350 Jersey Songs: ‘Garden State Stomp,’ Dave Van Ronk


Erik Borg

The legendary New York folk and blues musician Dave Van Ronk wrote a New Jersey anthem of sorts, “Garden State Stomp.”

The late folk and blues singer Dave Van Ronk was nicknamed the Mayor of MacDougal Street, for his longtime status as a leading figure on the Greenwich Village folk scene. Yet he must have done a lot of touring in New Jersey: How else can you explain his delightful novelty song “Garden State Stomp,” in which he gruffly recites a bunch of New Jersey city, town or place names — “Allamuchy, Hacklebarney, Rockaway, Piscataway/Ho-Ho-Kus, Secaucus, Lower Squankum, Fair Play …” — so that they seem like something akin to poetry.

Van Ronk — who died in 2002, at 65 — included the song on his 1985 album, “Going Back to Brooklyn,” and also sent it to Bruce Springsteen, in hopes that the Boss might record it. The Boss declined, though one still hopes and dreams that one day he might get to it.

Filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen used Van Ronk’s memoir, “The Mayor of MacDougal Street” (finished after his death by Elijah Wald, and published in 2005), to help them paint an accurate picture of the early ’60s Village folk scene in their 2013 movie “Inside Llewyn Davis,” though none of the characters really have that much in common with Van Ronk.

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.

3 thoughts on “350 Jersey Songs: ‘Garden State Stomp,’ Dave Van Ronk

  1. My suggestion: Steve Forbert’s “Strange Names (North New Jersey’s Got ‘Em)” from his album “Strange Names & New Sensations”

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