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The best kept secret in music


Who knew Mondays could be so fun?
    At McIntyre's Pub in Toms River, I recently caught the band Big Baby Ernie, asbolutely tearing the house down. From the first note people were on their feet dancing, having a great time. From girls dressed like they were going to the club to hippies to hardcore punkers, everyone was  shaking what their mamma gave them. And all on a Monday.  And this is what the band is all about, having fun.

    Big Baby Ernie, formerly Boone's Farm, has taken the summer of 2005 by storm, by amassing over 30 plus shows a month.

    An original band that performs a number of covers, Big Baby Ernie has established a reputation as a hardworking, fun band with a growing loyal fan base. And of all this has been done without them looking like models or covering top 40 pops hits. Their fusion of rock, pop, funk, soul and jazz has created a dance party atmosphere but with a flair for the creative and a skill that some bands only wish for.

    The band was formed in 1998 when keyboardist Vince Bergamo invited his then 20-year-old friend Ernie DeLuise to an open mic jam session at Tin Lizzy (now McIntyre's Pub) in Toms River. There the two met bassist Scott Bennert and drummer Bryan Bosen and from there Boone's Farm was formed. Boone's would go onto play such venues as Bum Rogers and the Sawmill Cafe in Seaside Park, The Beachcomber in Seaside Heights, The Silverton Hub in Toms River and
Nick's Jersey Pub in Manchester. Their repertoire consisted mainly of 80s tunes at first, however the band decided to put something out there that was unique and something they loved playing.

    So the 80s were pushed aside (although stilll played during certain sets) for their current sound, a fusion of Stevie Wonder-sounding soul and rock. This change of styles also saw a change in the band name. Throughout his life DeLuise was nicknamed "Baby Ernie" by his until he grew taller than his father (also a musician) and then he was dubbed "Big Baby Ernie." So as a loving jab to their frontman, the band changed the name to Big Baby Ernie or BBE for short.

In 2003, the band recorded their first album, Where I Live, adding DeLuise's
roommate from the Parsons School of Design/New School, Christian Parkess,
a classically trained saxophonist to the group. Initially Parkess was brought in
just to provide a "horn section" to the album, however after working together both sides knew they belonged together. The last piece of the BBE puzzle was added in 2005 when Ja Fizz guitarist Conor McCarthy was brought in to perform with the band during their Wednesday Jazz sessions at McIntyre's. McCarthy
became a full-time member this summer however the band does use guitarist Tommy Garofalo during their Monday sets.
    Slowly, but surely the band has gained momentum, building a fiercely loyal fan base that are in love with the album, singing all the words to the original songs as if they were Top 40 hits. This has helped the band land weekly shows Sunday afternoons at The Green Room in Seaside Park and Sunday nights at the Crab's Claw Inn in Lavallette, Mondays at McIntyre's, Tuesdays at Nardi's Tavern on LBI, McIntyre's Wednesdays for BBE Jazz plus steady gigs on weekends at High Velocity in Beachwood, The Quarterdeck in Ship Bottom, Forked River House in Forked River, Used to Be's in Mantoloking, Pier One in Toms River and many various other locations in the county.

    Jim Reynolds of McIntyre's, the band's home base, stated that having BBE every Monday "makes the weekend one day longer for some and creates a weekend atmosphere for restaurant/bar employees who work weekends. Musically they are great, as talented as any band out there. The wide range of song selections, plus their original stuff, which is great, make every BBE show fun."

    As someone who has attended both their regular show at McIntyre's Monday and their jazz show Wednesdays, I personally can attest to just how amazing these guys are live. DeLuise's voice is unequivocally one of the best in the scene today. Melding Stevie Wonder with hints of Nat King Cole (during jazz sets) his range is phenomenal, his melodies killer and all mind blowingly powerful yet soulful at the same time. As for the band, these guys are tight as hell and talented to boot.
    During the jazz sets you could see the love Brosen has for playing, as he seems to pour every ounce of his soul into the improvisation. On the bass, Bennert provides a great funk backbone and really gets the dance groove/bounce started, kicking it up to at least 11. Parkeess' saxophone really complements the band sound and solidifes them as a soul band, not just a bunch of white boys playing funk.
As for Garofalo and McCarthy, they are both extremely talented guitar players who can wail a solo and perform the intricacies of jazz. And what soul band would be complete without a keyboardist and Bergamo does a great job tickling the ivories.

    Big Baby Ernie is probably one of - Bill Bodkin; Night&Day Magazine

Staff Writer

For some people, the contemporary music landscape lacks a certain degree of sophistication and meaning. According to Ernie, lead singer and namesake of local band Big Baby Ernie, that has a huge influence on what he and his band mates play onstage.
"We really don't care much for what's on the radio today," he says. "We like to play songs with a little rust on them; things that have held up over time."
What results is often a performance consisting of diverse songs crossing many musical genres. For instance, one recent set at Nardi's in Haven Beach included a seamless transition between Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" and the Carlos Santana classic, "Black Magic Woman."
As a band, Big Baby Ernie is most certainly talented and well-rehearsed. The current lineup, consisting of Scott Bennert on bass, Vince Bergamo on keyboard, Bryan Brosen on drums, Conor McArthy on guitar, Christian Parkess on Saxophones and Ernie himself providing the vocals, has played together for the better part of six years. The band took the moniker Big Baby Ernie as a way to pay homage to their singer's family.
"My dad and grandfather were both named Ernie and both musicians," he says. "I was always 'Baby Ernie' until I eventually outgrew my dad. From then on, Big Baby Ernie just kind of made sense."
After starting out in their hometown areas of Toms River and Seaside, the quintet begun to gather a following and branch out to the bars of Long Beach Island.
With influences ranging from classic Motown to Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, their sound is a unique blend of rock and soul. But when the situation calls for it, this not-so-average bar band will dip even further into their plentiful bag of tricks.
"We love to play jazz standards." says Ernie, "If we're in a place where people are sitting down and eating dinner, we'll play something like Sinatra or Tony Bennett."
Asked whether it is tough to compile a set list from such a large arsenal, Ernie scoffs.
"We haven't written a set list in five years. We just look at each other and play. It might be more inefficient (than using a set list), but it works for us," he said.
What also works for Big Baby Ernie is original material. The group  offers their debut recording, a 10-track CD entitled "Where I Live," at all their shows. Not willing to slow down, Big Baby Ernie is already back at work at Ostrapotamous Studios in Toms River, NJ. "Its going to be 15 songs in a medley format," says Ernie. "There are going to be transitions between each song and they'll all tie in together."
After that, says Ernie, "We want to go on a tour across the country and do the eating hotdogs, living in a van thing." In the meantime, Big Baby Ernie will continue to impress with their live performances and vast repertoire of original and cover material. - The Asbury Park Press


"Where I Live" 2004


Feeling a bit camera shy


Big Baby Ernie has been tearing up the local scene for nearly 8 years, developing a loyal fan base and working on an average of five nights a week. BBE has opened up for Johnny Winter, Eek a Mouse, and most notably, Bob Marley's Legendary Wailers.