The E Street Band entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Thursday night, inducted by the man they've backed for more than 40 years now: Bruce Springsteen. We've already brought you the finer points of that speech, but for all you completists, you can read Springsteen's entire speech below.
Bruce Springsteen: Good evening. In the beginning, there was Mad Dog Vini Lopez, standing in front of me, fresh out of jail, his head shaved, in the Mermaid Room of the Upstage Club in Asbury Park. He told me he had a money-making outfit called Speed Limit 25, they were looking for a guitarist and was I interested? I was broke, so I was. So the genesis point of the E Street Band was actually a group that Vini Lopez asked me to join to make a few extra dollars on the weekend.
Shortly thereafter, I met Dan Federici. He was draped in three quarter-length leather, had his red hair slicked back with his wife Flo — she was decked out in the blonde, bouffant wig — and they were straight out of Flemington, NJ.
So Vini, Danny, myself, along with bass player Vinnie Roslin, were shortly woodshedding out of a cottage on the main street of a lobster-fishing town: Highlands, NJ. We first saw Garry Tallent along with Southside Johnny when they dragged two chairs onto an empty dance floor as I plugged my guitar into the upstage wall of sound. I was the new kid in a new town, and these were the guys who owned the place. They sat back and looked at me like, "Come on, come on, punk. Bring it. Let’s see what you got." And I reached back and I burnt their house down.
Garry Tallent’s great bass-playing and Southern gentleman’s presence has anchored my band for 40 years. Thank you, Garry! Thank you, sir.
Then one night, I wandered in the Upstage, and I was dumbstruck by a baby-faced, 16-year-old David Sancious. Davey was very, very unusual: He was a young, black man who — in 1968, Asbury Park, which was not a peaceful place — crossed the tracks in search of musical adventure, and he blessed us with his talent and his love. He was my roomie in the early, two-guys-to-one-six-dollar-motel-room years of the E Street Band. He was good, he kept his socks clean; it was lovely. And he was carrying around a snake around his neck at that time, so I lucked out with Davey as my roommate. [laughs] AND, Davey’s the only member of the group who ever actually lived on E Street!
So I walked in and he was on the club’s organ. And Davey’s reserved now, but at the time, he danced like Sly Stone and he played like Booker T, and he poured out blues and soul and jazz and gospel and rock & roll and he had things in his keyboard that we just never heard before. It was just so full of soul and so beautiful. Davey, we love you, and we still miss you so, you know?
But predating all of this was Steve Van Zandt. Steven: frontman, hitman. I walk into the Middletown Hullabaloo Club; he was the frontman for a band called the Shadows. He had on a tie that went from here down to his feet. All I remember is that he was singing the Turtles’ "Happy Together." During a break at the Hullabaloo Club in New Jersey, he played 55 minutes on and five minutes off, and if there was a fight, he had to rush onstage and start playing again.
So I met Stevie there and he soon became my bass player first, then lead guitarist. My consigliere, my dependable devil’s advocate whenever I need one. The invaluable ears for everything that I create, I always get ahold of him, and fan number one. So he’s my comic foil onstage, my fellow producer/arranger and my blood, blood, blood, blood, blood brother. Let’s keep rolling for as many lives as they’ll give us, alright?
Years and bands went by: Child, Steel Mill, the Bruce Springsteen Band — they were all some combo of the above-mentioned gang. Then I scored a solo recording contract with Columbia Records, and I argued to get to choose my recording "sidemen," which was a misnomer, in this case, if there ever was one.
So, I chose my band and my great friends, and we finally landed on E Street — the rare, rock & roll hybrid of solo artistry and a true rock & roll band.
But one big thing was missing ... It was a dark and stormy night, a Nor’easter rattled the street lamps on Kingsley Blvd. and in walked Clarence Clemons. I’d been enthralled by the sax sounds of King Curtis and I searched for years for a great rock & roll saxophonist. And that night Clarence walked in, walked towards the stage and he rose, towering to my right on the Prince’s tiny stage, about the size of this podium, and then he unleashed the force of nature that was the sound and the soul of the Big Man. In that moment, I knew that my life had changed. Miss you, love you Big Man. Wish that he was with us tonight. This would mean a great, great deal to Clarence.
An honorable mention and shout-out to Ernie "Boom" Carter. The drummer who played on one song only: "Born to Run." He picked a good one. So here’s to you, Ernie. Thank you, thank you.
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