ATLANTIC CITY — James A. Robinson Jr. sits in his beach chair against one of the stone pillars of Boardwalk Hall every Wednesday listening to the live music presented as part of the Mardi Gras AC concert series.
“I’m always out here on Wednesday nights,” said Robinson, 57, a resort native. “They never book someone I know. I take my chances.”
This most recent Wednesday featured the West Coast jump swing blues act Rick Estrin & The Nightcats and Grammy-nominated singer Maria Muldaur, who had a top-10 pop hit with the song “Midnight at the Oasis” in 1974.
Robinson thought Estrin was pretty good and liked Muldaur enough to stay on the Boardwalk once she started singing.
Over the past nine years, what was originally called Mardi Gras on the Boardwalk has been held on the Boardwalk five times.
Four of the five times, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has provided money for the series.
This year, Mardi Gras AC received the second highest amount it has ever gotten from the CRDA — $175,000, said Carmen Marotta, who runs Tony Mart LLC, the company bringing the roots and blues musicians to the Boardwalk.
Muldaur, 75, who has had a 56-year music career, decided to perform a New Orleans-inspired set that had her singing songs from Louisiana son gwriters such as Bobby Charles and Allen Toussaint.
Muldaur sang songs like “Yes We Can Can” and “Why Are People Like That?” that had people clapping, singing and dancing on the Boardwalk.
With money from the CRDA, residents and visitors will be treated to free concerts by the reggae band Third World, rock ‘n’ roll singer Gary U.S. Bonds and a theatrical pop-soul revival performance by Remember Jones for the second year in a row.
When Bonds, 80, performs July 24, some of the listeners will remember his hits from the 1960s, while others will recall where they were when they first heard his singles from the 1980s.
During a time when middle-of-the-road singers like Paul Anka, Fabian and Frankie Avalon were having pop chart hits, Bonds came out with the relentless pounder “New Orleans,” a No. 6 pop hit in 1960, and a swinging party record, his No. 1 pop hit “Quarter to Three,” in 1961.
Bonds’ career resurgence in 1981 was fueled by his association with Bruce Springsteen, which led to his hit “This Little Girl,” which reached No. 11 on the charts.
“There are so many jobs that I do that nobody knows about in 1981 and 1982. They don’t know anything that happened after the ‘60s,” Bonds said. “I go and play some gigs, and they hear ‘This Little Girl’ and ‘Jole Bl on,’ and then, I do ‘Quarter to Three,’ and they go, “Wow, is that a new song?”
The additional money Tony Mart LLC received from CRDA this year allowed it to book groups such as Galactic on Aug. 7, a New Orleans funk and jazz jam band, who are a major headliner with enough popularity on the jam band circuit to close out festivals in Colorado and California, Marotta said.
Two types of people come to Tony Mart shows: the local people, who live in South Jersey, and the music people, who travel from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and North Jersey to be able to see these acts for free, Marotta said.
Larry Sieg, the CRDA’s director of communications and marketing, said the tourism organization has been delighted to be able to put together the DO AC Boardwalk Entertainment Series daily at Kennedy Plaza that includes Mardi Gras AC, Tribute Tuesdays, the Chicken Bone Beach Jazz Series and Broadway on the Boardwalk.
“Our goal is to offer free nightly entertainment in Atlantic City this summer,” Sieg said. “We also partnered with the City of Atlantic City to present three concerts at Gardner’s Basin, giving our residents and visitors a variety of free entertainment choices and opportunities to ‘DO AC.’”