The Smithereens
Rock band
Founded in: Carteret, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2018: Performing Arts

Although the band’s name suggests something blown to pieces, the Smithereens have managed to keep their act together—despite departures and the death of a key member—for more than 40 years.

Original band members Jim Babjak (guitar), Dennis Diken (drums), and Mike Mesaros (bass) grew up together in Carteret, graduating from Carteret High School in 1975. They formed the Smithereens in 1980 with lead vocalist Pat DiNizio, who hailed from Scotch Plains. All four shared a love for tuneful, catchy rock ‘n’ roll as played by British bands like the Who and the Kinks. DiNizio had a special passion for Buddy Holly.

The band got its start playing at clubs around the metropolitan area, including Kenny’s Castaways in New York City and the Court Tavern and Stone Pony in Asbury Park. They broke through to a national audience when MTV started playing the video for “Blood and Roses,” a single off their first album, “Especially for You,” released in 1986. The song went to No. 14 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. More chart hits followed, including “Only a Memory” and “A Girl Like You,” which reached No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

Armed with their string of hits, the band toured internationally with such acts as Tom Petty, Squeeze, the Pretenders, Lou Reed, and the Ramones. They remained MTV favorites and made appearances on such influential TV programs as “The Tonight Show” and “Saturday Night Live.” Although they peaked early as far as chart success was concerned, the Smithereens had developed a loyal following that sustained them through decades of recording and touring.

Mesaros left the band for personal reasons in 2006, but returned in 2016. The following year, tragedy struck when DiNizio, the band’s principal songwriter, died at the age of 62. The band carried on, headlining a five-hour tribute concert to DiNizio with special guests at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank.

In recent years, the three surviving members have continued to tour, with a revolving cast of guest vocalists, principally Marshall Crenshaw and Robin Wilson (of the Gin Blossoms).

Even without DiNizio’s physical presence, his spirit and his songs remain a part of the band. “The way it feels when we play now is that we’re keeping Pat’s legacy alive,” Mesaros told New Jersey Monthly in 2019. “Those songs came from the depth of his soul. When we play them, I feel Pat’s presence in the room.”

Intro/Acceptance Video