New Book Tells the Story of Albert Music Hall

Nov 13, 2019

For decades, fans of bluegrass, country and traditional Pinelands music have been flocking to Waretown on Saturday nights to hear rootsy musicuians in concerts sponsored by Pinelands Cultural Society. Now the society is releasing the official book of its history in Sounds of the Jersey Pines. Featuring more than 240 pages and filled with hundreds of black and white photos, the volume spans the entire history of the PCS and Albert Music Hall, starting with the Albert brothers in the 1920s through present day.

Also featured are many photos of the bands, newspaper articles, flyers and items that make up the PCS archives, many never before seen. The book will officially be available at a special concert at Albert Hall on Saturday, Nov. 16. Doors will open at 6 p.m. with a meet and greet/book signing featuring the book’s author, Danielle Rozinski. At 6:55 p.m. a new video, “The PCS/Albert Music Hall Story,” will be shown.

Live music begins at 7:30 p.m. Scheduled performers include North Country, Cedar Creek, Redbird, Southern Specific and Lisa Scherma & Guy Michetti. Admission is $5 ($1 for children younger than 12).

The roots of the concerts date back to Saturday night gatherings in the 1950s to the early 1970s in a small Waretown cabin, where participants brought their guitars, mandolins, banjoes and other instruments. The cabin was home to washtub bass player Joe Albert and his brother, George, a fiddler. During their music nights, “a handful of musicians would gather to pick and sing until the wee hours of Sunday morning,” according to the society’s website.

Huge crowds started attending. When George Albert died at 74 in October 1973, Joe, a year older, couldn’t handle the crowds on his own, and the music nights stopped.

But a group of bluegrass aficionados wanted to keep the music alive, so they formed the Pinelands Cultural Society. The first concerts were held in November 1974 at the old Waretown Auction, which is now the site of the Waretown Post Office on Route 9. Although a fire destroyed the building in July 1992, Saturday night performances continued uninterrupted in the parking lot in front of the ruins.

By late that summer, the PCS was able to temporarily present shows in the Frederic A. Priff Elementary School in Waretown. In May 1996, ground was broken for the society’s new Albert Music Hall building at 131 Wells Mills Rd. The 6,000-square-foot building was dedicated and officially opened on Jan. 5, 1997.

The concert hall also serves as an exhibition space, as its walls are covered with memorabilia and locally crafted antique instruments.

“We’ve been wanting to do this book for years,” said Rozinski, who plays with the Redbird band and is the PCS publicity director. “We had so many photos, articles and memorabilia in our archives, we needed to organize it into a book. There are so many photos that people haven’t seen. It was an incredible collection.”

The book costs $19.99 and will be available for purchase at the hall beginning Nov. 16.

“I am so excited to see this all come together,” said Elaine Everett, who with her late husband, Roy, helped establish the PCS. “Roy had talked about wanting to put a book together, but then he passed away (in early 2018). He would have been very pleased with this. The collection has photos of some well-known musicians who have played here, such as Pete Seeger.”

One special guest of the Nov. 16 event is quite familiar with the Albert Hall story: Elaine Albert Boshko, the 88-year-old daughter of George Albert.

“My father was a very honest man who was loved by many,”  she said. “My mother died when I was 12, so then it was him and me. During the summer, we traveled a lot, going to many states to hear bluegrass music. We went out to California one time; another time it was Kentucky. We would just get in the car and go.”

His day job was serving as a foreman at the DuPont plant in Parlin in Middlesex County.

“He worked for that company for 50 years,” she said. “But on weekends, it was time to kick back and get together with the musicians. He also loved hunting, and had a team of foxhounds.”

She said it would be hard to pinpoint his favorite song because “he knew so many.”

“I still love listening to bluegrass and country,” she said. “I don’t get to Waretown as much as I used to, but I’m sure there will be many people there that I know.”

Boshko’s daughter, Leslie Derwinis, added, “I remember my grandfather being a great fiddler. He could sit down with musicians and, just by hearing a song the first time, would know the fiddler parts. He had a great ear for music. At some of those get-togethers, the people ate well because he was very good at baking pies and cakes.”

— Eric Englund

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