The Palsiades Amusement Park stage was ground zero for Rock 'n’ Roll music in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The biggest names in the American music industry performed on that stage perched on the edge of the Palisades. Diana Ross and the Supremes, Paul Revere and the Raiders, New Jersey’s own Lesley Gore, Frankie Avalon, The Fifth Dimension, Lovin’ Spoonful, and even a young Billy Joel, to name but a few performed on that historic stage.
As the 1950’s turned into the 1960’s a new personality emerged on the scene at the park atop the Palisades, the one and only Bruce Morrow of 77 WABC AM radio fame. All of us Americans know of Uncle Sam, and those of us who grew up in the 1960's in the greater NYC area know our Cousin Brucie. Yes, Bruce Morrow to this day remains our favorite Cousin here in the borough of Fort Lee thanks to his work on the stage of Palisades Amusement Park in the 1960's.
He produced many of the free shows on that stage. Cousin Brucie also hosted a weekly Battle of the Bands introducing new talent to the Park’s audiences. The Fort Lee Film Commission revived this Battle of the Bands several years ago and each year in June (this year June 7th at 7 PM in the Fort Lee Community Center) several area high school garage bands compete for prizes and the winning band gets to perform the following year on one of the stages at the Fort Lee Arts & Music Festival.
There were other legendary showman in the music field who worked the Park, such as Clay Cole, Murray the K and Hal Jackson, but none captured the attention of the crowds of the day and our memories of Palisades Amusement Park more than Cousin Brucie.
Cousin Brucie’s greatest story of his time at Palisades Amusement Park involves the still going strong crooner Tony Bennett. Park owner Irving Rosenthal did not want to go to the expense of hiring bands and musicians to accompany singers at the Park so the deal was the singers would lip sync to their songs as a record of their song played on the ancient turntable and stylus hooked up to the sound system in the Park.
The day Tony Bennett came to perform he did not want to lip sync as that was not his style. Cousin Brucie coaxed Tony to lip sync to his hit “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and Tony finally and reluctantly relented. Halfway through the performance the record began to skip. The stylus was something akin to a large nail that hit the grooves of the vinyl hard and Tony Bennett was the recipient of musical heartburn as he kept leaving his heart in San Francisco over, and over and over again.
According to Cousin Brucie, to this day Tony Bennett will not speak to him, which proves, though Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, he left something else on the stage of Palisades Amusement Park.
Thanks for the memories Cousin Brucie!