An open letter to the board of trustees of the New Jersey Hall of Fame Foundation.
Nov. 15, 2015
Dear Board Members:
Last night, I was the moderator at an event at Where Music Lives in Asbury Park, celebrating the opening of an exhibit of photos and memorabilia connected to the career of concert promoter John Scher. During the course of the evening, an audience member — sorry, but I forget who it was — mentioned that he thought Scher should be in the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
As a journalist who has been covering the state’s arts scene for 30 years, I’d like to second that idea, and explain why I think Scher — a former member of your board — deserves it.
To understand Scher’s impact, you have to go back to the early ’70s. The rock ‘n’ roll explosion had already happened, but the touring circuit was still a makeshift assortment of sports venues, school gyms and auditoriums, old movie houses and so on. Scher quickly established himself as New Jersey’s dominant concert promoter and presented state-of-the-art shows by world-class artists at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City and many other venues. He presented the first concerts ever — and countless others, in the years to come — at Giants Stadium and the Brendan Byrne Arena. He championed Jersey artists such as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Bon Jovi and Whitney Houston.
The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Grateful Dead, Frank Sinatra, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Clash … all played New Jersey shows he promoted.
Yes, the concert business became much bigger, and very corporate, in the ’90s. But in New Jersey, everything was built on the foundation Scher laid in the ’70s and ’80s. And he remains an active promoter, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and other venues, to this day.
In a 2012 Star-Ledger feature, NJPAC CEO John Schreiber called Scher “one of the inventors of the modern rock concert business.”
In the same article, Scher, a lifelong New Jersey resident, explained that his business strategy always depended on establishing New Jersey as a discrete market unto itself, not just a stop between New York and Philadelphia.
“From the very beginning,” he said, “I played the Jersey angle hard.”
Many New Jersey Hall of Fame members are people who just happened to live here — and in some cases, weren’t even Jersey residents for a long time (Derek Jeter, Annie Oakley, Michael Douglas).
John Scher’s life work has been focused on New Jersey, and has had a huge impact on virtually every New Jerseyan who is interested in popular music.
John Scher deserves to be in the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
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