Archives For new jersey

Friend-of-the-show JAX called in from our nation’s capital, where the next night she would perform at The White House for a special tribute to our troops on July 4th. The performance aired live on the Hallmark Channel. JAX’s entire family, including her father who was a firefighter and first-responder on 9/11 along with her brother, a current Marine, were in attendance.

However also in attendance were both President Trump and the First Lady. This of course subjected the New Jersey native to criticism from the President’s detractors; however JAX explained her stance on accepting the invitation to perform and what the event meant to her during our interview.

Wé McDonald stopped by the studio and in an interview taped before her EP showcase at Gramercy Theater, talked about performing the National Anthem at Yankee Stadium, releasing her debut EP and working with Alicia Keys as a contestant on NBC’s “The Voice.”

To be honest, it took my body a few days to recover from one of the more hectic weekends in recent memory. Nonetheless, my busy schedule offered me plenty of reasons to be thankful throughout my travels. Here are five of them.

– I’m thankful for Daylight Saving Time. Like pretty much everything these days, it’s become a bit of a lightening rod as to whether we should participate in it or not. Naturally, the state of Florida has its own idea on this as well. But regardless, I enjoy the extra hour of daylight, especially considering I now live on the east side amongst high rises and the sun isn’t as plentiful as my old neighborhood.

– Wow, Morristown, New Jersey – I am thankful for you! My colleagues at 95.5 PLJ and I had a great time at the Morris County St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday. The hospitality was as fantastic as the company. I still have no idea why Vegas-style showgirls were dancing at Horseshoe Tavern but perhaps some things in life just shouldn’t be questioned. Our dinner at Urban Table was pretty fantastic and I really enjoyed hanging with my buddy Kerry, who I hadn’t seen in a while. She took me to a neighborhood spot in Bayonne for a quick nightcap before I Uber’d back to the city. Hopefully I’ll be in Morristown sooner rather than later (I keep hearing rave reviews of Jockey Hollow).

– I was awake super-early on Sunday morning so I could rent a car and drive to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. A big thank you to everyone in NEPA who showed love, along with my co-workers at 97.1/95.7 BHT, during the city’s St. Patty’s Parade. The 570 is probably best-known for Scranton’s parade but I always enjoyed WB’s more (I also hear Pittston’s the weekend prior has become quite the scene).

– By the way, the parade didn’t start until 2 pm, but I had a 5K to run in Wilkes-Barre at 10 am, thus the early alarm. A longtime colleague of mine in Pennsylvania, Barry Brown, is battling kidney cancer. The 5K was The Renal Race, which aims to raise funds and awareness for kidney disease. I really loved seeing everyone at Cumulus Wilkes-Barre rally around one of our own.

– The weekend ended with a drive down 80 that I’m all-too-familiar with… that is, until I took a detour to Wegmans in Hanover, New Jersey. It was the perfect pit-stop to not only stock-up on groceries but also celebrate my Syracuse Orange getting in to the NCAA Tournament. ‘Cuse!

A post shared by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on

Even before a former first family took their grandchildren to see “Sesame Street Live! Let’s Party!” in the city, New Jersey native Ashley Budinick was raving about the crowds.

“The show’s been going amazing,” she told me over the phone last Friday, a few days before Bill and Hillary Clinton took in the production with their grandkids on coincidentally enough, Presidents’ Day. “The crowds and the energy from everyone at The Theater at Madison Square Garden have been awesome.”

Budinick, who hails from Brick, served as the show’s dance captain. It ran from February 9-19 inside the Theater at MSG.

“It was a brand new show,” she said. “I love starting everything from scratch and being a part of that process.

“To come back here to New York City and be able to perform for all of my family and friends and everybody else here who is coming to see the show is something I can’t even describe. I get choked up when I start talking about it because that’s something that you dream of as a kid.”

If there was any downside to it all, it might have been the amount of ticket requests Budinick received, but she handled that with a little assistance from her colleagues.

“I had to ask some friends to help me along the way and lend me some of their tickets as well so that I could accommodate everybody to come,” she revealed. “Everybody loves the show, because there’s so much dancing and there are so many interactive moments.”

She mentioned that at some points of the show, characters even come in to the audience. Thankfully, I’m guessing that if Big Bird and Elmo hadn’t passed Secret Service clearance, we would’ve heard about it by now.

Our old friend Jax called in to the show from her new home in Los Angeles and we had a lot to chat about it. I ran the New York City Marathon this year and she completed it last year so we compared notes on the 26.2 mile trek before moving on to Jax’s new music and the next season of “American Idol.”

For the fourth consecutive year I teamed up with The John Lennon Songwriting Contest, a year-long international event open to both amateurs and professionals, to announce the winner of the $20,000 Song Of The Year. Winners receive cash in addition to prizes from Yamaha, Audio Technica and others.

This year, the grand prize winning song came from the country category: “Alcoholiday,” a track penned by Andrew Peebles, Brett Sheroky and New Jersey native Joe Fox.

Check out the announcement, the $20,000 Song Of The Year and the full press release below.

Via JLSC.com: Joe Fox, Andrew Peebles and Brett Sheroky were announced as the winners of the coveted John Lennon Songwriting Contest ‘Song of the Year’ for their original song “Alcoholiday.” The announcement was made on 95.5 PLJ in New York with radio host Ralphie Aversa.

As ‘Song of the Year’ winners, songwriters Andrew Peebles, Brett Sheroky & Joe Fox won $20,000 in cash in addition to prizes from Audio-Technica, Yamaha, Other World Computing (OWC), Genelec, Disc Makers, Digital Media Academy, Neutrik and more. They have also received other prizing throughout 2016 after winning both the Lennon Awards and the Grand Prize packages in the Country category. The song was selected to win the top prize by the John Lennon Songwriting Contest’s Executive Committee of Judges, consisting of legendary and contemporary superstars such as Fergie, Prince Royce, George Clinton, Matthew Koma, American Authors, Switchfoot, Bootsy Collins & more.

A total of over $300,000 in cash awards and prizes will be distributed this year by the year-round John Lennon Songwriting Contest, which is open to both amateur and professional songwriters. Visit JLSC.COM for more information about the contest and to enter for your chance to become the next ‘Song of the Year’ winner. Entry fees from the contest help support the non-profit John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.

If there’s one thing you can expect when Halsey kicks off her “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom” tour later this year, it’s this: fire.

“I’ve always been very extra with the fire,” the Washington, New Jersey-native told me last month. “Any chance I have to bring fire on my stage, I’m going to do it.”

Matter-of-fact, Halsey revealed to me that during her Billboard Music Awards performance rehearsal, she kept practicing the song over-and-over in part due to the fire that was planned for the set. She certainly didn’t mind the rehearsing; she was once hit with her own fireworks during a Coachella performance (Halsey escaped unscathed).

But besides the obvious visual, there is also a meaning behind the use of fire that relates to the singer’s chart-topping album.

“My record, ‘Hopeless Fountain Kingdom,’ is kind of about an underworld,” Halsey, born Ashley Frangipane, explained. “It’s kind of about this parallel universe where love conquers all. It’s a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story so bringing in the fire is a really, really cool way for me to kind of rope my audience in to my universe that I’ve tried to create.”

Fans across the country will have the opportunity to witness that universe on the singer’s first-ever arena tour, although Halsey is no stranger to big rooms. She headlined and sold-out Madison Square Garden in 2016; the show went on-sale three weeks after her debut LP “Badlands” came out.

“The whole world went, ‘What do you think you’re doing? You just put out your album. You can’t play MSG,’” she recalled of critics’ initial reaction to the news. “That venue has always been the pinnacle of music for me.

“I was playing a show at Webster Hall. I was playing to 1,500 people (the night tickets for The Garden were released). And I walked up-stage and I got the news that we were about to sell-out Madison Square Garden.”

Halsey said that as amazing as she thinks the arena dates will be, it will be hard to top playing MSG, which she described as, “one of the best experiences of my life.”

She’ll find out when the tour kicks off at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut on September 29… her birthday.

Chuck Wepner told me he is just happy to still be alive so that he can tell his story – and now it will be shown on the silver screen for all to see.

Wepner is a former professional heavyweight boxer who was known as “The Bayonne Bleeder” because he had one of the sport’s bloodiest faces. Most notably to that point, there was a fight between Wepner and Sonny Liston in which the New Jersey heavyweight required 72 stitches to his face.

But the match that changed Wepner’s life was his 15 round battle with the Heavyweight Champion of the World, Muhammad Ali. That fight yielded a $100,000 payday for the Marine Corps veteran (the biggest check of his career, although Wepner insisted to me that he would’ve fought Ali for free) and inspired a young man named Sylvester Stallone to write a screenplay called “Rocky.”

And in the new film “Chuck,” out Friday, the world gets to see not only the real-life fighter who inspired the iconic movie series but also the effect that it all had on his personal life – filled with ups and downs that were fueled by sex, alcohol and drugs and led to marital issues and a stint in jail.

However at Wepner’s insistence, the film needed to be family-friendly. He attributes that characteristic along with the task of finding a good lead character in why it took 12 years to make. And it wasn’t until Liev Schreiber that Wepner knew they had their man.

“It was actually (Liev) who asked to play the part,” recalled Wepner on the second floor of the Loews Regency on New York City’s Upper East Side. “Taking no money up-front, everything on the other end. That’s how much he loves the movie.”

Wepner also revealed that Naomi Watts, who plays his third wife, signed up for the same deal.

“They wanted to do this movie,” he said. “They put their heart and soul in it and that’s why the movie is good.”

Schreiber’s acting chops impressed the boxer, right down to his in-ring dialect. Wepner even allowed that the “Ray Donovan” star has a little New Jersey in him.

“He’ll use a little slang now and then, if you know what I mean,” the boxer joked. “He likes to drink. He likes to party. He likes the girls.

“Yunno, that’s me!”

After spending her 2016 battling cancer and completing the New York City Marathon, American Idol alum Jax kicked off the new year with some new tunes.

The New Jersey native, nee Jaclyn Miskanic, released an EP on January 27 called “Funny.” Yes, she’s pretty lighthearted in person, but at times perhaps all she could was laugh when she dealt with both personal and professional highs and lows.

“It’s kind of just about a toxic relationship that you can’t get enough of,” she explained when I asked the inspiration behind “LSD” – a song which plays off of the Beatles’ classic “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and one that we world-premiered on the radio show last week. “I think everyone has been there in their own way.”

The first time Jax joined my show was about a year ago; she had just released “La La Land” and stopped by to promote it. The next time I interviewed her was over the summer, after she revealed the thyroid cancer diagnosis and her plans to not only defeat it but then conquer the NYC Marathon.

“I feel great. I ran a freakin’ marathon!” Jax insisted when I inquired last week how she was feeling. “Everything’s good.”

Jax was happy to complete the 26.2 mile trek through New York City’s five boroughs, an experience she simply described as “awesome.” Will she run it this year as well?

“I think I will… don’t quote me!” she responded. “I have to start running again. I just got an Apple Watch. I think that was like my mother’s way of telling me you need to start working out again!”

The annual marathon doesn’t take place until later in the year, giving Jax plenty of time to not only train but also promote and perform her new EP… or at least devise a plan to do so.

“I think we’re kind of winging it,” she revealed. “We’re just putting out the material and hoping that everyone kind of connects with it. We have some shows and ideas coming up so we’ll keep everybody posted but I’m just really nervous for the release.”

Also out January 27, a new EP from Hot Chelle Rae guitarist and long-time friend-of-the-show Nash Overstreet, who coincidentally co-wrote and produced a song on Jax’s project. The “Idol” runner-up recalled meeting Overstreet a few years ago during her run on the TV show but he actually remembered a chance-encounter with the singer at a talent show in New Jersey a few years prior to that. Regardless, the two linked up via social media and eventually hit the studio together to collaborate on “Stars.”

The track is one of six on the new EP; Jax recorded a number of other songs as well that she hopes to release in the not-so-distant future.

Gold medalist, Final Five member, “Dancing With The Stars” contestant and New Jersey native Laurie Hernandez called in to my show Thursday night ahead of her homecoming show Friday at the Prudential Center in Newark. In between “DWTS” and all of the other opportunities she’s receiving as a 16 year-old Olympian, the Old Bridge-born star is on tour with the “Kellogg’s Tour Of Gymnastics Champions.” Buy tickets to Friday’s show here.

Photo: USA Gymnastics / John Cheng

Photo: USA Gymnastics / John Cheng

Hernandez talked about coming home, touring the country, competing on the Olympics and on “DWTS” as well as if she’s started thinking about college or the 2020 Olympics.