The Stanhope House is widely considered the crown jewel of New Jersey blues clubs.
It’s a roadhouse-style musical museum whose memorabilia-adorned walls are flashbacks to the days when icons performed there.
It’s a 1790s building that was once also a private home, stagecoach stop, general store, post office, tavern, rooming house, and hotel.
It’s a melodic gem that suffered a near-death experience when the pandemic threatened to close it for good.
But that’s not going to happen. The Stanhope House is alive and well and reopening on Thursday, April 15. The music will play on thanks to a GoFundMe page that raised $9,000 toward a $10,000 goal, other online fund raisers, and live outdoor performances before the weather turned cold.
“The Stanhope House has hosted everyone from blues legends and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, to locals playing at open-mic nights,” said spokesman Tom Skevin. “And legend has it that Babe Ruth drank there.”
The Skylands Songwriters Guild will host an open mic for its soft reopening on April 15.
“The open mics will continue every Thursday starting at 4 p.m.,” Skevin said. “The great thing about them is that anybody and everybody is welcome to sing, dance, or just strut their stuff.”
There is no charge for this weekly event.
The hard opening will be held Sunday, April 18, in the beer garden. It will feature the Wig Party band, with special guest Tim Carbone of the band Railroad Earth, Skevin said.
Tickets for this and other upcoming musical events can be purchased online or at the door.
“Due to state-mandated capacity levels, for now the Stanhope House will be open for outdoor events only,” Skevin said, “But this could change depending on how things open up.”
‘You feel the history’
Greg Lewis is a walking musical encyclopedia and former DJ for WNTI. He first entered The Stanhope House in 1977 while touring Jersey bars with friends.
“You feel the great history and that roadhouse blues vibe, New Jersey style, every time you enter,” he said. “I can’t express how happy I am that they persevered through the pandemic and will continue to do what they do so well.”
The place stood out. “There sure seemed to be a lot of bars in the area, but I still remember how different the Stanhope House was,” Lewis said. “For starters, there was a Zydeco Band playing and lots of people dancing. If you weren’t around in 1977, disco was the rage, and most bars were playing Bee Gees or Donna Summers.”
Lewis would not return to the Stanhope House until the late ‘80s, when he moved to New Jersey.
“In those days, before the internet, it wasn’t always easy to find out when and where bands were playing, but you could always just stop by the Stanhope and usually catch a good band,” he said.
Then, in the late ‘90s, Lewis got involved with WNTI and got to know The Stanhope House’s then-owner Maureen Myers. He’d go almost every weekend to enjoy the great bands that played there.
“I often got to interview artists who were playing during the coming weekend on my Thursday night radio show,” Lewis said. “Many of these artists were musical heroes of mine, like Kim Simmonds, Rod Price, and Mick Taylor. I remember seeing so many great local bands that later became successful internationally.”
These included Peter Karp, Todd Wolfe, and Billy Hector.
“I love hearing stories from people who grew up in North Jersey telling me about seeing a then-unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Stanhope and also guys like Albert King, Randy California or even a teenage Shemekia Copeland, singing with her late father Johnny, at the Stanhope House,” Lewis said.
Karp was among the performers that Lewis interviewed on the radio. He went on to form the band Peter Karp and the Road Show and now plays internationally. But he never forgets his beginnings.
“In the early years, The Stanhope house was my home,” Karp said. “(Myers) gave me a monthly residency, and for two years, I honed my craft. When I got signed to a label, she threw an open house celebratory party for me. To me it’s not just one of New Jersey’s premier music venues, but a home for musicians and music lovers. I can’t wait to return. I have a great memory of bringing Mick Taylor (of Rolling Stones fame) there on our tour together.”
Myers sold The Stanhope House in the 2000s, and subsequent owners went out of business. John Klein, the current owner, purchased the business in 2020.
Looking ahead, Brandon “Taz” Niederauer will be performing on Friday, May 7, as part of the spring/summer Outdoor Concert Series. Tickets are $30 for this all-ages show, plus $3 fee online. Tickets are available at http://bit.ly/TAZ5721.
The renovated and expanded Beer Garden will open at 4 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The popular Lobster Landing entree will be back on Sundays.
● April 23: Jungle Jazz Initiative, Joe Cirotti Trio, Chameleons In The Color Factory
● April 24: Nick Starr’s Drag Show
● April 25: Adam Najemian
● April 30: Touch of Grey
● May 7: Brandon “Taz” Niederauer
● Every Thursday: Open mic, hosted by Skylands Songwriters Guild
All entertainment is presented by Flying V Productions. Any ticketed show that does not start due to inclement weather will be rescheduled.
“I love hearing stories from people who grew up in North Jersey telling me about seeing a then-unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Stanhope and also guys like Albert King, Randy California or even a teenage Shemekia Copeland singing with her late father, Johnny, at the Stanhope House.” Greg Lewis