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Meet the Asbury Park Musician: Frances Hartwell-Bennett

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

L to R: Frances Hartwell-Bennett, Peggy Walker, Mae Smith, and Rita Wright. APHS Shoredettes. (photo credit: Madonna Carter Jackson, c. 1965-1967)

Have you ever wondered what it was like growing up in Asbury Park during the 1950s and 1960s at the height of Asbury Park’s music scene? Our interview with Mrs. Frances Hartwell-Bennett highlights some incredible memories which we’re excited to share with you.

Mrs. Hartwell-Bennett recalls “It was very common, especially in the summer, to sit out, lay out on the grass, till wee hours in the morning, even as a child, and listen to, particularly for me that I remember the most, was Jimmy Smith playing Walk on the Wild Side”.

Mrs. Hartwell-Bennett grew up in Asbury Park Village on the West Side and reminisces about attending concerts to see Motown greats of that time perform such as James Brown, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Little Richard, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Temptations, and The Four Tops. In fact, Asbury Park was also the place for other annual musical performances during the year, which included the highly anticipated Monday Easter Ball.

This musical immersion at a young age shaped Mrs. Hartwell-Bennett’s own musical journey. Mrs Hartwell-Bennet participated at Asbury Park High School’s long-standing dance group of 25 young girls, known as the Shoredettes.

Mrs. Hartwell-Bennett remembers Asbury Park of her youth as a vibrant community where everything seemed within reach, with everything you ever needed just around the corner. She moved to New York for a decade in the late 1960s and when she returned in 1977, she felt she came back to a very different Asbury Park. One that had lost the vibrancy she had grown up with, likely due to civil unrest that took place during the time she was away. Yet, she still chose to move back to Asbury Park where she worked at the Asbury Park High School, the very same school she attended as a teen.

You can find more about the special times in her youth and subsequent return to Asbury Park in our interview with Mrs. Hartwell-Bennett here at:

— written by Ahan Iyer


About the Author Hi! I’m Ahan Iyer, a high school student from Holmdel, New Jersey. My interests include playing the oboe, jazz and chess. I’m a classically trained oboist, but have become interested in exploring various aspects of jazz, including jazz history and jazz composition for the oboe. Apart from exploring the jazz oboe, I play and teach chess. I’m currently working on a research project where I analyze data sets to find patterns that help us understand the wider influences that jazz has globally.

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