Knockin’ on history’s door
Hoboken guitarists attempt record on eve of Dylan concert
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Jul 28, 2013 | 39006 views | 0 0 comments | 1899 1899 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ROCKING BY THE RIVER – To celebrate the imminent arrival of Bob Dylan on Friday, over a hundred guitarists from Hoboken and the surrounding area played the master songwriter’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” in an effort to set a world record.
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Before launching into Bob Dylan’s timeless ballad, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” along with guitarists, mandolinists, bassists, and ukulelists from around Hudson County, musician and local guitar shop owner James Mastro ran through the list of town’s from which people came to play on Thursday night.

“Is Jersey City ready? Is Weehawken ready? Am I missing anyone?” Mastro joked, before the crowd shouted back, “Hoboken!”

Music has always been an important aspect of this city’s cultural DNA, and never was that more apparent than when well over 100 guitarists answered Mastro’s call to attempt to break the record for most people playing one song at one time. With Dylan set to make an historic appearance on Pier A Friday night along with Wilco and My Morning Jacket, Mastro chose “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” to be the record breaker.
“We decided to turn our regular jam into Bob Fest.” – James Mastro
“This is a simple song, it’s easy tempo wise, and there’s only three chords, so it was a good one for a group setting,” said Mastro. “Old timers know it but younger kids also might know it from the Guns N’ Roses cover.”

Mastro and other employees and instructors at his shop, the Guitar Bar, hold an annual concert on the riverfront, but Mastro said that when he heard Bob Dylan would play a concert in Hoboken, he decided to make this year’s show a bit more special.

“When they announced that Dylan would be coming to Hoboken, it was kind of shocking,” said Mastro. “So around the store we were doing this countdown to Dylan, and we decided to turn our regular jam into Bob Fest, and the idea sort of just came out of that.”

The record for most people playing guitar at once, according to Mastro, was set by over 2,000 San Franciscans performing “This Land is Your Land,” so while breaking the record was a bit of a long shot all along, Mastro said not trying would have been a waste of a fun opportunity.

“We just sort of threw down the gauntlet,” he said.

Musicians from Hoboken and Jersey City seemed to enjoy the event.

“I’ve been coming to this for years but this is too much fun. It’s a great opportunity to commune with the local musician populations,” said Jersey City resident Max Feinstein.

“It’s very interactive, and I think it introduces Dylan’s music to a generation that doesn’t know it as well,” said John O’Toole, of Hoboken. “One of the best things about Dylan is the ease with which you can play a lot of his songs – they’re three or four chords.”

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at

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