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Man pushes to honor Bruce Springsteen at Hampton Beach

by Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, October 2, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Charlie Preston of Hampton stands in front of the new stage on Hampton Beach and is pushing for the area to be name ” E Street Band Stand” at Hampton Beach, after E Street Band. The area on the crosswalk where he is standing which goes through the stage was E street years ago. [Photo by Deb Cram]

HAMPTON — Charlie Preston is not giving up on his dream to rename a town crown jewel in honor of an American rock legend and his blue-collar band — even though his quest constitutes a bumpy journey down a road that no longer exists.

More than 250 have signed his online petition since April calling for the newly reconstructed Seashell Stage to be officially named the E Street Bandstand. And though his campaign — marking the unlikely intersection of a now-nonexistent street and rocker Bruce Springsteen’s longtime band — has plenty of skeptics, it is a campaign he feels he was born to run.

As he continues to press for publicity, Preston said he has received a response from the state regarding his idea. He was told any name change to the facility would have to go through the legislative process.

“It took 20 years to get a bathroom down here, so I’m very patient,” said Preston.

Preston said he’s keeping the grassroots movement going by selling bumper stickers and now T-shirts that call for the return of E Street via the renaming of the Seashell Stage.

“We are having fun with it,” Preston said. “I just gave some to a friend from Ireland. He’s a cab driver in Dublin and pretty soon they will be all over there.”

Preston said that when he first started the petition, he didn’t know how it would go over.

“I thought if anything it would just promote the beach,” Preston said.

Despite some opposition and broad skepticism about his quest, Preston says the recent response has been overwhelming, including being interviewed on WMUR and the Shark radio station.

Preston said the name plays off the fact that when the Casino was constructed over a century ago, it consumed E Street, eliminating that street from the beach.

The two-block casino structure sits between D and F Streets.

“But if you were to put a road right through the middle, it would lead exactly to the Seashell Stage,” Preston said.

Hampton’s missing street has long been the butt of jokes by longtime residents. Preston said one bartender used to move patrons along after last call by saying that the after-party was at 11 E Street.

“Everyone would leave and then they would soon find that no such street existed,” Preston said.

Preston said the E Street Bandstand name would also salute the late members of Springsteen’s E Street Band, such as Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici.

Clemons, he said, played the Casino with the Red Bank Rockers.

“Anyone who saw that show would remember it because he brought down the house,” Preston said.

One thing he didn’t know when he first started the petition was that Hampton now has a local connection to the current E Street Band.

Hampton native and Winnacunnet High School grad Barry Danielian is currently a trumpet player in the E Street Band.

“So that just helps the cause,” Preston said.

Preston said he’s tried to get the backing of the Hampton Beach Area Commission, but the commission has taken no official stance on the name change.

John Nyhan, chairman of the commission, said he doesn’t expect the commission to weigh in on the matter.

“I think Charlie has a dream and I give him a lot of credit,” said Nyhan. “I personally don’t think its going to happen.”

Nyhan said the state park administrators may not even want to rename the stage.

“If in fact they do, then I think they are going to look for a sponsor that will be willing to help put money back into the state parks in Hampton,” Nyhan said.

Playing off a famous Beatles album cover, Charles Preston strolls the crosswalk at Hampton Beach, near where E Street once existed. Preston is campaigning to have the newly reconstructed Seashell Stage renamed the E Street Bandstand. [Photo by Deb Cram]

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