By DON STINE
Music is alive and well in Asbury Park but, unfortunately, one of its biggest fans is not!
Kerry F. Layton , 70, of Deal who was a regular fixture at the back bar of the Stone Pony for the last 40 years, died on June 7. A special memorial gathering in remembrance of Layton will be held at the Stone Pony on Thursday, June 20 from 6 to 9 pm.
Eileen Chapman, former Stone Pony manager and now director of the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center For American Music at Monmouth University, said she and Layton connected years ago because they both had a passion for music and pop culture.
“Through the years we were part of a group that met frequently at the back bar of the Stone Pony and Kerry and I would continue our conversations around the current music scene and entertainment in general. He was extremely smart and every conversation with him was a learning experience,” she said.
She said that when the Springsteen Archives began an oral archives, Layton was one of the first people interviewed.
“I quickly reached out to Kerry to share his take on the evolution of the Asbury Park music scene throughout the years and I’m eternally grateful that he agreed to speak on camera for us. Kerry will be deeply missed by all of us who had the opportunity to share in his life and love of the music community,” she said.
Lynne Kirchdoerffer, another avid Asbury Park music fan and head of the Asbury Ushers, said Layton can best described as a “hippie/surfer.”
“He was passionate in his love for the ocean and the beach life. But he was even more passionate in his love for the Stone Pony and the Asbury music scene. He was so proud of being an ambassador for it,” she said.
She said that Layton and his girlfriend, Pam De Lisa, “probably have one of the world’s longest-running love affairs- 49 years of having a date every night”.
“I was fortunate enough to share many fun times with both of them,” she said.
And Kirchdoerffer said that Layton’s “philosophical analysis of life was like no other.”
“I loved hearing his Kerryisms. I will miss him dearly,” she said.
Layton was also an avid mountaineer and rock climber, climbing from the Gunks in New York, to Yosemite in California, to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. He was also a photographer.
Born in Passaic on April 16, 1949, Layton grew up in Hackensack. After vacationing every summer at the Jersey Shore, his family moved to Deal in 1963 and he learned to surf and worked as a locker boy and eventually a lifeguard at the Deal Casino.
Rock and roll became the background music to his childhood. Layton got his first guitar, a ’66 Fender Mustang, from a neighborhood friend. He was in a few bands, including the “Kazoomens” and “Kerry and the Kahunas.” The latter band improvised a song, titled “Mussels Don’t Bite,” about their experiences dealing with inexperienced beachgoers.
Becoming an avid surfer in the 1960s, Layton early on attended a Steel Mill concert at a Dewey Weber Surf Shop and was friendly with Tinker West, who was an avid surfer, notable constructor of surf boards, and an early manager of Springsteen.
After attending Seton Hall and Monmouth College, Layton moved away from the academic life and transitioned into a passionate music fan. The first time he saw Springsteen perform was with Steel Mill at a party in Long Branch on the beach in August 1970, with Pam.
He also went on to attend many of the famous Moe Septee concerts at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, seeing bands like Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, and Cream. Bruce, Springsteen however, remained his local hero.
Layton and De Lisa frequented the Brighton Bar in the West End section of Long Branch and Mrs. Jay’s Biker Bar and Beer Garden in Asbury Park and, in 1978, they began to consistently go to the Stone Pony, where Layton later was named an “ambassador” due to his permanent image in the music scene.
Layton and his network of friends went to the Stone Pony at least two to three times a week for the last 40 years.