing everything we could in order to support the bands and make sure the show was successful. That night all the hard work came together again to produce a successful metal show.
At The Headbanger’s Ball it was great to see Raven for the first time and just as great to see Anvil again as well. Even Riot, with their new singer Rhett Forester, originally from a local cover band called Rachel, played an awesome show that night. One of my best friends Joe Chimienti was running around the place screaming “F*ckin’ Metal”. He had a loud mouth anyways, but at one point he jumped on the stage, grabbed the mic and screamed into it – almost blowing out the P.A. But Lips from Anvil loved it. He loved it so much that from then on he called him “Metal Joe” and the name stuck with him ever since. The rhythm guitarist Dave Allison would always say let’s go back to Ray’s because the place was always rockin’, and the tunes were always blasting. So, they gave me the name “Rockin’ Ray”. We had some really great times with those guys. Anvil also had a roadie by the name of Gary Lee Braniff (Brick), who was like the 5th band member, and eventually became a good friend of ours. Same goes for the Raven guys. Anytime they were in town, we would get together, have parties, and talk about music. These original bands at the time were so much more different than the cover bands that we would see at the clubs. It seemed that these bands were on a mission. They took their metal and their music very seriously.
At this point the metal scene was in full swing. We had a large group of friends that would go to a lot of concerts, clubs, and parties together. We all lived our lives for the music. And a lot of us had nicknames: Bulldozer Bob, Bob Oujo, John Boy, Metal Mary Lyne, Tony Bologna, Metal Maria Ferrero, Maura O’Sullivan, Johnny Rotten, Tim Rody, Johnny Yohnson, Don Ho, Reb, Jethro, Linda Taranto, Mary and Trish Vassale, Pete Perrina, Brian Buy or Die Nyers, Crazy Charlie, Kevin Ruscoe and Rocko Ruscoe, Stefan Burns, Chris Sack, Lisa Geraffo, Tommy Mott, Amy Timins, Killer, Ray Motorhead, Richard Hell, Fred Goddard, Chris Jackson, Keith File in the Cake Crigger, Mike Corrao, Party Arty, John McFadden, The Grinder, High Riser, Jim Florentine, Don Pearson, Mike Ogden, Joe Oriole, Doug Whitaker, Kevin Hodapp, Mike Grubiak, Wally Tier, Johnny Rovas, Brian Kappes, Mike Dworkin, Greg Z,Danny Anniello, Mark and Patty Polak, Kathy Gilmore, Donald Gilmore, Kevin Gilmore, Zipper Head Steve, Fred Moench, Sean and Timmy Hussey, April Prolow, Rob Mayers, Mike Kelly,Kenny Boyce,Barry Copperman, Kathy Goddard, Bruce Falk, Mick DeGilio, Ed The Angler, Rob and Al Feinstein, Sandy Johnson, Tom Warrior, Al Jessup, Lums Jessup, Tommy Jessup, Joe Jessup, Dirty Dags, Jim Jim, Mike Fitzpatrick, Young Kenneth Lesko, Metal Joe, Rockin’ Ray, and many more.
Cheers to the old days at Vitales Bar and Grill to the people that worked there and they had the best damn bar pie around.
Metal Joe was living with his uncle for a while until he finally had decided it was time to move out. He and Bobby Oujo found a house for rent in Farmingdale, NJ which was about a half hour away from Old Bridge. It was a four bedroom farmhouse located on 29 acres with no neighbors and was in the middle of nowhere. They used their property to engage in activities such as dirt biking, canoeing, skeet shooting, and archery. In other words, there was something for everybody to do, so the house obtained the title “The Fun House”. But eventually we got bored and hooked up the canoe to a four wheel drive truck with a chain. We then proceeded to go for rides while in the canoe as it was being pulled around by the truck. The driver would even take us down the road until they got to town without a single person bothering us. It eventually became a game to see who could stay in the longest without falling out. It obviously got out of hand pretty quickly, and someone was knocked out of the boat only to be knocked unconscious and sent to the hospital. It was crazy all the time and somebody was always getting hurt but thank God nobody ever got killed.
Joe and Bobby had a lot of wild parties at that house; some even would last all weekend because nobody would bother you. However, the most memorable one was for my 23rd birthday. I remember Bulldozer Bob and Party Arty sent a limo to my house to pick me up. When I got to Metal Joe’s the place was loaded with a lot of friends and he said there is something waiting for you in the basement. When I got down the stairs, I discovered a band called Hades all set up with a P.A. system, and ready to play. I had just seen them two weeks earlier at Emmet’s and told Joe how much I liked them. At the time, they were only doing Judas Priest and Iron Maiden covers and they were the first band that played at “The Fun House”. When they hit the first note, all the lights went off- they blew the power out. Bobby Oujo had to run a line from the meter pad to the sub panel in order to restore power. Once the power came on, we were set to go, and the band played all night. They came back a second time a few months later and played for us again, before becoming an original band. After enjoying the private concert, a few months later we invited a band called The Beast to play for us as well. That night Jon, Marsha, and some of the Anthrax guys came down to the house also. After meeting the bands Jonny decided to sign The Beast and Hades to one of his compilation albums on his record label, Megaforce.
A few months later we heard about a big club in Brooklyn called L’Amours, which turned from disco to strictly hard rock and metal, and how they were having all original acts. So a bunch of us decided to go up there one night in November of 1982 to check out what all of the buzz was about. When we walked into this place, the first thing we noticed was the huge sound system and a pretty good sized stage. They had two DJs, Alex Kayne and Chuck Kaye, who were spinning nothing but all the latest metal, and after our first experience, we came back almost every weekend. Our friend Jethro introduced us to a lot of people that worked there, so we always got taken care of and were taken back stage to meet the bands often. A lot of the bands we met and hung out with were Manowar, Warlock, Metal Church, Savatage, Armored Saint, Mercyful Fate, Celtic Frost, The Rods, Queensrÿche, Carnivore, Overkill, Grim Reaper, and Cities. To me, L’Amours would have to go down as the number one best hard rock and heavy metal club of all time, and we’ve had some of the best times there. By the time that place closed, they had everyone play there from Metallica to Iron Maiden.
As time passed, we continued to party and roll with it, and before we knew it, it was well into 1983. At Rock n Roll Heaven, Jonny Z just received a new demo cassette of a band from California called Metallica. He wanted us to hear it, and asked us when we were having our next bash, so he could play it for us and listen to it over the sound system at “The Fun House”. The following weekend Jon and Marsha came over to Metal Joe’s with demo cassette in hand. Immediately we were blown away by the sound – it was fast; it was heavy and it was raw. The songs that especially stood out to me were “The Mechanics” due to its heavy groove resembling a jazzy vibe, “Phantom Lord”, and “Seek and Destroy” for the heavy and catchy riff that song is built around. Soon after Jonny made a call to California, and lined up some gigs here for them. Within a few weeks Metallica was in Old Bridge. They arrived on a Friday, and we had a welcome party waiting for them. We read in a Metal Mania magazine that they were big vodka drinkers so we were stocked up. When they got to the house, they were looking around the living room which I had set up with enough records and posters to resemble a store. One poster was of Motley Crew’s first album. James Hetfield pointed at it and asked, “What’s this?” I didn’t understand what he meant. He responded by pointing to it again and saying “poser”. That was the first time I ever heard that word. I later learned what it meant because MTV was full of them.
We had a great time with those guys that night rocking out to some great music. They loved a lot of the stuff that we did, like The New Wave of British heavy metal- bands like Diamond Head and Witchfinder General. We got so drunk that night that James got sick upstairs. The next morning we brought them over to Jonny’s house, and Marsha called up and asked, “What did you do to those guys?” Later that day we went to see Ozzy in Atlantic City, so we called to see if they wanted to come with us. Unfortunately, they didn’t feel up to it, so we went without them. That Sunday we headed to “The Fun House” and Metallica headed down for another night of partying.
Metallica had a great time hanging out that day. Once darkness fell, we went inside the house, and Bobby Oujo said that there were some instruments upstairs in a spare bedroom. Metallica said they wanted to play, so they geared up and started to jam. That night, in the spare bedroom upstairs, at “The Fun House” house, you could say that Metallica performed their first East Coast show. Lars was banging on those drums until his hands were bleeding, and ended up breaking every drumstick in the house. There was only one guitar, so Dave and James ended up arguing over it. But man, what a time we had. Unfortunately Dave got a little out of hand, and started to wrestle with Bulldozer Bob and ended up throwing him onto the ground. Metal Joe had to grab Dave Mustaine, throw him onto the ground and tell him “You aren’t in California anymore, Mother F*cker!”
The following Friday night, April 8th, 1983, Jonny booked the first show for Metallica. They backed up Vandenberg and The Rods at the Paramount Theater in Staten Island. We all went up to the show early and helped out with equipment. Bulldozer Bob did the drums, while Reb did the guitars. It was cool because at that show Dave Murray and Steve Harris from Iron Maiden showed that night, giving us the opportunity to hang out with them. That next night, they backed up The Rods at the Legendary L’Amours in Brooklyn. The show went off without a single problem. That night the band stayed at my house in Old Bridge, and left the next day to the rehearsal studio in Queens. Before they left, the only argument that arose was whether Dave Mustaine or Cliff Burton had more head bangers in front of them during the show. It was obvious that this was one group of performers that really cared for and fed off of their fans’ energy during their shows. By the beginning of the week, Dave Mustaine was thrown out of the band, and I couldn’t have been more surprised. Kirk Hammett from a band called Exodus flew in from California, and by Friday April 16th they played their first show with Kirk at “The Showplace” in Dover, New Jersey. A little while after Dave was out of the band, Metal Maria gave him a call from my house during one of my parties, and put me on the phone with him. He sounded pretty upset, but swore he would put another band together. It was cool to hear from him that night and hear that news. Metal Maria continued to keep in touch with him, and was always a big supporter of his.
Jonny Z was also interested in Venom, a band from England, and had the group come down to do a few shows at the Paramount Theater in Staten Island. Metallica opened up for them, and then proceeded to perform a string of local shows, before recording Kill ‘Em All. On July 25, 1983, Kill ‘Em All was released. Its liner notes read: “A loud metal up your ass. To all the Bay Area Bangers and to the Old Bridge Militia”. The Bangers were their friends back home in California, and in Old Bridge, our group of friends became known as the Old Bridge Militia. When Metallica got back from the “Kill ‘Em All For One” tour with Raven, they had no place to stay. So Jonny asked if I could put them up at my house. Back then I already had four other guys living with me, so we had them stay at “The Fun House” with Metal Joe instead.
We made a lot memories with those guys down there. They would write songs for their new upcoming album, Ride the Lightning, and play some of the stuff for us down in the basement at Metal Joe’s house parties. Everything was going smoothly until Joe got a call from Jonny Z one morning at 4:00 A.M. Jonny said that the truck that held their equipment was just stolen. Fortunately they eventually found the truck, but the only thing left were the t-shirts and merchandise. Joe woke the guys up to give them the bad news and the band was devastated because they were leaving the following week for a European tour. Not knowing what the future was going to bring, James wrote the song “Fade to Black” on Joe’s living room couch. However, no one knew of this until years later when the band was featured on the Howard Stern Show. Metallica left for their European tour, regardless of their unfortunate scenario. Joe and I gave them $100 each, which was all we had, to help them on their way. Bob Oujo also donated one of his bass guitars to Cliff Burton to take with him on tour. We received post cards from Lars detailing how the band was doing on the tour and how things were shaping up with the album in the studio.
When Metallica returned from their first European tour, they were unhappy with their management company, so they would borrow Joe’s car for meetings with a high end company called Q Prime Management, located in New York City. A few weeks later they did a show at the Roseland Ballroom with Raven and Anthrax. That night, a scout from Electra Records, Michael Alago, was blown away by their set. A few weeks passed, and Metallica got signed to Electra and Q Prime Management. They were on their way.
On September 27, 1986 we all lost a dear friend, Cliff Burton. His contributions to both music and the lives of the people involved with the Old Bridge Militia will forever be remembered. His life will always remain as a major inspiration to our foundation, and all of the good that comes out of it.
Throughout the years we kept in touch with the band and in 2009 they flew out Metal Joe, Reb, and I to Cleveland, Ohio, to celebrate their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with them. Ever since they day we met them, the band has shown us nothing but respect for us and our families.
Around that time, a club opened up in Old Bridge. It started out as a restaurant called the Shamrock Inn, then it was the Side Line, and eventually, it became Club 516 and was owned by a man named Rod Fredda. One night while partying and blasting the music at my house, Bobby Oujo came up with an idea- why not go down to Club 516 and ask the owner if we could have a DJ night down there? That night about 20 of us got together and went down to the club to talk to the owner. He was totally against the idea of having metal music in his club because they played country in there. We said no problem, but I left my number with him in case he changed his mind. We left soon after and took most of the bar with us. A half hour after we got back to my house Rod called and asked if Tuesday night would be alright.
Tuesday came, and we loaded up the pickup truck with our sound system. We combined mine and Joe’s stereos together, put all our albums in milk crates, and took off to Club 516. Thankfully about 10 friends of our friends agreed act as a road crew for the night. Two hours into our set, and we blew up an amp. Our friend John Boy Crothers was guitar player so he shot home quickly and brought back his Marshall Head. To our luck it worked. It didn’t sound the best, but it was loud, so everybody was digging it. Three hours into the night, the place was packed and the crowd drank every beer in the house. At the end of the night Rod asked if we would DJ every Tuesday, and offered us $100 a night.
From that point forward, we became metal DJs at Club 516. Every Tuesday night would be Old Bridge Militia night with Rockin’ Ray, and Metal Joe. The word spread throughout Old Bridge and eventually to Rock n Roll Heaven. We had people, like the band Anthrax come from as far as Queen’s New York. Jonny Z would give the new music he got in from the store to either Metal Maria or Brian Nyers. They’d bring it to us, we’d played it, and the people loved it. We even had bands like Slayer, Exciter, Overkill, and Venom come and hang out with us at the club when they were in the area. On Bob Oujo’s birthday, he pulled into the club’s parking lot in an old van with Pete McKenna in the driver seat and Lemmy using a spare tire as a seat in the back, after Motörhead had just finished playing at the Birch Hill in Old Bridge. Later that night we were joined by the rest of Motörhead. The place would get very wild some nights with people getting crazy to the music. People would rip molding off the walls and use it for makeshift guitars. Whenever a record started skipping, Joe would take it off the turntable and smash it against the wall. Pretty soon we started to upgrade our sound system. Joe borrowed some money from his mom and bought a new P.A. system that was as powerful as the ones in the clubs that we used to go to. Throughout this time we lived by our motto: “Do it for the metal”. Even when Metallica came back from recording Ride the Lightning in Europe, they came down to Club 516 on a DJ night and brought a demo cassette of the new album. We were the one of the first to play it, and Old Bridge was one of the first places to hear it.
On Thursday nights, Club 516 used to have local cover bands such as Hades, Steel Fortune, and Chalice perform live. However, on one particular Thursday, a Black Sabbath cover band named Chrome Locust from Mendham, NJ played, and they were pretty good. After they were done playing, we started to talk with them, and I eventually invited them back to my house. As the night progressed, we found ourselves drinking some beers while blasting some tunes. After a while, I decided to put on bands like Slayer, Mercyful Fate, and Manowar. To my surprise the guys from Chrome Locust had never heard of these bands before, and were totally amazed by their intense music. A month or so passed by and they stopped down by Club 516 again to visit us on one of our DJ nights. When we finally got a chance to speak with them, they conveyed to us the unfortunate news that their bass player had recently passed away. Even though that they were still pretty upset, they told us that they were going to get another band together and wanted to perform at one of our parties for us because they valued our opinion due to their new style being similar to the bands that we were listening to at the time. Eager to hear for what they had in store for us, we agreed to let them play one night at “The Fun House”. The night of the party came, and with the exception of the singer Larry and the lead guitarist Nick, the band had all new members, whom we never had met before. The new band consisted of the singer, Larry Portelli, lead guitarist, Nick Fiorentino, guitarist, Jeff Anderson, bassist, Kevin Powelson, and drummer, Chris Powelson, and was named Blessed Death. That night their music amazed us with a fast paced instrumental technique, and the killer vocal range that Larry had. Their performance that night was enough to convince Joe and me to borrow some money and have Blessed Death record an album in the studio. The album title was Kill or Be Killed, and was inspired by the real life vigilante Bernhard Goetz. While reading through the material that was going to be produced, I remember asking Larry if he could write less brutal lyrics. His response was “In every song I write, someone has to die.” So much for that. We produced the album under our own record label called “Tungsten Records”, but we had no way of getting it into stores. With few options left, we decided to merge our “Tungsten Records”, with Jonny Z’s “Megaforce Records”, in order to put the album out on shelves.
In the autumn of 1984, Slayer was doing an in-store signing, which these days would be considered a meet and greet, at Rock n Roll Heaven after Jonny had just closed down his old store in the East Brunswick Flea Market, and opened up a bigger one in Clarke, New Jersey. Our friend Brian Nyers was managing the store at the time so we took a trip up there. We were having a conversation with Tom Araya and Metal Joe asked him where they were staying. He said he didn’t know and Joe told him Metallica had stayed with us a few months ago and they were welcome to do the same. With very few options, they wrote down the address and we left not knowing whether or not they would show up. But, hours later we were in the yard at Joe’s house, when a U-Haul truck pulled in to the driveway, followed by a Camaro. Two of our other friends, Reb Synder and Tommy Jessup, were also there that night having a target practice in Joe’s backyard with their shot guns. As the Slayer guys pulled in, a crow flew over the house and they shot it down and it landed right in front of the U-Haul. Welcome to New Jersey guys.
Again, they were just a bunch of young musicians that loved their metal and traveling from California to the East Coast to play some shows and get some recognition.While they were here, Joe took a ride with them to Tiki Studios in New York to record Live Undead. They came down to Old Bridge to our DJ night and hung out with everybody and had a blast. The next night they were supposed to play at The Union Jack’s in South River, but when we got to the venue, they made them leave because they were not of age to be in the Club. Annoyed Joe said, “Let’s have our own private concert!”, and took the equipment back to his house and they played for us down in the basement. The album Hell Awaits hadn’t been released yet, but they played most of it for us that night.
That following Friday night, Slayer had a show in Baltimore, Maryland, but we headed to L’Amours because Mercyful Fate was playing there. We were good fans of them because the music that they produced was so intense with all of the time changes. Their new record at the time Don’t Break the Oath was full of them. The whole vibe about Mercyful Fate reminded me of the early days of the Alice Cooper Group and how they pushed the envelope. That night we went as far as buying an animal skull that resembled the one on the album cover, to give to the singer, King Diamond. We got to L’Amours early, and our friend Jethro brought us inside to introduce us to the band. We ended up hanging out with them most of the night, and then returned to L’Amours the next night for Slayer’s show. When we got to the venue Saturday night we came across a man that was trying to sell his leather jacket just to get into the show. Metal Joe decided to purchase the jacket for $30 and then proceeded to give it Tom Araya because his jacket was stolen earlier in the tour. It was another great night at L’Amours.
Slayer came by a few days later to pick up Kerry King’s pet snake that he had left there, before continuing on with the rest of their tour and heading home back to California. They returned in April to L’Amours East in Queens- this time with Exodus. We were pretty happy to hear that Exodus was coming to New York because Dave Lombardo had played us their demo cassette of the album, Bonded by Blood, months before at “The Fun House”. Again, they were another band from California that had a killer guitar player, Gary Holt, with heavy and fast riffs and plenty of time changes in their music, and they sure did kick ass live. I remember that when they got done playing, we went over to Jeff Hanneman and telling him how much of a bad ass Exodus just was. He said, “You think so? Well it’s our turn now!” Like I’ve said many times before, all of those bands were on a mission, so they took their metal and their music very seriously, and so did we.
Over the years the Old Bridge Militia has seen many shows and has befriended many bands, but one of the bands that we became close with was Overkill. Our first encounter with Overkill was at the Showplace in Dover, NJ in 1983 as a cover band. A year later they were in compilation album called New York Metal with the song “Feel the Fire”. Listening to this song was the first time that the band really grabbed our attention, so when they played at the Union Jack’s in South River, the whole Militia came down to see them play. The singer, Bobby Blitz, reminded me of Dee Snyder back in the Emmit’s Inn days with a bit of an onstage attitude, but a great front man as well. Two of their songs that stuck out that night were “Rotten to the Core” and “Fatal if Swallowed”. After their set, we went backstage to talk with them about the show, and within minutes we became good friends with them, and before long, Bulldozer Bob became a drum roadie for Rat Skates. After they released their debut EP, OverKill, and after Megaforce released their album, Feel the Fire, they became constant headliners at L’Amours in Brooklyn, and went on the road with Slayer. The band also took Bob Oujo along with them as a drum tech. After Overkill released Taking Over, and after they got back from a tour with Megadeth, Rat decided the road wasn’t for him, so he performed his last show with Overkill at L’Amours in 1987. After Rat’s final show, we ended the night by giving him one hell of a going away party backstage. When Sid Flack joined the band that year and took Rat’s place on the drums, Bob Oujo became their stage and production manager on the road. Ever since that point, the Militia and Overkill became very close friends and were always there for each other for support, and even went to each other’s weddings. When they were recording albums like The Years of Decay, and Horoscope, they invited us up to the studio to hang out with them. Once the albums were completed, Blitz would bring a copy over to my house for an album release party, and blast it all night for everybody to hear for the first time. The biggest display of this long-term mutual friendship showed itself in 1993 when our friend, Pat Powers fell off a ladder and became paralyzed from the waist down. Overkill became a huge part in a benefit we put together from scratch that helped to raise money for Pat’s treatment and medical expenses.
During the 80’s when all this metal madness was still going on in Old Bridge, we didn’t realize there was a younger generation of the Old Bridge Militia on the rise. They were all middle and high school aged kids, but all of them loved their metal. I remember going over Kevin Gilmores house one day for a party with Metallica, and I said to Cliff Burton, “Look at all of these young punks!” Cliff immediately corrected me and said, “They’re not punks, they’re the future bangers.” It didn’t take long for me to realize that he couldn’t be more correct. These kids grew up listening to metal, and spent their weekends going to L’Amours and metal clubs, and supported the bands they loved, just like how we did when we were their age. Some of their names were Shawn Morales, John “Smerkin” Durkin, Lisa Bernstein, Chris Anne Miller ,Dave Crothers, Carl Danny, Elaine and Marlene Cicchino, Matt Verney, Stan “Stonely” Pado,Sean Gilmore, Gregg LoCascio, Nikki Demeola, Chris Patrick, Tony “T” Tomaro, Jimmy Kanick, Gregg Moench, Randy Feinstein, Jill Beynon, Don Daidone, Mike Johnson, John Thompson, Tammy Soldano, Virginia Crigger, Bobby Morales, Don Wesson, Kara Toolen, Jamie Link, Jay “Whitey” Wingler, Mike and Steve Yaniack, Gilioli Brothers, Colavito Brothers, Paul Wurst, Jay Varackis, John Freeman, Dale Whitaker, Brett Sontag, Mark Conti,Rob Caltabellatta, Donna Cicchetti,Theresa Anthony,Chris and Jay Adams,Gregg Bodin,Jeff Bogansky and many more. The link between the two generations was Bulldozer Bob because he, more than anyone else, loved and embraced the younger metal fans. To this day the two generations are still good friends and many of them are avid contributors and supporters of the Old Bridge Militia Foundation.
In 1996 the Militia suffered an unfortunate loss when Bulldozer Bob Szuminsky passed away. This unexpected loss of such a dear friend unfortunately led to all of the members of the Old Bridge Militia to go their separate ways. However, in 2013 Jonny Z decided that he wanted to put together a Rock n Roll Heaven and Old Bridge Militia reunion in the form of a benefit for the victims of Superstorm Sandy. Twisted Sister, Anvil, Raven, The Rods, TT Quick, and Lords of Mercy all came together that night and performed one hell of a show. During that time a group, that we had no control over, “The Old Bridge Metal Militia”, copywrited our name and used our story to set up a website and facebook page to sell merchandise and make profit. This only resulted in a lot of confusion and misguided stories as to who was in our group and what we did. Contrary to what “The Old Bridge Metal Militia” was doing, the Old Bridge Militia’s intentions were never geared towards money, but was always dedicated to the music, and the musicians. After discovering what was going on, Metal Joe decided that we should use the original name that Metallica bestowed upon us, and set up The Old Bridge Militia Foundation. The foundation is a 100% non-profit organization, with a 501(c)3 certification, that dedicates all of its proceeds to aiding underprivileged young musicians, and other charity organizations. Our secondary objective is to honor the memory of the people we have lost throughout the years, and to celebrate one of the most unique time periods in music history.A special thanks to Kevin Hodapp and Fritch Clark for documenting various activities of the Old Bridge Militia and the Old Bridge Militia Foundation throughout the years through photos and videos.