10 Jersey Contributions to Popular Music

Dewar MacLeod’s new book explores influential scenes throughout Garden State history.

A history professor at William Paterson University, Dewar MacLeod explores New Jersey’s contributions to popular music in his new book, Making the Scene in the Garden State: Popular Music in New Jersey from Edison to Springsteen and Beyond (Rutgers University Press).

“I’ve always been interested in how people make and enjoy music,” says MacLeod, 57, of Montclair, who also sings and plays guitar in the rock band Thee Volatiles.

Here’s MacLeod’s top-10 list of influential New Jersey music scenes:

1. Recording studios.

From Thomas Edison’s laboratory in West Orange, to the Victor Records complex in Camden and Rudy Van Gelder’s jazz recording studios in Hackensack and Englewood Cliffs, musicians of all stripes have come to New Jersey to make music.

2. Suburban garages.

Inspired by the Beatles, the state’s teens took up guitars to form bands, many of them performing on John Zacherle’s after-school TV show Disc-O-Teen.

3. Maxwell’s.

The Hoboken venue showcased local stalwarts the Bongos, the Feelies and Yo La Tengo.

4. City Gardens. 

The Trenton venue was a magnet for punk and hardcore bands.

5. New Brunswick basements.

Bands such as Gaslight Anthem and Bouncing Souls perfected the art of making music while avoiding the authorities.

6. Albert Music Hall.

The Pinelands place for country and old-timey jams.

7. Capitol Theatre.

Throughout the 1970s, major rock acts performed at this former vaudeville theater in Passaic.

8. Upstage Club.

Where all-night jam sessions in 1968-69 gave birth to an Asbury Park music scene that endures today.

9. Symphony Hall.

Sarah Vaughan held court on the Newark jazz scene in this former Masonic temple.

10. The Silk Palace.

The Plainfield barbershop was the launching pad for George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic mothership.

Read more Arts & Entertainment articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown