The popular Bruce Springsteen tribute band, The B-Street Band, led by Hazleton native Willie Forte, has been in business since before there were tribute bands.

The B-Street Band performs at Jim Thorpe's Mauch Chunk Opera House on December 27 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets for this all-ages show are available at www.mcohjt.com or by calling SoundCheck Records at 570-325-4009.

In 1973 Hazleton, Forte had a life-changing experience in fellow high school star Joe Maddon's Dodge Dart. The former high-school football teammates were cruising their native Hazleton when Maddon popped in an eight-track cassette of the second album from a New Jersey musician he thought Forte would dig.

Forte was hooked for good when he heard the first track, a tires-screeching, switchblades-flashing, calliope-crashing, rambling rumble called "The E Street Shuffle" written by and starringwho else?Bruce Springsteen.

Today, Maddon is the very innovative, very successful manager of the Tampa Bay Rays. His friend Forte is the founding keyboardist, vocalist and manager-agent-publicist of the B Street Band, the longest-running, most-heralded group dedicated to playing Springsteen's tunes.

Over 34 years Forte and his comrades have performed all over and off the map. There have been parties with Bruce lookalikes; gigs with Clarence Clemons, the late saxophonist in Springsteen's E Street Band; opening slots for the Boss' final shows at the now-demolished Spectrum in Philadelphia, one of his favorite venues.

The B Streeters have been especially prominent this year, playing before Philadelphia Eagles home games and rocking up the second inaugural ball of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the state's highest-ranking Springsteenian.

Tickets are $18 in advance, and $20 at the door.