This year’s edition of the annual WhyHunger Hungerthon fundraising campaign will include a tribute to the late Tom Petty, Nov. 19 at 4:30 p.m. at the Acoustic Cafe at Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Park Ridge, and an evening of Springsteen songs at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, Nov. 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Performers in Park Ridge will include Jeffrey Gaines, Richard Barone, Joe D’Urso (with Seth Saltzman), Don DiLego, Isabella Rose, Christopher Brown, Peter Calo, Bobby Mahoney and Annalyse & Ryan. Visit cafeacoustic.org.
The Asbury Park lineup will include D’Urso and his band Stone Caravan, Mahoney and his band The Seventh Son, JoBonnano & the Godsons, Joe Rapolla & the Perfect Square, Jon Caspi & the First Gun, Dan Amato & the Sentimental Gentlemen, Stella Mrowicki and DJ Lee Mrowicki. Visit wonderbarasburypark.com.
Originally known as World Hunger Year, WhyHunger was co-founded by Harry Chapin and Bill Ayres in 1975. Last year’s Hungerthon raised more than $1.1 million to fight hunger, through various events and auctions. For information, visit whyhunger.org.
I did the following interview with D’Urso, who, in addition to being in the lineup of both shows, is a member of WhyHunger’s board of directors. He is also the vice president of the Light of Day Foundation, which will be announcing details of its annual festival soon.
Q: So tell me first about the Park Ridge show. I guess that will be the kind of thing where you’ll sit around in a circle and tell stories, and play with each other, and all that kind of stuff?
A: Yeah. I think this is the fifth year we’ve done it. Prior to us moving this show to Park Ridge, we used to do this in New York City, and over the years we’ve had different people like Suzanne Vega and John Sebastian and Cissy Houston and, I think, Rosanne Cash. There would be a dinner at Ann Ruckert’s apartment — she was one of our board members — and the Hard Rock Cafe would cater it. And the people would then go downstairs — she lived above a church — and we’d have this nice acoustic concert. It was kind of the kickoff of the Hungerthon. Ann got ill a few years back, and has since passed away, so I think it was dormant for a year or two, and I decided, once I saw the Acoustic Cafe in Park Ridge rolling along, and I got to meet the folks up there … they said, “You know, we’d love to host the WhyHunger show.” I said, “Great, I’ve been wanting to do something.”
So, the first year, we had done myself and Tom Chapin and Jen Chapin. And since then, I’ve had a lot of different guests, from Aztec Two-Step and Willie Nile and James Maddock, Marshall Crenshaw … a whole lot of different folks. And what I decided to do, since I live a few blocks away, is that I do the pre-show dinner now at my home, with Why board members, and some people who want to attend that. And that’s actually called the Ann Ruckert Gathering, in memory of Ann.
Over the years, we’ve done many songwriter circles. It seems like a more communal way to do it, and didn’t really put the pressure any one or two artists, ’cause everyone does it for free. This year, we’ll have 10 songwriters, and we’ll do two separate rounds.
Q: And the show will have a Tom Petty theme.
A: This one hit me hard, because it was the first one of “my guys” to die. When I was in high school, my four guys were John Mellencamp, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. I spent so much time with them, and their music. All those records were bought the first day they came out, and I sat there and read all the liner notes, and the lyrics, and went to see them play.
So I thought, for this year, for WhyHunger, it would be perfect to have a Tom Petty tribute. So that’s the show for the 19th, and we’ve asked people to bring some healthy, non-perishable food for the Pascack Food Center, which is just across the street in Park Ridge. So we’ll get that over there before Thanksgiving.
We’ve been doing this every year for a long time. It’s almost like my involvement with Light of Day. You hope one day we don’t have to do this anymore. You hope there’s a cure for Parkinson’s, and an end to hunger. But until then, you do what you can do.
Q: Will the whole show be Petty songs?
A: Yes. When we do songwriter shows, we’ll sometimes do a cover round. But I thought for these shows — this and the one we’ll do in Asbury — I said to everyone, “Let’s just make it songs written by these artists.” Or, if Petty or Springsteen covered a song often, then that song would be okay.
For that Asbury show, which is the night before Thanksgiving, we’ve asked people to bring food for the Fulfill foodbank, which used to be called the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. And that will be a night of Bruce songs, but in a rock ‘n’ roll setting — six bands plus one solo acoustic artist, Stella Mrowicki.
Of course, Bruce has been a great supporter of WhyHunger through the years, and we’re always super-thankful for his support.
Q: I know you’re working on a new album. When do you think that might be out?
A: Usually I do my release shows at the Turning Point in Piermont. I’ll do a couple of shows there. Right now, we’re scheduled for there Jan. 27, which will be the official release date, but I’ll have some copies before then, to get out to fans.
It’s called Jersey Diner. There are two main reasons I chose that title. Jersey diners are some of my favorite places in the world. When I’m traveling, I miss them, because you just can’t walk into a place and order anything from a bagel and lox to a surf and turf, and it comes out of the kitchen. Some diners are incredible. I can’t imagine what they have in their freezer, because these menus come out and it’s like, “I can order anything here and you’ll show up with it?” That’s crazy. So that’s a phenomenon that doesn’t exist in other parts in the world.
And also, musically, on this record, it’s all over my musical map, from rockers to acoustic, to old-timey, to folky … there’s a whole bunch of musical tastes, which was kind of like a Jersey diner menu.
For information and updates on D’Urso, visit jdcaravan.com.