The First Annual Rock Con: Catching Up With Classic Rockers And More!

From a world-class performance by the Smithereens to getting to “meet and greet” with themacwire.com pal Tommy James to seeing classic rock art by Paul Bryan, Jr., a fun time was had by all at the first annual Rock Con!

Photos: Anne Raso
Rock Con promoter Charles Rosenary interviews founding Beach Boy Al Jardine.

by Anne M. Raso

Themacwire.com staffers attended the first annual Rock Con at the Meadowlands Sheraton in East Rutherford, NJ, this past weekend and we have to admit that it was the largest congregation of classic 60s through 90s rockers we have ever encountered in one place. Hey, if there is a COMIC CON for movie fans to meet their idols, and a FAN FAIR for country fans to do the same, why can’t there be a ROCK CON for rock fans? It has been an idea that is long overdue! We remember back in the 70s when there was an event called the ROCK AND ROLL CONVENTION at New York’s now-defunct Diplomat Hotel, and while there was memorabilia for sale, a rock movie and film clip room and concerts by classic rock faves (we will eternally remember a killer show by a spandex-clad Rob Tyner circa 1979), there was never a place for rock fans to meet their faves!
    The bigger stars available at Rock Con for signings and photo ops at personal booths or rooms included Tommy James, Al Jardine and The Smithereens. The main celeb room included such 60s posters as Andy Kim, Hilton Valentine of The Animals and members of Santo & Johnny, The Angels, Vanilla Fudge and The Rascals. Overall, there were about 100 stars big and small–and yes, there were a lot of “one hit wonders” but it was a lot of fun to meet them and here tales from the golden years of rock! 
    For those who could not get enough “days of classic rock” tales, the panels provided more inside fodder–we felt privileged to be able to sit in on “We Miss AM Radio” (featuring Andy Kim, Phil “Fan” Volk of The Raiders, Ron Dante of Archies fame, Beverly Bremner and Paul Peterson), and the “Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame” panel (featuring Gene Cornish, Marty Balin, Hilton Valentine, Terry Sylvester and latter-day Yardbirds guitarist John Idan).

   In the main ballroom of the Sheraton were non-stop music sets, panels and Friday night’s first annual Rock Con Awards. Ninety-three-year-old Sid Bernstein got a standing O from 60s  dance show host Clay Cole and there were even a few tears shed in the audience over that one. Clay recounted the whole story about how the promoter of the Beatles’ Shea Stadium shows first got the Beatles over here to play Carnegie Hall and it sold out about five times faster than any other artists’ show at the famed venue (and at something like $2.50 to $5 per ticket)! After the awards, we stayed for a little of the afterjam, and enjoyed Hilton Valentine performing “House Of The Rising Sun” (his opening guitar licks on that are among the most recognizable in all of classic rock) and Andy Kim performing his biggest hits including “Rock Me Gently” and “Baby I Love You.” There were daytime performances all three days of Rock Con and for those who love original garage sounds from back in t he day, there were sets with original members of the Vagrants and Blues Magoos.
     There was some beautiful rock art for sale at various sections of the second floor of the hotel, but hands-down “hit picks” were the black and white acrylic paintings based on famous rock photos done by Newport Beach artist Paul Bryan, Jr. Bryan has given his original works to the likes of Madonna, Bob Dylan and even President Obama and he has the thank you letters from them to prove it. As we go to press, a classic Jimi is on its way to the late guitar great’s half-sister Janie Hendrix (to see Bryan’s work, check out thereddotgallery.net or email 

Would we go to back to Rock Con next year? No doubt! We have to say hats off to promoter Charles Rosenay who was previously best-known for his Liverpool rock tours. Charles had a big job ahead of him and the event was worth more than the $25 a day charged (for advance tickets). We would have paid that just for the fabulous half-hour Friday daytime performance by The Smithereens which was probably our favorite show of the entire convention!
     For those rock fans concerned about cost, most of the stars charged less then $20 for photo ops and merchandise for sale, and fans were allowed to bring their own items to sign. Our only criticism is that we hope that there will be even more rock movies to view next year instead of just five or six–
The Wrecking Crew documentary was our hands-down favorite, but we would like to see a room of just videos and promotional clips from the golden days of rock and roll!

Tommy James poses with TMW staffer, Anne  Raso.
Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells
Get Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells on Amazon Now!