While Garry Tallent wasn’t born on the Jersey Shore, he moved there in his teens and quickly became enmeshed in the burgeoning Asbury Park music scene. Two of his high school classmates were legendary Jersey Shore musician “Southside” Johnny Lyon (of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes) and future Springsteen drummer Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez, but his connections didn’t end there. Tallent was the only non-African American member of Little Melvin & the Invaders, who counted among their members one Clarence Clemons; he played with Vini Lopez and veteran E Street keyboardist Danny Federici in several bands; he joined up with Steve Van Zandt in a band called the Jaywalkers; he performed in another group called Glory Road with keyboardist David Sancious.
His connection with Sancious led to a role in Springsteen’s outfit called Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom, which eventually morphed into the Bruce Springsteen Band before disbanding. Tallent then relocated to Richmond, Virginia, along with David Sancious, “Southside” Johnny, and other Asbury Park musicians, following the Asbury Park race riots in the early ’70s. However, when Springsteen needed a backing band for his first album with Columbia Records, he called Garry Tallent (along with David Sancious) to come back home. Shortly after that, the E Street Band was born. After the late Danny Federici and Springsteen himself, Tallent is the band member with the most seniority.
Tallent played tuba in his high school band but, wanting to play rock ‘n’ roll instead, he noticed bass players were scarce. He taught himself the instrument by listening to the records of the time: James Jamerson, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Paul McCartney and Bill Wyman were some of his early influences. He remained true to his understated influences while holding down the rhythm section in a seven-piece band consisting of two guitar players, two keyboard players, a sax player and a drummer. Tallent has stated that it was his understanding of the tuba’s role in an orchestra that helped him figure out the role of a bass player and allowed him to develop the style that later earned him the nickname “the foundation of the E Street Nation!” (The tuba would come in handy later, with Tallent picking up that instrument to contribute to “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” on The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.)
Upon the disbanding of the E Street Band in 1989, Tallent moved to Nashville and launched a successful career as a producer and a session musician, founding a recording studio and a record label. He also appeared on The Ghost of Tom Joad in 1995. Tallent is a noted aficionado of early rock and roll and, along with Southside Johnny, shares a carefully curated collection of over 10,000 vintage LPs and 45s.