Middletown students make documentary about town’s music history (WATCH TRAILER)

Hullabaloo documentary

This vintage photo of a band performing at The Hullabaloo is seen in the film, “Sonic Highways Middletown.”

Steven Van Zandt grew up in Middletown, where an important nightclub for local rock bands, The Hullabaloo, was located in the ’60s. So it makes a certain kind of poetic sense that a Rock History class at Middletown High School South, in conjunction with Van Zandt’s Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, has made a documentary about The Hullabaloo and Middletown’s rock history.

You can watch a trailer for the half-hour film, “Sonic Highways Middletown,” below. And it will also premiere at the Danny Clinch Transparent Gallery in Asbury Park, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. The event will also include a panel discussion with original E Street Band drummer Vini Lopez, Chris Plunkett (of The Shadows and The Source), Russ Howard (of The Chlan) and other musicians who were interviewed for the film. For information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Victor Bayers — a teacher at the high school as well as a drummer who has performed with Sonny Kenn, the Bank Street Blues Band and others — co-executive produced the film. Kenn, a legendary Shore guitarist, is also interviewed in it.

The film starts with the Hullabaloo years but also looks at the infamous Clearwater Swim Club concert of 1970 (where Bruce Springsteen and Van Zandt’s band, Steel Mill, attracted a huge crowd, and had the plug pulled on them when they played too long); the development of Michael’s Restaurant and Pizzeria as a place for local bands to play; and the comparatively “desolate” (to quote one of the students interviewed for the film) state of the local Middletown rock scene, today.


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Ralph McGeehan December 20, 2018 - 9:09 am

Hope the class does some exploration on another important branch of music in Middletown — the Middletown Folk Festivals at Bodman Park in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Each Festival was three wonderful days of concerts, crafts, music workshops, food and a massive gathering of both professional and amateur musicians from across the country, and from Europe and beyond as well. Created by Dr. Dick Levine and his wife Marlene, along with a small army of dedicated volunteers each summer, the festivals were a national highpoint in the ongoing folk music boom of the day, for adults and children alike. The Levines personally hosted many of the visiting artists over the long weekend at their home in Lincroft, and they also sponsored house concerts throughout the year for those interested in listening to, and performing with, a wide range of folk musicians, including the Levines. Many budding folk musicians were able to debut at one of the many Festival concerts, which were supported by state arts grants. Dr. Levine, who practiced dentistry for many decades in Hazlet, passed away last week at age 88, having devoted much of his life to the promotion and presentation of the very finest in traditional and contemporary folk music for the estimated 33,000 people that attended the Festival concerts. The Middletown Folk Festivals, and Marlene and Dick Levine, made Middletown one of the bright stars in the Folk Music universe.

Mike Katell December 20, 2018 - 6:19 pm

Thank you Ralph for sharing your memories of the Folk Festivals at Bodman Park. I attended many of them when I was a teenager in the 80s, but I did not know much about them or anything about the Levines. Very timely to remember Dick Levine’s contribution to the local culture!

JAY DUGAN December 21, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Thank you Middletown students and thank you Jay Lustig for bringing back a major chunk of my teenage years. The bands of that era in our small part of the world were simply incredible: Steel Mill, The Motifs (unbelievable, to me back then, that a local group actually cut a record [Molly]), The Mods (they played on Candid Camera, of all places), The Shadows (the first beach club dance [Edgewater] with a live band that I ever went to), The Source , The Chlan, The Clique (maybe the best of all, at that time), The Doors of Perception (a tribute band before tribute bands were invented)…
I just assumed bands were this good everywhere, as I had trouble getting mine out of the basement. The closest I came to all these great musicians was a jam session with Chris Plunkett in a friend’s basement and working at the Port Monmouth Foodtown with Steve Van Zandt, briefly. Getting $20 for my entire band at a Catholic School CYO job was about as far as I got, until I left the area and could get into South Jersey clubs, like Tony Marts and The Dunes.
A few years went by, Greetings from Asbury Park was released, and the light bulb went on in my head…”oh, that’s why it was so tough breaking in, up in Monmouth County!”

Mark Romanski August 19, 2019 - 12:46 pm

I was the bass player in the Chlan. It was a magic time at the Shore. Bruce was in the Castiles and Steve was in the Shadows. Those were the best days of my like. Mark R

Jersey girl July 20, 2020 - 4:07 pm

the Castiles and the Shadows played at our teen club, Teendevous! the Chlan, did, too I think. the coolest of times. all of them, the Clique, the Source, and such.

Jersey girl July 20, 2020 - 4:07 pm

the Castiles and the Shadows played at our teen club, Teendevous! the Chlan, did, too I think. the coolest of times. all of them, the Clique, the Source, and such.


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