Story and photo by Chris Spiewak
Sometimes, being in the right place at the right time can make a musician legendary.
Local musician and songwriter Marc Ribler frequently brings those legends to his weekly show, Marc Ribler & Friends, every Tuesday night at McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park. Ribler’s June 24 show featured an early member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Ernest “Boom” Carter.
Carter was not a member of the E Street Band for long, but back in 1974, his unique and distinctive drum introduction to one of the world’s most popular songs ever written, the Boss’ “Born To Run,” made him renowned to people around the globe. His subsequent work with another former E Street member, David Sancious, would solidify his prominence in the music world and, once again, make the city of Asbury Park proud of producing yet another world-class musician.
Asbury residents Sancious and Carter, along with longtime E Street bassist Garry Tallent of Neptune, made their way to Richmond, Va., in the early 1970s to earn money as sessions players at the popular Alpha Studios. Since Springsteen had a history with Sancious and Tallent from 1970 or so, utilizing their services on both of his first two albums, he contacted them again to begin recording material for the upcoming album “Born To Run,” but he needed a drummer to replace the recently departed Vini Lopez.
Sancious recommended Carter, and together with Tallent, the three ventured back to N.J. to begin work. The album took what seemed like forever to some members of the band to complete (some 14 months total), and, with the tracks for the song “Born To Run” completed, Sancious and Carter departed amicably to form their own group, Tone. In their place, Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg stepped in to complete the album, and the rest is history.
Tone had a good amount of success in the mid- to late-‘70s, featuring Gerald Carboy on bass and vocalist Patti Scialfa for a time, releasing four albums during the period. By 1978, Tone had run its course, and Carter came home to the Jersey Shore to continue his music, as a member of several well-known bands, such as The Lord Gunner Group, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Billy Hector & The Fairlanes and a touring stint with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
If he didn’t already have “Boom” as a nickname, I might suggest “Mr. Versatility,” due to the many different types of music performed in his career. Why “Boom”? Well, legend has it that while he was rehearsing on his kit in Asbury Park as a young man, a neighbor called the police for “shots fired;” in reality it was Carter generating the “boom,” presumably from several hard hits on the snare drum!
Carter relocated to northern California in the 1990s, and is very involved with the music scene in the region, collaborating with, and recording alongside local and national artists in the studio to this day.
Ribler has a reputation for bringing in top-shelf artists and this show was no exception. Original Tone members Carter and Carboy were in attendance, and their performances were as tight on this night as they were 35 years ago. Of course, Ribler would never bring in national talent without the finest Jersey Shore musicians to back them up.
During the evening, with Boom as the lone drummer, we were treated to the wonderful sounds of Tommy Labella on sax (whose beautiful original composition “Passion Flower” was performed by the band), longtime Lenny Kravitz bassist Jack Daley, Arne Wendt on keyboards, and Marc himself on guitar. There was former Donny Hathaway & Patti LaBelle band member Chuggy Carter on congas, shore legend Lance Larson on guitar and marvelous vocals from the beautiful Ms. Layonne Holmes, Mr. Dale Toth (who sang an amazing rendition of The Who’s “Love, Reign O’er Me”), and, in what literally could have been a scene from “The Blues Brothers” movie, the incomparable Mr. JT Bowen delivering a killer version of the R&B classic “Knock On Wood.” It brought the crowd to its feet. Bowen has been singing since 1960, and it is quite evident that he still loves his job, bringing that “old school” R&B feel to his performances; it is truly a wonderful thing to experience.
Ribler hit one out of the park with his lineup on this night. Boom Carter had to have been pleased with the event – surrounded by dozens of family members and fantastic musicians in front of a packed house made this homecoming very special indeed. Only six months an E Streeter, his notoriety will live forever, thanks to David Sancious, Bruce Springsteen and one very, very special song.
Chris Spiewak is currently the bassist with rock/blues cover band VyntEdge.