Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens and Obie Dziedzic, an assistant to Bruce Springsteen in his early years, will be announced as “Asbury Angels” on Friday, Jan. 18 at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park in a show that’s part of the Light of Day Winterfest.
Asbury Park musician Gladstone Trott and journalist “Uncle Mike” Lisa will also be among those honored. The inductees, who are deceased, will be recognized in the upcoming year with plaques on the city’s “Boardwalk of Fame” by the Asbury Angels Project, which seeks to memorialize those who have made important contributions to the city’s musical legacy.
DiNizio, a native of Scotch Plains, played in the city throughout his career, both with the Smithereens and solo at the Langosta Lounge, where he staged his “Confessions of Rock Star” show in a weekly residency in 2014 and ‘15.
He passed away in December of 2017 at the age of 62.
“We really honed our craft not just in New Brunswick and Kenny’s (Castaways) in New York, but we were fortunate to be playing in Asbury Park since 1980, since the beginning, opening for Lord Gunner and Cats on a Smooth Surface at the Stone Pony,” said Smithereens guitarist Jim Babjak. “After we had hit records, we played the Asbury Park boardwalk at the big WNEW concerts and we played the Stone Pony and sold out it out for many years.”
The Smithereens: Pat DiNizio, Jim Babjak, Mike Mesaros, Dennis Diken. (Photo: Jim Babjak Archives)
The Smithereens last stand in Asbury Park with DiNizio were two shows at the Wonder Bar on the July 4th weekend of 2017.
“Asbury Park had a special place in our hearts, even in final days when he couldn’t play guitar anymore,” Babjak said. “We played two nights at the Wonder Bar. Mike Mesaros, our original bassist, rejoined us and people were watching the show from outside, looking in from the window. We could see their faces and they could hear us -- it was just magical.”
The Smithereens, with Robin Wilson of Gin Blossoms on vocals, play Sony Hall in New York City on Saturday, Jan. 12. The band is now using a rotating lineup of lead singers.
Dziedzic was called the Boss’ first and “No. 1 fan’’ by Springsteen himself, and she also served as a confidante who helped the musician purchase his first car and his first house. She’s credited with helping Springsteen move from junk food to a more balanced diet that includes vegetables and salads, according to the book “Bruce” by Peter Carlin. She’s also credited with helping to choose the version of “Racing in the Street” that appears on the 1978 album, “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” according to the Thom Zimny film, “The Promise: The Making of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town.”
Stevie Van Zandt, Obie Dziedzic and Bruce Springsteen. (Photo: Courtesy of Billy Smith)
Dziedzic, who passed way in May of 2017 at the age of 65, also played a managerial role for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
Trott was an Asbury Park native who played at venues at the Jersey Shore and New York City, and often at St. Augustine Episcopal Church in Asbury Park. Uncle Mike covered the Asbury Park music scene for the Two River Times newspaper of Red Bank in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The new inductees were selected by a blue-ribbon panel of music industry professionals and historians. Criteria used included significant contributions to the creative music community and impact on that community and the length of time spent on the Asbury Park music scene. Those eligible for induction this year and in future years include musicians, songwriters, disc jockeys, writers, technical support staff and club and venue owners. They must have been deceased at least one year.
This will be the eighth class of Asbury Angels. There are more than 50 plaques on the boardwalk.
The Ventures, the Weeklings, Bocci and the Bad Boys, the Billy Walton Band, Hans Ludvigsson, Thompson & Trippiedi, Milly, Martin Pretorious, Black Flamingos, Peter Hogklint, Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son, Pat Foran and the Mike Rocket Band will perform at the induction show, which starts 7 p.m. It’s part of the Light of Day Winterfest in the city, which raises funds for the fight against Parkinson’s and related diseases.
Visit www.asburyangels.com for more information on the Asbury Angels.
Chris Jordan: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @chrisfhjordan