Starting Saturday, Steven Van Zandt will put Jersey music in the spotlight for two hours every week on his SiriusXM satellite radio channel, Underground Garage.
Free-form DJ Rich Russo – whose syndicated show “Anything, Anything” can be heard Sunday nights on WDHA-FM (105.5 FM), WRAT-FM (95.9 FM) and other stations — will do a different show for Underground Garage (channel 21) devoted entirely to Jersey music, Saturdays from 4 to 6 p.m. It will be called “The Jersey Show with the Jersey Guy, Rich Russo.”
Russo says the idea came from Van Zandt, whom he has been a friend of for about 15 years. “He called me up and he said, ‘Hey, I want to make some changes on Garage. I want to put you on.’ And I’m like, ‘Wow.’ ”
He said Van Zandt told him, regarding the Jersey theme, “You can define Jersey any way you want.”
In other words, he said, each song he plays doesn’t necessarily have to be by a Jersey artist. It could be by an non-New Jerseyan who is singing about New Jersey. It could be written by a New Jerseyan and recorded by someone else. Or it could be a recorded on a Jersey record label, or at a Jersey venue. But every song has to be connected to the state in some way.
Russo can also play several songs in a row by a single artist, and he can — and will — play music by indie or unsigned bands. And there is no stylistic restriction. “I can go from Count Basie to Sinatra to the Gaslight Anthem to Springsteen,” he says.
He says he’s also going to have his own section at the Vintage Vinyl record store in Fords, devoted to songs he plays on “The Jersey Show” and “Anything, Anything.” That probably won’t be ready for another month or so, he says.
Russo, a longtime E Street Band fan who owns a 100,000-piece CD and vinyl collection, was introduced to Van Zandt when Van Zandt put out his Born Again Savage album in 1999. Van Zandt was looking to do media buys for the album, and Van Zandt’s assistant knew Russo worked in that field.
“I went there and discussed media buying with them,” says Russo, “and we hit it off because of our love of music, and my record collection, or whatever. And then once he started the Garage, he would call me up at 3 o’clock in the morning looking for, like, a mono version of a Hollies single that I would have.”
Russo says he never would have asked Van Zandt to give him an Underground Garage show.
“I never even thought that it would be a possibility, and I never would want to put him on the spot,” he says. “This pretty much came out of left field.”