THE NEW YORK TIMES
By JOE BRESCIA
Published: August 28, 2007
The voice of New Jersey?
Gov. Jon S. Corzine? Sinatra? Springsteen? Tony Soprano?
Try Tim McLoone.
You can hear his dulcet tones in venues as cavernous as the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford and as cozy as a bar at the Jersey Shore. Or outdoors at a band shell at the beach or on the grass at Monmouth Park, between horse races.
The Eastern goldfinch might be the state bird, but Mr. McLoone, who lives in Little Silver with his wife and four children, is doing much of the singing in the Garden State. He performs about 150 nights a year, almost always in New Jersey. He also was the public address announcer for the Nets for nine years. Mr. McLoone, 59, started playing piano when he was 7 years old and growing up in South Orange. His influences were Ray Charles and Elvis. His first paid gigs were in high school, where he concentrated more on playing piano than on singing. Then, while in college, during a set in a piano bar, a man approached him waving a $5 bill.
"He said, 'I'll give you $5 if you sing something. You're boring me to death,'" Mr. McLoone recalled. "He put $5 in the jar, and my life was changed. Now they can't get me to stop."
Sometimes he plays at his own restaurants — one in Sea Bright and one in Long Branch. A third, in Fords, is set to open in the fall. On a recent night at McLoone's Riverside, in Sea Bright, he sat in front of a piano nursing a Tom Collins, his face framed by two candles.
With the help of three backup musicians on guitar and keyboard, he went through a variety of songs from the 1950s to the 2000s, from the Drifters' "Under the Boardwalk" to Electric Light Orchestra's "Can't Get It Out of My Head" to Coldplay's "Green Eyes." He also mixed in some requests.
His playing and voice were harmonious; his vocal style might be described as Vic Damone meets Jeff Lynne, the lead singer of Electric Light Orchestra. His first set went on for two hours, with songs punctuated by jokes and self-deprecation.
After he finished a request for the Beach Boys' "In My Room," he chuckled, "That almost sounded good at the end."
Although he said he "can create his own environment" in his own place, there can be distractions for the owner.
"The problem is while I'm performing, I'm seeing that candles are blown out and no one is lighting them," Mr. McLoone said. "I see somebody waving for the waitress and she's not around. It can be tough to concentrate."
Bruce Springsteen used McLoone's Riverside to rehearse for his Tunnel of Love tour in the 1980s. Mr. McLoone didn't charge the Boss. "I couldn't take any money from him," Mr. McLoone said. "You can't say to Bruce, 'Pay me to rehearse.'"
Mr. Springsteen showed his appreciation one Halloween, when he showed up with members of the E Street Band, all of them wearing masks, and jumped onstage during Mr. McLoone's set.
"I think people knew who it was really quick," Mr. McLoone said. "That sure wasn't me doing the vocals on 'Glory Days.'"
IIn addition to solo gigs, when he often is host to guest musicians, he performs with his two bands, the Shirleys and Holiday Express, a charity-oriented group that gives concerts and organizes other events to raise money for AIDS, the homeless and the disabled.
Mr. Springsteen, along with Cyndi auper, Rob Thomas and Jon Bon Jovi, have joined Mr. McLoone at Holiday Express performances.
Then there was the night Mr. McLoone played at a former strip club in Eatontown. "Any time the customers are showing you their guns is not a good situation," Mr. McLoone said.
Chris Lauriello, 44, who has watched Mr. McLoone perform at various places over the last 15 years, said, "His performances are always heartfelt."
"And all his charity shows tell me that he sincerely cares about people," Mr. Lauriello said.
Mr. McLoone, who runs every day and was on the Harvard track team, has organized several marathons along the Jersey Shore.
He also directed the Olympic track trials in 1988 at the Meadowlands. Officials in the Nets organization were impressed with how he handled that job, so they hired him as the director of game operations, which landed him, naturally, behind a microphone for their games and, eventually, for the college schedule at Continental Airlines Arena. He no longer does Nets games because he is too busy, he said.
Michael Graime, the assistant vice president of event operations and college athletics at the arena, said Mr. McLoone inflects "a home court announcer advantage."
How does he keep his pipes in shape and his energy level up after decades of performing in smoky bars, night after night? "I found the running keeps my breathing strong," Mr. McLoone said. "That helps with the singing. I've also written my best songs when running."
Mr. McLoone, who was also a television commentator for the New York City Marathon for 10 years, was able to mix his two passions one year when he wore a field microphone and interviewed Sean Combs, known as Diddy, while both of them were running.
"He was having a rough time," Mr. McLoone said. "I actually coached him. But when I was running with iddy through the streets of Harlem, it was like running with Elvis through the streets of Memphis. Very exciting."