A Jersey Shore native, Long Branch resident David Sancious became a fixture of the vivid Asbury Park music scene of the 1960s that focused around the Upstage club. In the early ’70s, he became a member of early Springsteen ensemble Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom and remained someone Bruce would call upon when needed, up until — and especially when — he landed his first record contract.
At the time, Sancious was living in Richmond, Virginia, along with fellow Asbury Park scenesters Garry Tallent, Ernest “Boom” Carter, and “Southside” Johnny Lyon. But when Columbia Records signed Springsteen to his first record deal, he called upon Sancious (as well as former Bruce Springsteen Band stalwart Garry Tallent) to come back home and join the band.
Sancious handled keyboards for Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, and joined the live band on tour in 1973. He recommended “Boom” Carter to replace Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez on the drum throne. His best-known contributions are the majestic intro to “New York City Serenade,” the dramatic accompaniment on “Lost in the Flood,” and the lovely, intricate work opening and closing “Incident on 57th Street.” He only recorded one song on Born to Run — the title track — before being replaced by Roy Bittan.
However, Sancious’ biggest contribution to the band could arguably be his role in the creation of the name “E Street Band.” Legend has it that the band derived its name from the hours it spent waiting for him to be ready, while sitting in the driveway outside Sancious’ mother’s house located on E Street. The story (as told in Clarence Clemons’ autobiography, Big Man) goes that one day, after another interminable wait for Sancious to emerge, Springsteen said, “This band has spent so much time parked on this… street we should call it the E Street Band.”
His solo ambitions governed his decision to leave the E Street Band at the start of the Born to Run sessions, taking his friend “Boom” Carter with him to form a jazz-rock fusion band called Tone (who would later recruit local vocalist Patti Scialfa for a brief time). Sancious later reunited with his E Street compatriots while playing in Peter Gabriel’s band on the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! tour, and collaborated with Springsteen in 1992 when he played on sessions for the Human Touch album, including the organ on “Soul Driver.”