A few weeks ago, I reached out to my longtime friend and fellow music man Carmen Marotta. I wanted to fill him on what I had going on and tell him about the launch of this column.

Carmen told me he would be cooking on an upcoming Tuesday and asked me to join him at his home on a weeknight after work. Little did I know what the night held in store. Soon after I arrived, a number of musicians, whose musical skills I have been enjoying for decades, joined Carmen and his wife, Nancy, for dinner as well as some very cool music talk and concert planning. The guest list included Rich “Megahertz“ Kurtz, Leesa Kurtz, Jimmy “Old-School“ Glen, Dan Burke, “Big Bob“ Ernano and me.

As the musically minded individuals arrived, Carmen and Nancy prepped dinner while greeting each guest like the true friends they have become over the years of work they have done together. Each person who arrived greeted me warmly and then asked me if I played, and when I explained I was invited as a nonmusician guest, they welcomed me to the group.

When dinner was close to ready, we moved the meeting outside. I took a spot near the end of the table, across from Big Bob and Dan Burke and next to Jimmy “Old School.” At that moment I felt a little bit like I had been invited backstage to listen and get a glimpse of how the seamlessly run Somers Point Beach and Atlantic City Boardwalk Summer Concerts take shape and become the shows I have always enjoyed from the audience.

If you are unaware of the July 4th shows that Carmen produces, I encourage you to keep reading and come out and “Listen Up!” to the live offerings that will help carry you and those around you through the holiday and add to your summer soundtrack.

On July 3 on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, experience “The Music that Made Tony Mart's Famous.“ The concert includes the greatest hits by the biggest stars that ever played at Tony Mart's. The evening will star the original saxophone player in “Eddie and the Cruisers,” Michael “Tunes“ Antunes, in a tribute to the music of the classic movie. The New Orleans sounds that came to Bay Avenue in Somers Point will be celebrated by Fats Domino’s guitarist and Atlantic City resident Teddy Royal in a tribute to Domino with the Tony Mart All-Stars.

On July 4 bring your beach chair and grab a spot on the Somers Point beach to catch Billy Walton, who will lead a review show starring Antunes as well as Bruce Springsteen‘s original E Street drummer Vini “Mad Dog“ Lopez.

The following night, July 5, on the Somers Point beach, the Hawkins Road All-Stars will present their brand new 2½ hour mega tribute to one of the most popular country rock bands of all times, the Eagles. The All-Stars will be joined by several guest stars, including Burke, Ernano, Rosie O’Reilly and one of the premier roots rocking fiddle players on the scene today, Heather “Little Mama“ Hardy. Hardy will be making her premier appearance at the Somers Point beach.

Carmen referred to many of those in the group as Tony Mart All-Stars. Throughout the night, to the amusement of all, Carmen reminded me I was a welcome addition to the group, but I was not an “All-Star.” When Carmen first joked about my non-All-Star status, I believe my response was “I feel lucky just to be here.”

As we ate delicious Italian food and enjoyed a beverage lakeside, the work began. The musicians followed Carmen’s lead as he sketched out the framework of not one but two shows that would make up two-thirds of the summer holiday’s musical offerings.

The work seemed a lot less like work and more like a rocking stroll down memory lane as Carmen asked the members in attendance their thoughts on who could cover, play and sing the songs that made Tony Mart’s famous. The group assigned and ironed out the details for the Eagles tribute show as well. In both cases during the conversation Big Bob, Old School or Kurtz would break into song to help the decision-making process of who would sing each song easier for Carmen.

During the evening, the group kept talking about how “Bobby” sang certain songs. Bobby will most definitely be gracing the stage in spirit and channeled through these musicians who played with and loved his music. The shows July 4th and 5th will be dedicated to the memory of the dearly departed South Jersey rock ‘n’ roll icon Bob Campanell.

Throughout the night, Carmen and the team asked my opinion on a number of songs. I did my best to do some quick research as they talked about years songs charted and other artist information. I was so into the whole experience and talking music and memories with true music men and women was a very cool experience.

I would like nothing more than to list the songs that you will be treated to throughout this week at both locations of Atlantic City and Somers Point, but I actually promised Carmen and the group that I would not divulge the set lists or surprises that will make up the concerts.

So with the songs selections pressed into my musical mind and locked in the vault, I, like many of you, am ready to watch the plans unfold in the concerts July 3 to 5. After that night of food, music and memories, I can honestly say I feel like a “Tony Mart All-Star” — on the concert-planning team, not on the music-playing team, that is.

Find more information at Tonymart.com for the Atlantic City “Mardi Gras AC” Wednesday Night Concerts and somerspointbeachconcerts.com for the Somers Point Summer Beach Concerts.

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