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Light of Day Foundation's "Bob Birthday Bash" concert in Red Bank raises funds to battle Parkinson's Disease

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Willie Nile at Light of Day concert at the Count Basie Theater 01-14-2023
John Cavanaugh
Willie Nile at Light of Day concert at the Count Basie Theater 01-14-2023

On this episode of AOS, WBGO's Doug Doyle chats with singer-songwriter Willie Nile and Tony Pallagrosi, the director and co-founder of the Light of Day Foundation.

Light of Day WinterFest is back. The 24th annual music festival is taking place throughout January in Asbury Park, Deal, Red Bank, Montclair and New York. Light of Day has also expanded into an internationally recognized tour, through a true grassroots effort of musicians, music fans and benefactors. Light of Day shows have taken place around the world on three continents, with shows in Canada, England, Wales, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Australia.

All performances and events will raise money and awareness for its continuing battle to defeat Parkinson’s Disease and its related illnesses ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) and PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy).

Pallagrosi and long-time music manager Bob Benjamin created the festival and it's become such an anticipated event year.

"We started basically as a party to pick up Bob's spirits. (He continues to battle Parkinson's Disease). That was in 1998, two years before it actually became Light of Day. Obviously, we had no idea that it would turn into this and it did so slowly, organically and very naturally. Thank God for our musician friends who have always been there for us. As we say in our mission statement, we utilize the awesome power of music because music is in fact an awesome power. It's grown on its own. We kind of go along for the ride and steer the ship when necessary. With guys like Willie on our team, how can you go wrong?"

Light of Day WinterFest
Light of Day Foundation
Light of Day WinterFest

Willie Nile has never missed a Light of Day multi-day festival at the Jersey Shore. The rocker who has been joined on stage by Bruce Springsteen several times during the event.

"I went to the first party when Bob Benjamin called me to tell me they were having a party at The Stone Pony (Asbury Park, NJ) and I've been to everyone since, including a lot of those in Europe. What strikes me about it and draws me to it, besides the great nature of it, raising money to defeat Parkinson's and related illnesses ALS and PSP, is the camaraderie of the musicians. Everybody is giving. It's like we are raising our voices, playing our instruments for a common cause. It's meaningful. It's deep. Everybody can feel it. The audience feels it. There's a lot of love. All the people that come over from Europe and a lot of different places, at least the Jersey Shore festival, it's beautiful to see. Music can be healing."

Nile, a Buffalo, New York native known for his anthem "One Guitar" says the day they find a cure for Parkinson's will be a mighty day on Planet Earth.

"There will be a major party that night. After that, we'll find something else to go after. We don't get rich doing this but it's really enriching to our spirits and everybody shares in the joy of banding together for such a good cause."

Jersey shore legend Steven Van Zandt loves the fire that Nile brings to shows, saying "“Willie’s so good I can’t believe he’s not from New Jersey!”

Tony Pallagrosi, a long-time promoter, also played with a legendary Jersey Shore band. Pallagrosi is a former trumpet player with SouthSide Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. Pallogrosi's time as a musician gave him a great appreciation for other artists.

"You love your instrument. You spend a lot of time with your instrument. You find you have something to say and you want to get out and say it

Tony Pallagrosi (left) and Willie Nile (bottom) join WBGO's Doug Doyle to talk about Light of Day WinterFest
Doug Doyle/Zoom
Tony Pallagrosi (left) and Willie Nile (bottom) join WBGO's Doug Doyle to talk about Light of Day WinterFest

Tony produced his first rock concert in my high school auditorium and really enjoyed the experience. In the early 1980s after he stopped playing, he got a job as the manager of the Fast Lane and later Club Xanadu, both in Asbury Park. A long and successful promoting career has followed.

Pallagrosi's passion for Light of Day never wavers.

"There are more than a million people who suffer from Parkinson's, ALS and PSP. Every year, more than 100-thousand people are diagnosed with one of these diseases. It affects not the only the person who is diagnosed, but also their friends and their families. My mother died from the effects of PSP so I saw it first hand. We have members of our board who have lived with it. Bob Benjamin, the heart and soul of our organization, we see him bravely deal with Parkinson's with strength and character on a daily basis. His life isn't getting better, so that's why Willie, our members and I do it."

You can get more information about the Light of Day concerts being held at various venues here.

You can SEE the entire interview with Tony Pallogrosi and Willie Nile here.

Saturday, January 20

Bob’s Birthday Bash – The Main Event

Count Basie Center’s Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre

Red Bank, NJ

Show time: 6:30 pm

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 250 awards from organizations like PRNDI (now PMJA), AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.