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Springsteen Trip

Starting only about an hour from New York City, this self-guided tour explores Springsteen Country – from Bruce Springsteen’s hometown, through his Jersey Shore stomping ground, to the communities he has called home since 1996.

So, “roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair…”

Bruce Springsteen – Growing Up in Freehold

Childhood Homesite – 87 Randolph St, Freehold, New Jersey

Now just a corner of a parking lot at St. Rose of Lima Church, this is where the childhood home of Bruce Springsteen once stood. The driveway entrance is the only evidence of its existence. But don’t be discouraged, there’s a lot to take in here. So, park your car and take a walk around the block.

Photo of site of Bruce Springsteen's childhood home,  now a parking lot, with car parked in area that was once the driveway.

Bruce lived here with his grandparents, parents, and sister. The only source of heat in the two-story house was a kerosene stove. Bruce remembers seeing their breath on winter mornings.

As Bruce recalls more fondly, “I am 10 years old, and I know every crack, bone, and crevice in the crumbling sidewalk running up and down Randolph Street…On these streets, I have been rolled in my baby carriage, learned to walk, been taught by my grandfather to ride a bike.”

As Bruce grew older, he would play “epic gutter ball tournaments” in the street. Visits from the ice cream man highlighted the days. The Springsteen yard had the biggest tree in the neighborhood, and Bruce liked to climb as high as he could.

In the warm summer months, neighbors down the block would hang out on their front porches. Bruce had family down the street – a grandmother, aunts, and cousins. Though not unfriendly, the Springsteen clan did not socialize much; Bruce, however, visited his aunt’s house after school to play her piano.

St. Rose of Lima Church – 16 McLean Street, Freehold, New Jersey

Head toward the church at the corner of Randolph and McLean. Over three generations, numerous Springsteen family milestones took place in this church – baptisms, first holy communions, weddings, and funerals. Bruce remembers being the only altar boy to ever be knocked down by a priest during mass.

At the intersection, turn up McLean, past the church and rectory, then turn right on the asphalt driveway that curves back around the church toward the Springsteen home. Imagine Bruce as a child, riding his bike around this loop from the Springsteen house as he loved to do. As he blazed past the convent, the nuns would scold him from their windows.

Photo of the church that Bruce Springsteen attended as a child in Freehold, New Jersey.

St. Rose of Lima School – 51 Lincoln Place, Freehold, New Jersey

Just before you reach the convent, turn left, and walk through the parking lot toward St. Rose of Lima School. Bruce Springsteen attended this hometown school, although it is much larger today. Bruce’s class moved into what was then a new building on Lincoln Place in 1957. The South Street extension (pictured) was added in 1966 when Bruce was a high school senior.

As Bruce recalled, “Before my grammar school education was over, I’d have my knuckles classically rapped, my tie pulled ‘til I choked; be struck in the head, shut into a dark closet, and stuffed into a trash can while being told this is where I belonged.”

Bruce was finished with Catholicism once he graduated from eighth grade. Springsteen did, however, return as a high schooler to perform at several CYO dances in the basement cafeteria with his band the Castiles. Nearly thirty years later, Bruce performed at a community center benefit in the gymnasium of St. Lima’s. Bruce Springsteen accepted and wrote a hilarious song for the occasion, titled “Freehold.”   

Photo of the school that Bruce Springsteen attended through eight grade in Freehold, New Jersey.
Growin’ Up

As you circle the school, stop at the intersection of Lincoln Place and South Street. In the summer of 1967, Bruce was “T-boned” by a Cadillac here while riding home down South Street. Springsteen was riding the motorcycle his mother bought Bruce for high school graduation around his hometown. The collision sent him “twenty feet into the air.” Bruce was unable to play gigs for part of the summer as he recovered from his injuries.

Springsteen would recount the story during an interlude of “Growin’ Up” on his 1978 tour. His performance at the Roxy Theatre in L.A. was broadcast live on local radio. A recording of “Growin’ Up” was included on the long-anticipated Bruce Springsteen live album in 1985. Subscribers can click the Spotify logo to hear the whole song. Alternatively, you can open a free Spotify account to hear the song with commercials. Or, just click the arrow for a short preview.

Pre-teen Home – 39 ½ Institute Street, Freehold, New Jersey

The Springsteen family left Randolph Street to move into their own place nearby. While there was no hot water, the house did have a television and young Bruce first saw Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show in this house.

Bruce missed his old home and his grandparents during his time on Institute Street. He would return to Randolph Street every chance he could, sleeping on the couch with his grandmother. By then the house was dilapidated, the upper floor bedroom and bathroom unusable. Shortly after his grandfather passed away in 1962, the church acquired the Randolph Street property and demolished the house.

Photo of exterior of home Bruce Springsteen lived in during his youth in Freehold, New Jersey.

Teenage Home – 68 South Street, Freehold, New Jersey

Following the birth of Bruce’s younger sister in 1962, Springsteen moved to this larger home on South Street. Bruce’s grandmother moved in with them. He recalled hearing the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” while driving with his mom up South Street. Bruce, then a high school freshman, remembers running to the bowling alley on Main Street to call his girlfriend (Springsteen did not have a phone), then walking to Newberry’s five and dime in search of the Meet the Beatles album. He would return daily until he eventually found it. Bruce saw the Beatles for the first time on the Ed Sullivan shortly thereafter.

Bruce Springsteen played in his first bands, the Rogues, the Castiles, and Child while living here. On the “Growin’ Up” recording, he also tells the story of how his father got him to turn down his “goddamn guitar.”

When his family moved to California in 1969, Bruce (then 19) stayed in the South Street house. Future E- Street Band members Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez and Danny Federici moved in, “along with a revolving cast of long-haired hippies,” transforming the place “into a hippie frat house.” According to Bruce, the landlord kicked them out within a month.

Photo of the exterior of the home where Bruce Springsteen lived during his teenage years.

Bruce Springsteen Hometown – Freehold, New Jersey

“I’d sit on his lap in that big old Buick
And steer as we drove through town
He’d tousle my hair
And say, ‘Son, take a good look around’
This is your hometown”

Before leaving, you may want to look around town at other Bruce Springsteen hometown landmarks in Freehold. One thing you may notice is that Freehold does not look to capitalize on its most famous native son. In 1999 the town considered installing a Bruce Springsteen statue. They concluded that the cost was prohibitive and that there were better uses for the resources. In 2022, Freehold announced that the Main Street firehouse will be converted into a Bruce Springsteen museum.

First Band Rehearsals – 68 Barkalow Avenue, Freehold, New Jersey

The Rogues, Bruce’s first band, practiced in the basement of this house where band member Craig Caprioni lived. Caprioni’s father, who earned a purple heart in World War II and worked as a sheet metal engineer, happened to also be an accomplished musician. He led an orchestra that performed around the Jersey shore, and he encouraged or at least tolerated the band’s playing. Bruce joined as a rhythm guitarist but was kicked out because his cheap department store guitar would not stay in tune.

First Gig – Elks Club – 74 E. Main Street, Freehold, New Jersey

Bruce Springsteen played his first gig here with the Rogues at a Sunday matinee show for teenagers. The band, like most in the area at the time, played mostly instrumentals. For a set finally, Bruce stepped to the microphone and sang “Twist and Shout,” a song that Springsteen has since covered hundreds of times in arenas and stadiums around the world with the E Street Band.

Exterior photo of the entrance of the Elks Lodge in Freehold New Jersey where Bruce Springsteen played his first gig.

Freehold High School – 2 Robertsville Road, Freehold, New Jersey

Bruce Springsteen immortalized his high school and the racial tensions of the era in “My Hometown.” While a student, Bruce also played gigs here with both the Rogues and the Castiles. Springsteen was not interested in academics or school activities; his obsession and sole focus was his music.

School administrators barred Bruce from high school graduation unless he cut his shoulder-length hair. Springsteen responded by skipping graduation and the party that his mother had planned to celebrate the occasion. Instead, he hopped a bus for Greenwich Village.

Vinyard Park – 49 Center Street, Freehold, New Jersey

Tex and Marion Vinyard, a childless couple in their thirties, lived in a shotgun duplex here that shared a wall with the home of a young drummer named Bart Haynes. Tex eventually welcomed Bart and his friends into their home to rehearse. It was here that the Castiles formed.

Tex, who became a surrogate father figure to Bruce, encouraged and supported the kids and served as the band’s unpaid manager. Marion was also supportive as the band’s house mother and seamstress. Tex and Marion would refer to the kids as “Our Boys.”

Across Center Street stood Caiazzo’s Music Shop. The young musicians would sit on the stoop and dream about the first-rate equipment they could see in the window. One night while the Castiles were coveting a microphone at Caiazzo’s, Tex exclaimed, “Fuck it, when I get paid on Friday, we’re going to bring that baby home.” He would do that often.

In 2002, Vinyard Park was dedicated by Freehold Borough to honor Tex and Marion for their contributions to the community. Springsteen and Castiles vocalist George Theiss were in attendance. Bart Haynes died in Vietnam in 1967, at age 19.

Karagheusian Rug Mill – 41 Center Street, Freehold, New Jersey

Across Jackson Street from the Vinyard’s, spanning both sides of the intersection, was the long-time economic center of Freehold – the Karagheusian rug mill. Bruce’s father worked here for a time as did members of many Freehold families. The Bruce Springsteen song “My Hometown” commemorates its closing.

Following a labor strike in the 1950s, the owners began to move manufacturing to North Carolina. The section of the building opposite the Vinyard’s was converted to affordable housing. Across Center Street, the demolished section was replaced by Rug Mill Plaza.

Federici’s Pizza – 14 E. Main Street, Freehold, New Jersey

A long-time Freehold favorite, Tex would bring the band to Federici’s after gigs to distribute their pay over a pizza. Apparently, Federici’s is still a Springsteen favorite; Bruce mentions a more recent visit in his memoir. Danny Federici of the E Street Band is no relation.

Jersey Freeze – 120 Manalapan Avenue, Freehold, New Jersey

Bruce Springsteen recalled fond memories of trips to the hometown Jersey Freeze in his memoir. “On warm nights, with the windows in our big sedan wide open, first we’d roll down Main Street, then on out to…the Jersey Freeze ice cream stand. We’d bounce out of the car and up to the sliding window, where you had your choice of two flavors…vanilla and chocolate. I didn’t like either, but I loved those wafer cones. The owner would save me the broken ones…My sister and I would sit on the hood of the car in silent ecstasy with the Jersey humidity smothering all sound but for the night crickets humming in the neighboring woods.”

Photo of the exterior of the Jersey Freeze in Freehold, New Jersey. Sign says The Best Since 1952.

The Jersey Shore – Bruce Springsteen Stomping Ground

Early Bruce Springsteen album lyrics refer to fascinating people and places that bring his stories to life. No song paints a more vivid image than “Spirit in the Night” from the Springsteen debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. If you would like to make a detour to a possible inspiration for the “Greasy Lake” referenced in the song, head for Lake Carasaljo or Lake Shenandoah (pictured) in Lakewood, New Jersey.

Photo of "Greasy Lake" from Bruce Springsteen song aka Lake Shenandoah.
“It’s about a mile down on the dark side of Route 88.”

Driving from Freehold to the Jersey Shore is about a 35-minute drive. The stop in Lakewood will add about 20 minutes to your drive time. If you decide to skip the lake, head straight to Carlson’s Corner.

Carlson’s Corner – 432 1st Avenue, Manasquan, New Jersey

“Besides the kitchen table, the Manasquan Inlet was my dad’s favorite spot in the world…My sister and I would eat hot dogs at Carlson’s Corner, changing into our pajamas with a towel wrapped around us on the beach as my mother stood guard. On the way home we’d stop for a double feature at the Shore Drive-In, falling asleep in the backseat, to be carried to our beds by my dad” – Bruce Springsteen.

Photo of exterior of Carlson's Corner in Manasquan, New Jersey on a sunny day with people with dogs outside.

“As we grew older,” Bruce continued, “we’d step rock by rock out along the dark Manasquan jetty…we’d stare out into the pitch-black nothing of the Atlantic, with only the distant sparkling lights of night-charter fishing boats revealing the horizon.”

Photo of Manasquan Jetty in New Jersey on a sunny day with children playing and surfers eyeing a calm ocean.

The Ospry – 201 1st Ave, Manasquan, New Jersey

Bruce Springsteen would hang out on the street outside this club to listen to the live bands playing inside. At age 22, Springsteen had his first drink here when he came inside to see The Shirelles. Bruce is a fan of these Jersey girls. The “wall of sound” of the Shirelles’ Phil Spector-produced recordings was an influence on the E Street Band sound. And Bruce covered the Shirelles’ song “Sha La La” several times on the Born to Run tour in 1975.

Exterior photo of The Osprey nightclub in Manasquan, New Jersey.

Sancious Family Home – 1105 E Street, Belmar, New Jersey

The E Street Band took its name from the street where pianist David Sancious lived with his family. The original lineup of the E Street Band rehearsed here.

The Sancious family moved to this home when David was six. A piano came with the house. When his mother sat down and played a classical piece, David was amazed. His mother began teaching him to play.

Sancious left the E Street Band to sign a record deal and has since recorded and toured with Peter Gabriel, Sting, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Santana among others.

Exterior photo of the beautifully renovated home in Belmar, New Jersey where Dave Sancious lived with his family.

Just around the corner at 10th Avenue and E Street is a great photo op for Bruce Springsteen fans. Post your photo to your favorite social media accounts. Don’t forget to tag TripsNTunes!

Photo of the corner of 10th Avenue and E Street in Belmar, New Jersey. A large replica of Bruce Springsteen's guitar in the background.
Where…”Bad Scooter searching for his groove” and “the boy prophets walk it handsome and hot” intersect.

The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle House – 205 5th Avenue, Bradley Beach, New Jersey

Bruce Springsteen wrote songs for his second album in the apartment above the garage. Bruce lived here with his girlfriend/muse Diane Lozito over her parents’ objections. “I know your mama, she don’t like me ’cause I play in a rock and roll band.”

Photo of exterior of apartment above a garage where Bruce Springsteen lived. An American flag hangs from a window.
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) complete with flag on Bruce’s former apartment.

Bruce met Lozito through her boyfriend, a crazy cat named “Wild Billy.” The story of their first kiss – “just right like only a lonely angel can,” was embellished in “Spirit in the Night” where Diane is renamed “Crazy Janey.” The actual kiss took place behind a rock at the beach with her boyfriend standing nearby.

According to Lozito, when she asked Bruce why he did not use her name in the songs, Springsteen replied, “It’s boring having a whole album about the same girl. And nothing rhymes with Diane.”

Challenger Eastern Surfboards – 1109 9th Avenue, Bradley Beach, New Jersey (Demolished)

Nothing to see here today, but in the early days of Steel Mill/Child, Bruce hung out and rehearsed at Challenger Eastern Surfboards shop, located in an industrial park on 9th Avenue east of Main Street.

Bruce and Vini Lopez even lived there for a while on mattresses set on the concrete floor. The band’s manager Carl “Tinker” West ran the surfboard shop. The Pandemonium Club, where Child/Steel Mill played frequently, was walking distance from the surfboard shop on Highway 35.

Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

Asbury Park has an extraordinary musical legacy. That legacy did not begin with Bruce Springsteen. Rather, the musical community of the town played a big part in attracting Bruce in the first place. When Springsteen arrived in 1969, live music was everywhere in Asbury Park, from the shore to the west side of town across the railroad tracks. There were bars, nightclubs, restaurants, coffeehouses, theatres, and a convention center – reportedly, over seventy venues in all.

The Upstage Club – 702 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park, New Jersey

From 1968-1971, The Upstage Club was THE hangout for young musicians in Asbury Park. The owner, Tom Potter, wanted to create an after-hours alcohol-free club where young musicians could hang out and jam until dawn. As Bruce Springsteen says, this is where he made his most powerful musical friendships and where the E Street Band was born.

The club was on the upper floor of this corner building. A Thom McAn shoe store was on the street level. A coffeehouse called the Green Mermaid Café which featured live acoustic music occupied the middle floor.

Exterior photo of the building that once housed The Upstate club where Bruce Springsteen played. Sign with name visible at the roof.

On his first visit, Bruce knew no one at the club but saw Danny Federici and Vini Lopez playing on stage. Springsteen returned weeks later, plugged his guitar into the stage’s built-in amp and speakers, and played the blues standard “Rock Me Baby” (Jeff Beck style, according to Bruce). Garry Tallent and Southside Johnny Lyon were also there and quickly took notice. Bruce would later bring Steve Van Zandt to the club.

Greetings Apartment – 716 Cookman Avenue, Asbury Park, New Jersey

Potter, a hairdresser by day, lived and worked a few doors down from the Upstage with his musician/beautician wife. Following their breakup, the club closed, and Bruce moved into their apartment on the top floor. While living here Springsteen wrote songs for Greetings from Asbury Park N.J. on his old spinet piano that Bruce kept in a room behind the beauty salon on the second floor.

Just before signing his record deal with Columbia, Bruce did not have enough money to pay the rent. For a time he slept on the beach in a sleeping bag with his surfboard and all his possessions. At the time that Springsteen recorded Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., Bruce was off the beach and crashing on a friend’s couch.

Turf Club – 1200 Springwood Avenue, Asbury Park, New Jersey

Springwood Avenue was once the thriving African American entertainment district of Asbury Park. Numerous music venues lined the streets where music fans would come to hear jazz, blues, R&B, and soul from local and major touring acts. By the 1960s, Springwood Avenue had developed a reputation as a rough area, yet Steve Van Zandt noted that they never had an issue coming here despite building racial tensions.

On July 4, 1970, race riots erupted on Springwood Avenue, and several businesses were burnt to the ground and many others were trashed and looted. These riots would lead to the destruction of the Springwood business district and the eventual demise of Asbury Park. While the past two decades have brought revitalization to the coastal section of town, Springwood Avenue remains lined with vacant lots.

The Turf Club is the last remaining structure on Springwood Avenue that once hosted live music. A local organization, Asbury Park African American Music Project, hopes to revitalize the space and transform it into a community venue for music and culture. You can explore the history of Springwood Avenue or donate to their non-profit organization by clicking the link above.

Student Prince – 911 Kingsley Street, Asbury Park, New Jersey

After Bruce broke up Steel Mill to form the band that would become the E Street Band, Springsteen sought a place in Asbury Park for his fledgling band to play. At the time, the bars in town mostly booked Top 40 acts. Bruce went to the least popular places in town, thinking they may be more amendable to allowing his band to perform original material.

In September 1971, they began playing the Student Prince and building a following over the next three and a half months. Clarence Clemons came by the club one night after his gig at the nearby Wonder Bar. Legend has it that it was a stormy night and when Clarence entered, the door blew off its hinges. “And the change was made up town and the Big Man joined the band” (over a year later).

Convention Hall – 1300 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, New Jersey

For many years Convention Hall was the premier venue in the area for large touring acts from the prominent big bands in the 1930s, to early rock ‘n’ rollers like Bill Haley & the Comets in the 1950s to the Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, and The Who in the 1960s.

Exterior photo of Convention Hall in Asbury Park.

On August 16, 1969, Led Zeppelin performed here, a commitment that precluded them from playing Woodstock that weekend. Bruce’s band Child (soon renamed Steel Mill) declined an invitation to play on Wavy Gravy’s side stage at Woodstock because of their commitment to play at the Pandemonium Club near Bradley Beach.

The weekend after Woodstock, Janis Joplin came to town. Between shows at Convention Hall, Janis wandered the boardwalk. Her manager needed “to drag her off the Tilt-A-Whirl to get her back on stage.” Bruce and his band were invited backstage for Joplin’s show and took in the end of her set from the wings.

Following the riots in 1970, the Hall remained a draw even as the town fell on tough times. Springsteen would not play here until 1999, but Bruce has used Asbury Park Convention Hall for concerts and rehearsals over the years since. On occasion, the rehearsals were opened to the public who had gathered outside.

The Stone Pony – 913 Ocean Ave, Asbury Park, New Jersey

Since opening in 1974, the Stone Pony has been the venue most associated with Asbury Park. One of the club’s early house bands was Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes in its original lineup with Steve Van Zandt.

Southside put the club on the national map with a syndicated live concert broadcast to support his debut album release in 1976. The concert at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park included guest appearances by Clarence Clemons on Springsteen’s “The Fever,” Ronnie Spector on “You Mean So Much to Me” and Bruce Springsteen joined for the Sam Cooke finale “Havin’ a Party.” Van Zandt, then a member of the E Street Band and the Jukes manager, played guitar throughout most of the set.

Bruce Springsteen has made countless appearances at this Asbury Park landmark over the years, most often joining friends on stage. In more recent years, Bruce has performed at benefit concerts here, often for his children’s schools.

Madam Marie’s – 4th and Ocean Avenues, Asbury Park, New Jersey

“Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie for telling fortunes better than they do”

Born to Run House – 7 ½ West End Ct, Long Branch, New Jersey

Bruce Springsteen wrote the songs for Born to Run while living in this cottage, a block from the beach. “The orchestral sound of Born to Run came from most of the songs being written on a piano (in the living room). It was on the keyboard that I could find the arrangements needed to accompany the stories I was writing.” The title track was written on guitar in his bedroom at the back.

“The screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways, Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays.”

21st Century Bruce

Springsteen Family Home – 36 Bellevue Avenue, Rumson, New Jersey

Wanting to provide their children a “more of a normal upbringing” just as their eldest child was entering first grade, Bruce and Patti moved their family back to Central Jersey in 1996.

The Springsteen’s raised their three children in this home set back from the road and separated by a line of trees. The Rumson Day School located just across Bellevue Avenue was about as conveniently located for the Springsteen kids as St. Lima’s had been for Bruce. The Springsteen’s for many years celebrated Halloween with elaborate decorations and Bruce handing out candy. They sold the home in 2017.

According to biographer Peter Ames Carlin, Bruce Springsteen sightings around Freehold and Asbury Park were commonplace – taking his young son to Freehold’s Main Street for Cruise Night, working out at Gold’s Gym at the mall, shuttling the kids around town and watching them on the playground. There is even a story of a time when Bruce was admiring a Harley-Davidson with a For Sale sign on it, and after chatting with the owner, he ended up hanging out at a backyard barbeque and drinking beers for a couple of hours with his new acquaintance.

Bruce & Patti’s Home – 145 Muhlenbrink Road, Colts Neck, New Jersey

Bruce Springsteen now lives on a 386-acre horse ranch in Colts Neck, New Jersey only eight miles from his childhood home. Nearly adjacent to his sprawling property is the Parish of St. Mary Catholic church. Go figure.

More Bruce

Headed to New York City? Check out my Greenwich Village self-guided tour with stops where the Castiles played their first NYC gigs and where Bruce Springsteen auditioned for Columbia Records. Wander the streets and visit the clubs that Springsteen did on his bus trips to the city.

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Primary Sources:

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin

The excellent documentary “Riot Redemption Rock and Roll” is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Special thanks to Brucebase Wiki for maintaining an incredible resource for Springsteen fans.

Located just a few blocks from the Born to Run house, the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University maintains a museum quality collection of over 35,000 Springsteen-related items that are available for viewing by appointment with two weeks advance notice.