Entertainment Greats In Atlantic City, NJ Through The Years (Photos)
Let’s begin with the undeniable fact that in its hay day, until an entertainer played at The Original Steel Pier … they hadn’t yet “made it” in show business.
Having Steel Pier on your résumé was considered essential and could help give you a career.
The Steel Pier factor was considered even more important for Big Bands, such as The Glenn Miller Orchestra The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (featuring "The Boy Singer" Frank Sinatra) and Harry James Orchestra to name a few. You were not thought of being a "Big Band" until you played Steel Pier.
More entertainment firsts occurred in Atlantic City, such as The legendary "Skinny" D'Amato, who first partnered Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis together at his iconic "The 500 Club."
Atlantic City and Philadelphia television and radio pioneer Ed Hurst was the creator of the first teen dancers performing in the studio.
Another great piece of trivia is the fact that Joe Grady and Ed Hurst were the first to be offered to host American Bandstand.
Dick Clark publicly stated on the Ed Hurst Steel Pier Radio Show that "without Ed Hurst there would not have been Dick Clark.”
Ed Hurst was as local as it gets, yet, at the same time he was a bona fide national celebrity.
It cannot be overstated how significant the first casino outside of Las Vegas in American history opened in 1978 in Atlantic City with Resorts International Hotel and Casino.
John Phillip Sousa wrote a song titled, "The Atlantic City Pageant." In July, 1926 they played in the Music Hall at Steel Pier.
Bobby Rydell wrote a 45 RPM single titled "Steel Pier." It's a one-sided single that Hurst announced on-air that if you mail 25 cents to Steel Pier, you would get the Rydell single.
In a great story told on our WPG Talk Radio 95.5 program, both George Hamid, Jr. and Ed Hurst separately told us about an amazing occurrence.
Hamid blew his lid when 75,000 quarters arrived to Steel Pier. Hamid told Hurst, "Ed, we're not fulfilling this." Ed answered back, "we made the promise on television ... we have to fill the obligation," said Hurst.
On August 4, 1958, Ricky Nelson played his first ever live concert at Steel Pier in Atlantic City. These were the largest attended concerts in Steel Pier history, with 58,000 people attending. The crowds were so big that The Steel Pier actually moved and swayed from side-to-side. Many thought that The Pier would actually collapse into the Atlantic Ocean.
This mark the last appearance on Steel Pier by Joe Grady, who never returned after this incident.
Here are more Atlantic City entertainment firsts:
The Bay City Rollers held their first ever American concert at the Steel Pier.
The Rolling Stones played their first ever East Coast concert at the Steel Pier in the summer, 1966.
And, of course, there was the epic Atlantic City performance by The Beatles on August 30 1964.
It was presented by The Steel Pier, however, the crowd was so big that the event had to be held in Atlantic City’s historic boardwalk hall.
In 1966, Beach Boys founding member and drummer Dennis Wilson, was the first ever civilian high diver in Steel Pier history in the famed water circus. He literally ran a head of Barney Cipriani and climbed up the 100 foot ladder and dove into the Atlantic Ocean.
All of the above were Atlantic City "firsts."
Here's an Atlantic City "last." The the last time that the entire Beach Boys band play together and Atlantic City drew 250,000 people for an epic beach concert. It was held near Caesars Hotel & Casino on July 4, 1983.
SOURCES: George Hamid, Jr., Ed Hurst and Don P. Hurley.
Atlantic City's Firsts Throughout History