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Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens

GUEST,RWM 03 Feb 07 - 04:08 PM
Ruth Archer 03 Feb 07 - 04:40 PM
jaze 03 Feb 07 - 04:50 PM
Charlie Baum 04 Feb 07 - 01:22 AM
Desert Dancer 04 Feb 07 - 01:34 PM
Scoville 05 Feb 07 - 10:55 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 05 Feb 07 - 11:18 AM
GUEST 05 Feb 07 - 12:01 PM
RangerSteve 05 Feb 07 - 12:11 PM
Susan of DT 05 Feb 07 - 12:20 PM
GUEST,little gypsy 05 Feb 07 - 01:40 PM
Ruth Archer 05 Feb 07 - 01:51 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 05 Feb 07 - 02:00 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 05 Feb 07 - 02:22 PM
Ruth Archer 05 Feb 07 - 02:25 PM
GUEST,Mary Zikos 05 Feb 07 - 03:34 PM
GUEST,Mary Zikos 05 Feb 07 - 03:53 PM
Dave Ruch 05 Feb 07 - 05:16 PM
RangerSteve 05 Feb 07 - 05:24 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 05 Feb 07 - 05:34 PM
Charlie Baum 05 Feb 07 - 06:27 PM
Ruth Archer 05 Feb 07 - 06:45 PM
Big Mick 05 Feb 07 - 07:24 PM
Charlie Baum 05 Feb 07 - 07:59 PM
Bob Coltman 06 Feb 07 - 09:44 AM
Dave Ruch 06 Feb 07 - 11:01 AM
Goose Gander 06 Feb 07 - 12:02 PM
RangerSteve 06 Feb 07 - 12:17 PM
GUEST,Big Ed 09 Nov 11 - 03:08 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: GUEST,RWM
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 04:08 PM

I come from a long line of Pineys ( people who inhabit the New Jersey Pine Barrens, for those not familiar with that area).
My family has not lived there in three genrations now, but when I started on fiddle eons ago it was my great grandfather's fiddle who played for dances in Burlington Co.
I play Irish/Scots music exclusively, but a discussion a while back of " people should play their own music and leave ours alone" set me to thinking... what IS my music? I know there was a strong folk culture in that region for at least two centuries and I have wondered what kind of music would they have played? Currently what passes for 'folk music' in the Barrens us almost all bluegrass with a smattering of old timey thrown in. I know the Albert Music Hall is still functioning, but so far I can't find anyone old enough to see anything beyond the bluegrass horizon. Has anyone every come across info about the music of this region from an earlier time? Thanks in advance!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 04:40 PM

So nice to hear form a Piney! I grew up in south Jersey and have relatives who live in the Pines now. A few years a go we did a bit of a musical odyssey that took in the Albert Music Hall and met some amazing people. There was one "dirt farmer" (I'll have to get his name for you)who turned his blueberry packing shed into a pickin' shed - on a Saturday night his friends would come round, bring a dish of some sort, and they'd play all night long...

The stuff he was playing was all old timey standards. And the local bands, like the Sugar Sand Ramblers, are definitely of the same ilk. I reckon Irish/Scots fiddle tunes are all totally valid for that area, but also English - the Leeds family came from England, after all! And there was a lot of British settlement early on. But I remember reading years ago that it was the advent of southern radio stations which could be picked up in the area which instigated the bluegrass/old timey enthusiasm in the Pines. And that is now clearly the dominant influence.

So I reckon you're ever so lucky, as it ALL belongs to you!

The Albert Hall - what an amazing place...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: jaze
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 04:50 PM

I grew up in Burlington County and am looking forward to learning this too.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 04 Feb 07 - 01:22 AM

The Albert Music Hall website:
http://www.alberthall.org/


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 04 Feb 07 - 01:34 PM

I'm a northerner (NJ-wise, that is), but I have fond memories of canoeing in the Pine Barrens...

~ Becky, now in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Scoville
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 10:55 AM

My mother's from Pitman (Gloucester County).



Must admit I hadn't ever thought much about music in NJ but thanks for bringing it up.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 11:18 AM

Jim Albertson recorded a wonderful album for Folkways that featured folk songs from New Jersey.   I'm not aware of any major studies of New Jersey music, but the Wheaton Arts Center in Millburn is a source. Most folklore collections that I've come across deal more with native arts and stories, very little music.   New Jersey has always been known for immmigrant communities that maintain cultural traditions from native countries. The Scotch-Irish tradition in the Pine Barrens would be dominant.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 12:01 PM

Jim Albertson probably inspired muy love of folk culture when I was a kid, coming to my school and doing his Jersey Devil puppet show and singing folk songs. I have ever such a lot to thank him for.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: RangerSteve
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 12:11 PM

My band, the Woodlot Howlers, plays regularly at Albert Music Hall. We've been there since 1980. we are an "old time" band. We were lucky enough to learn some tunes from the Pineconers, a group of old time musicians descended from old time musicians in the Pines. A few of the tunes we learned from them are native to the Pine Barrens and unheard of in other areas of the country, but most of them are tunes that are common everywhere. PM me for my email address and we'll figure out a way for me to get you some tapes of my band playing some of the tunes we learned.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Susan of DT
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 12:20 PM

We are in NJ, but Mercer County, so not the Pine Barrens. I will alert the three song circles/clubs we participate in or host about this thread to see whether any of them can contribute, since not all participants are mudcatters.

Jim Albertson has a CD "Down Jersey: Songs and Stories of Southern New Jersey" on Smithsonian Folkways, available from CAMSCO Music, of course ;-). I do not see a website for Jim, just a bunch of things he participated in. If anyone has his email, try to get him into this thread.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: GUEST,little gypsy
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 01:40 PM

Just a gut wrenching response. If Music of the NJ Pine Barrens is what is now being performed, I don't see where large Bluegrass groups, and fringe clothed country bands fit. Back in the 70's' I went to Albert Hall for the first time and was tickled by the Pineconers, especially Sammy Hunt. Played solo and with a 3 piece group through the 80' and 90's. But now the Hall is run by people who moved here from other parts and changed the Hall to suit their needs. It used to be a real thrill to see the faces of people who would come to the Hall for what was probably the paramount of their week. Wonder if the Albert brothers would recognize what their idea has become!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 01:51 PM

Carol Ann Sweet of the Sugar Sand Ramblers can trace her family back many generations in the Pines. I think there are still a fair few people like that, plus a lot of old timers that attend the Albert Hall. And there's still plenty of cowboy hats and fringes around the place...

Best thing in the world is to stop off at Lucille's diner for dinner before an evening at the Albert Hall. That's culture.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 02:00 PM

Agreed, little gypsy.

The Pine Coners (as spelled then) were a pop and oldtime band when I heard them at several festivals, especially in Middletown NJ, in the early 70s. They were raffish and played pretty much whatever people liked -- the farthest thing from a performance-oriented band nowadays.

"Down Yonder" was one of their standbys, and they did other old pop tunes, the likes of "Because, Just Because," plus a few common traditional songs, no frills, bashing along, and just had a rattling good time. They were always popular on stage and off.

Though they didn't represent any local song tradition (far as I know the Barrens never had a distinct one, though the area did have its fiddling and dancing from time to time), they were busy creating a musicianly tradition of their own full of high spirits and raucous humor. I remember at the time that one or two young pickers were joining in with them, and can only hope that some of the good fun, and some of their sense of music making, was passed along.

The Pine Coners knew that music isn't primarily something that happens on a stage.

Bob Coltman


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 02:22 PM

Just a PS...

In saying I thought the Pine Barrens never had a distinct musical tradition, I see I stand corrected by RangerSteve above, who speaks of tunes native there and not heard elsewhere. I'd like to hear them!

Mostly what I was able to hear in the neighborhood was Irish and Yankee style tunes, nothing distinctly local in origin or sound. It would be fascinating to know what the native tunes are like -- are they Irish-influenced, English, German, or like nothing else on earth? And was there a native song tradition as well?

As a kid from just the other side of the Delaware (and only Jerseyites and Pennsylvanians can realize what rivalry and scorn that can sometimes imply), I've always hoped to find distinctly native Pine Barrens fiddle tunes and songs, and never quite succeeded. Met several fine singers and players along the way though.

In general New Jersey's traditions of all sorts deserve to be better known. For one thing, the two states share the Lenni-Lenape, one of America's most intriguing Native American groups, with their own music and tales. For another, NJ and PA were among the earliest states settled. Just as there is in places in Pennsylvania (though pretty well hidden), there should be at least a remnant of the Anglo- and European-American song traditions in the Barrens somewhere.

But as Pineys and their friends know, the place keeps its secrets well.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 02:25 PM

Yep - living in the UK, people always say, "Oh, you're from Joisey?"

To outsiders it's all chemical plants and the Sopranos. But there's such a rich heritage there, one I've always been incredibly proud of.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: GUEST,Mary Zikos
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 03:34 PM

I would try contacting folklorist Jim Albertson.
downjerseyjim@aol.com


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: GUEST,Mary Zikos
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 03:53 PM

I went regularly to Albert Hall in the early 70's with my friend, Trenton singer Jim Labig. I don't remember names, but it was so wonderfully different from folk clubs and festivals, which I also loved. There was such a sense of people making music for fun, not to consciously carry on a tradition. My personal bit was first singing a song a cappella, because it was just too cold in the Hall to play an instrument!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 05:16 PM

Folklorist Herbert Halpert did some collecting of folk songs and ballads in parts of NJ in 1941, especially those parts of NJ closest to the Delaware River and the Catskill Mts of NY. His stuff is archived at Indiana University's Archive of Traditional Music, and they'll send you CD dubs of his recordings for a nominal charge (assuming you will be using them for 'research purposes' only, i.e. you wont be publishing or profitting financially from them).

Also, the Library of Congress' Archive of Folk Culture has all of their holdings cross referenced by state, so just go to their Finding Aid for New Jersey and you'll see at least a few dozen collections of field recordings made in various parts of NJ.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: RangerSteve
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 05:24 PM

As Bob Coltman stated, the Pineconers played what people wanted them to play. They put out a cassette tape, that was sold at the Hall, that contained a lot of audience favorites and some of the traditional tunes that they knew. I sat down with Janice Sherwood, one of the banjo players and lead singer one night before a show at the hall and she played me all of the old tunes that she remembered learning from her father and uncles. She also gave me the history of where the tunes came from. One of her uncles did a lot of traveling for his employer, and always seemed to bring back tunes. He also learned a couple of waltzes from a Norwegian fiddler living in Jersey City in the early 1900's. Other tunes were learned crew members of ships that docked in Tuckerton (a major shipping port at one time), which would explain how Gaspe Reel, a popular French-Canadian tune, ended up in their repertoire. In later years, the Pineconers took on a mandoling player, who was in his 50's, and by far the youngest person in the band. He pushed them to perform some of their obscure fiddle tunes, and later as a member of my band, taught them to us. Janice would occasionally sit in on our weekly sessions and was kind enough to write down the music for these tunes.
It's always bothered me that the big-wigs at Columbia and Victor who recorded all the Appalachian musicians felt that the only authentic country musicians lived in the southern mountains. Countless musicians from the Midwest, Northwest, New England, New York and the southern coastal regions were ignored, and a lot of good music was probably lost. The Victor studios in Camden, where the likes of Kelley Harrell and the Carter Family recorded, was just a stones throw from the Pine Barrens, but due to the notion that there was no music in the north worth recording, some great music and musicians were ignored and lost to time.
There were a few good songwriters in the Pines, too. Merce Ridgeway Sr and Jr., and Bill Britton (Janice Sherwoods uncle, also a noted fiddler). One of Bill Britton's songs is in the DT, "Down by the Southern Jersey Shore", a song he wrote during a bout of homesickness in Hawaii during WWII. Merce Ridgeway Jr. did two cassette tapes of his and his father's songs for the Marimac label in the '80's, but the company went out of business and the tapes are out of print. (I still have copies of each, though).
Another thing about the fiddle tune repertoire: as the Pine Barrens were isolated for a couple of centuries from the rest of the world, most of the tunes were probably English in origin, and pretty similar to the same English tunes that have survived everywhere else in the U.S. There are also tunes that originated as popular melodies and were adopted by country musicians, such as Red Wing. I'm also sure that Pineys were regular listneers to the Grand Ole Opry and Wheeling Jamboree, which were broadcast by stations with high wattage on clear channels, and could be heard throughout the northeast.
As I said earlier, if anyone wants to PM me, I can try to make up a tape of my band playing some of the Pinelands tunes.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 05:34 PM

Steve, I am ashamed to admit it, but I have never been down to Albert Hall.   Please let us know the next time you are playing there, I would love to have an excuse to come down!

Do you know if Merce Ridgeway ever recorded?

You are so on the mark about New Jersey being ignored. I think it is the "melting pot" nature of the state - between two major cities like NYC and Philly, that contributed to the neglect. It is good to see that some people have collected stories and folklore of the state, it would be good to hear more about the music.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 06:27 PM

I wonder if the museum and library at Batsto Village http://www.batstovillage.org/ would have any relevant materials. Batsto Village is an ironworkers village dating back to the mid-18th century.

If someone takes this beyond curiosity into serious folkloric study, there will be the problem of defining the Pine Barrens geographically and culturally. For example, do the immigrant communities of Jewish farmers settled near Vineland by the Baron de Hirsch fund at the turn of the last century count as Pinelanders?

--Charlie Baum


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 06:45 PM

I think a fair bit of "serious folkloric study" has been carried out under the auspices of Rutgers Unoversity.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Big Mick
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 07:24 PM

Now this is the kind of thing that brought me to the Mudcat years ago. This is fascinating. I live on the edge of the Pine Barrens and regularly drive and hike in the area. I have begun reading some of the history of the area and look forward to all of your contributions. I have only lived in the area for about 2 years, but I am fascinated with its history.

Ron Olesko, let me know when you are headed to the Albert. You and I can make it our first concert on the same night. We can meet at the Diner. Steve, I am anxious to hear your music, and to make some connections in the community.

Charlie, I am not sure if that area around Vineland is part of the Pine Barrens. The term "Piney" as I have seen it applied only referred to living in the Barrens. I don't think that it refers, culturally, to religion.

I am anxious for more contributions to this thread. Thanks to Susan of DT for pointing me to it.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 07:59 PM

Mick--

I picked the example of Rosenhayn, NJ because it probably is on the borders of the Pinelands, both geographically and culturally, but it's the sort of decision that needs to be made by anyone who chooses to write a dissertation.

The Pine Barrens first entered my consciousness with John McPhee's eponymous 1968 book about them (http://www.johnmcphee.com/pinebarrens.htm ), a book which did not, as I recall after almost 40 years, have anything much to say about the music of the area, although McPhee dwelt on several legends, including the Jersey Devil. The manner in which he treated the locals and milked them of their tales apparently left some of them feeling like he "ripped them off;" certainly the mention of his name brought up mixed feelings on the part of many Pineys.

--Charlie Baum


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Bob Coltman
Date: 06 Feb 07 - 09:44 AM

As someone who's long focused on Appalachian and other southern songs, it took me a while to appreciate just how biased the recording industry, and the resulting musicianship and scholarship, were. Neglect of the very active traditional and "oldtime" music of New York state was the area I first heard complaints about, and started to broaden my views. Time spent in the Pine Barrens, plus hearing the Pineconers and other local musicians there and elsewhere, helped changed my mind further.

It's easy to trace what happened. The primary collectors, spurred by the Texan Lomaxes, worked in the south and west. Cowboy songs and minstrel show favorites dominated what popular musical market there was for old song material. When the Northeast was combed for folksongs, New England was the primary focus. New York was finally done justice by Thompson's Body, Boots and Britches and Norman Cazden's scholarly and popular work.

But the in-between areas whose traditions didn't jump out and hit you over the head, among them New Jersey, mostly fell by the wayside. (Despite Halpert's and other little-known collection efforts, for which we can give thanks.)

So -- despite George Korson's efforts to the west -- did southeast Pennsylvania, where I grew up. Just an example -- not to distract from the Pine Barrens focus of this thread -- but to show how unexpectedly widespread homemade music was before 1950.

We didn't think we were a "traditional" area, certainly nothing to attract a folklorist, still less a recording scout. And yet I remember that, for example, my babysitter brought me up on "Billy Boy" (her favorite) and other songs she'd learned herself as a child around 1920. Songs Mother had learned in camp in the 20s (some of it still in the camp repertoire today. like "Where Do Mosquitoes Go," "My Mother Was a Lady," and "Where Do You Work-a John") got sung around the house.

In those years German was still the first language of many Dublin residents, just to illustrate how non-homogeneous America was then, and German speech, and German accents, were rife around us. One of the local volunteer firemen in Dublin PA was a banjo player -- first banjo I ever saw -- and played in the firemen's band (another institution gone to dust; it's TVs in firehouses now instead of musical instruments and checkerboards).

When I was just a tad my grandfather invited me over to hear a visitor sing; one of his songs was the rare "Cork Leg." Imagine anyone coming out with that in someone's living room today! My uncle Richard sang traditional and other weird songs (several of them bawdy) he'd gotten from goodness knows where. As an eight-year-old I went to a minstrel show (!) put on by several members of the local Lions Club including our neighbor Mr. Yoder up the road, and was young enough to be scared by the blackened faces. When I was a teen we square danced to a live band at Phillips Mill on the Delaware not far from New Hope. And so on and on. Yet we didn't for one minute think of ourselves as in a tradition at all.

The point is, we weren't unusual. This much local music was typical before the 1950s in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and many other uncelebrated places. Dance halls were everywhere in city and countryside, and bands composed of fiddle, guitar, sometimes banjo, piano and/or accordion played in them, square and Virginia reel dance callers were common. (More or less ethnic polka bands impinged too.) Radios were a late-come novelty; people pretty much everywhere still sang for themselves and others as routine entertainment and accompaniment to living, and a great many people knew at least some songs they could informally sing.

Half a century of media since has "paved over" that whole reality, leaving us poorer and less capable of entertaining ourselves not as a special effort, but as a matter of course. The magnitude of that change is rarely noticed, but it was like an earthquake when TV came and erased everything. For a long while you could hear talk of nothing else but what was "on." TV's hegemony to this day obscures a great deal that is in plain sight, known to lots of people, but has no wide recognition and thus is taken to be somehow "not quite as real as if it had been on TV."

I think at least a few people have started to come out of that coma, and I hope more will. As they discover fascinating focuses of history, daily living and music like the Pine Barrens, they have a chance to break the spell and find the "old weird America" right there underneath ... and snatch it back before it vanishes.

This thread is part of that. I'm looking eagerly forward to see what further surprises are coming. Thanks everyone for your contributions. Bob


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 06 Feb 07 - 11:01 AM

Bob, I couldn't agree with you more based on everything I've seen in my research. I have devoted the last several years to finding, and singing/playing for audiences, the homemade music of New York State, my home state. I hate to further distract from the topic of this thread, but have much more to say.

Perhaps someone can start another thread with a different title, or do people not mind this thread wandering?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: Goose Gander
Date: 06 Feb 07 - 12:02 PM

Some odds and ends that may be helpful . . .

Halpert, Herbert. "Some Ballads and Folksongs from New Jersey," The Journal of American Folklore Vol. 52, No. 203 (Jan. 1939), 52-69.

Halplert, Herbert. "The Cante-Fable in New Jersey," The Journal of American Folklore Vol. 55, No. 217 (July 1942), 133-143.

Mary T. Hufford, Chaseworld: Foxhunting and Storytelling in New Jersey's Pine Barrens (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992)

Cohen, David Steven. The Folklore and Folklife of New Jersey (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1983)

Albertson, Jim. Down Jersey: Songs and Stories of Southern New Jersey. Folkways Records # 05203 Smithsonian Institution. Folkways Recordings, Washington, DC (1985).

And here's some stuff from Merce Ridgeway

The Halpert collection seems promising . . . .


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: RangerSteve
Date: 06 Feb 07 - 12:17 PM

Bob and Mick, the next time my band is scheduled to play at Albert Hall is March 31. I believe we have the 7:30 to 8:00 set. The hall, incidently, is located on County Rd. 532, just west of Rt. 9, next to the Frederick Priff Elementary School, in Waretown.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Music of the NJ Pine Barrens
From: GUEST,Big Ed
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 03:08 PM

Back in the 70's my parents and i used to go and see and band perform at the Dry Dock Inn called The Country Sunrise,the lead singers name was and i'm not sure if i'm spelling it right Kurt Kevel,i was wondering what ever happened to them,thank you.


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