May 19, 2002 The Jersey Shore's News Source  

Freehold park dedicated: Springsteen honors one of rock's heroes

Published in the Asbury Park Press 5/19/02

FREEHOLD -- For one native son and his first band, the site dedicated as Vinyard Park yesterday was once a musical haven.

Bruce Springsteen and George Theiss, a former bandmate in The Castiles, were among a group of about 100 people who watched as a sign was unveiled naming the playground park in honor of the band's manager, Gordon "Tex" Vinyard.

"Tex was someone who opened his house completely and let us come in and turn it up as loud as we wanted when everybody else was trying to get us to turn it down," Springsteen said.

The dedication ceremony was held at the Freehold YMCA Community Center, across the street from the park where Vinyard's home used to stand at Center and Jackson streets.

Springsteen stepped from the crowd wearing a gray baseball hat, a jacket and jeans, and spoke lovingly of the couple who meant so much to many local bands.

"I thought it was beautiful. I was really honored," said Tex's widow, Marion Vinyard, 67, about the dedication.

"He would have been very excited," she said about how her husband, who died in 1988, would have reacted.

In the 1960s, the couple opened their hearts and their home to The Castiles, Springsteen's first band, and to other up-and-coming musicians, Springsteen said.

But the band's association with the couple began on a different note, Theiss said yesterday.

"When I first met Tex, he came over to yell at me for making too much noise," said Theiss, who was practicing next door at the home of drummer Bart Haynes at the time.

"We just started talking about music, he took an interest and became our manager," he said.

Characterizing The Castiles as "just a kid garage band," Theiss said they practiced Rolling Stones and Beatles songs at the Vinyards' duplex and played at venues such as CYO dances, the YMCA and even at the local ShopRite.

Yesterday, Springsteen told the audience of about 100 that he could not measure the impact the Vinyards had made on his musical development.

"They are really the unsung heroes of rock 'n' roll without which we wouldn't have had a place to practice and hone our craft," Springsteen said.

"They fed us, talked to us, bought us guitar strings and whatever else we needed to make music," Theiss said, adding the couple acted as a second set of parents for the band members.

"To me this is like our 'Penny Lane,' " he said.

Springsteen joked that the park should have been named "St Marion's."

"I'd say Tex was a famous grump, only in the best sense," Springsteen joked as he cut cake alongside Marion at a small reception following the dedication.

"He was a tough but nice man," Marion said.

Tex Vinyard even "co-signed a loan for me for a decent guitar and amplifier," Springsteen said.

The couple's kindness and compassion "was an important part of this time in my life," he said.

The idea to name the park after Tex Vinyard came about because he "helped so many kids back in the 1960s," said Freehold Mayor Michael Wilson, who himself had a band that practiced at the Vinyards' house.

Marion said it all started when Tex brought The Castiles home one day.

"My husband just brought them in, and I said OK," she said.

"I guess it's because I never had kids and I enjoyed them."

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