The Hippo


Jul 24, 2019








Southside Johnny. Courtesy photo.

Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes

When: Saturday, Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m. 
Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
Tickets: $24.50-$64.50 at

Get happy
Southside Johnny brings new album to Palace

By Michael Witthaus

 Fueled by a collective love for Stax/Volt, Motown and gritty early 1970s R&B, the new record from Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes was finished in about a week, “Just a very natural flow … it fit this band perfectly,” frontman Johnny Lyon said. Evocative and joyous, Soultime is one of their best. Fans will hear selections from it, along with classics like “This Time It’s For Real” and “Talk To Me,” when the band performs at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.

Southside Johnny spoke with the Hippo from his home in New Jersey.
What inspired you to make Soultime?  
My last album [Pills and Ammo] was pretty angry rock and roll. … I was shopping one day and Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly came on, that great solid groove, the bass just grooving along. I look around and all the people are bopping, their shoulders and heads are moving. A woman pushing her cart with a baby in it, she’s kind of stepping a little bit. I thought, maybe that’s what I should be doing; instead of venting my anger I should be making music people can really enjoy listening to and forget their troubles. I’m not unhappy about making Pills and Ammo; I’m glad I got that out of my system, but I think my real function is to provide joy and surcease from worry with my music.
One of my favorite songs is a duet, “All I Can Do.” Who are you singing with?
That’s Jeff Kazee, my songwriting partner and keyboard player; we wrote the record together. The songs came [together] once I decided this is what I want to do, this is the groove I want. Bobby Womack is really the touchstone, and Curtis Mayfield. When we sat down to write, it was natural because we are very steeped in that music. It didn’t take long to write 11 to 12 songs. Then I said. “Let’s do an instrumental.” It’s the first one we’ve ever done.
Yeah, that’s “Klank.” It has a great groove that reminds me of Stevie Wonder.
It was kind of based on “Rhinoceros,” but there’s some Stevie Wonder in there too, yeah. We both liked so many different types of music like that, and once the band came into the studio it took like three days for the rhythm section, two days for the horns and whatever other stuff we had to do. It really didn’t take very long to do this whole record. It fit this band perfectly.  
What’s it like playing the new stuff on stage?
We did some songs before the record came out and they fit right into the Jukes set. We were all going, “Hey, maybe we did something great for once!” Really, when you get into this age, it was the right place at the right time. The songs are just so perfect. It’s just a really good time for me.  
The Jukes have had many members; it’s one of the largest alumni associations in music. 
[Laughs] It’s over 130. There’s probably like 150 now. If we ever have a reunion, the audience will have to stay out because there won’t be any room.
Who’s the longest-running member, the shortest and the most memorable?
I’m not gonna answer that because I’ll hurt somebody’s feelings. There was a guy in the band for one show then was fired. This was 20 years ago — a trumpet player couldn’t make the gig and this guy auditioned and knew the stuff, but once he got to the gig he started bossing roadies around, guys that had been with us for years. I looked at him and said, “After this gig, you’re on a plane tomorrow morning.” Screw it; we went without a trumpet for a couple of days. The guys that support me really support me; we’re all in it together. This guy wanted to be a prima donna. I couldn’t take it, so I sent him home the next day. That’s probably the shortest run.  
I heard Jon Bon Jovi was a Juke for a while?
Yeah, he’d gotten off the road and was still running at full speed, so he asked his wife Dorothea if he could go out with me and the Jukes. I don’t know how long he was with us — a few weeks, maybe a month. We had to register him in the hotel under a false name. … We made a name up for him — Melvin Velvet. He was great, he played rhythm guitar and sang harmonies. He just loved the Jukes and had a great time. It was just fun. 
Is it still harder than it looks?
No! [Laughs] The hard thing is maintaining a career and your audience and your enthusiasm to do that. But I know how hard it’s been for people to make a career in music, so I don’t take it for granted. I’m very sincere about being a musician and being the best I can — and the best entertainer I can, which is not always the same thing. Most of the time it’s easy once you’re on stage; it’s the time in between that’s hard.   

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