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Woman playing a banjo onstage
Janice Sherwood of the Pineconers, November 1983. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer. American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Call number: AFC 1991/023: CCF-021 Find the archival scan here.

Caught My Ear: The Pineconers Live at Albert Hall, 1983!

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Every so often I dive into our online collections in search of interesting fieldwork materials to share, especially anything from the large-scale field surveys that the Center facilitated from the late 1970s on through the mid- 1990s (visit an interactive Story Map about these projects). Just the other day I visited the Pinelands Folklife Project collection, used the faceted search options to pull together all audio files also tagged as “songs” and started listening. This particular 32-minute field recording caught my ear, so I’ll share it in full:

I’ll highlight a specific song below, but first want to offer some context for the recording that I gleaned from the field notes produced by Carl Fleischhauer, one of the Center’s staff working on the project. These notes describe the evening of November 19, 1983  that he spent in a building on Chapel Street in Waretown, NJ at a community music event. Known as “Albert Hall,” the building was once the “old Waretown Auction in Waretown plaza” and Carl describes it in his notes like this:

It looked and in some ways “felt” like the historic photos I have seen of the Renfro Valley Barn Dance, or the old Opry, long before it got to the Ryman Auditorium. The hall seated two hundred or so, and had a refreshment and souvenir stand at the back.

He even created a physical layout of the floor plan in his notes using ASCII characters! Very cutting edge (though not to scale, as he indicates):

Image of manuscript page featuring floorplan of all created using ASCII characters. Also contains written description of building interior.
Documentation – Carl Fleischhauer – Field Notes, Pinelands Folklife Project collection. Call number: AFC 1991/023: Box 13, Folder 116. American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

On that evening, Carl was with Mary Hufford (also working on the Pinelands project) and audio recordist, Russ Herr. The team was able to patch their tape machine into the PA and created a fairly nice audio capture of the music. While the entire set is worth listening to, there is one song in particular that echos the primary goal of the Pinelands Folklife Project: exploring the relationship between local culture and the surrounding environment. The song is called “A Home in the Pines,” and was composed by Bill Britton (uncle of Janice Sherwood, a member of the Pineconers) and Merce Ridgeway, Sr. back when they performed in a group called The Pinehawkers during the 1940s and 1950s. In this recording, it’s performed by The Pineconers and the lineup that night was Sam Hunt (banjo), Joe Albert (washtub bass), Gladys Eayre (guitar and vocals), and Janice Sherwood (banjo and vocals). For a bit more info about the recording, visit Mary Huffords recording log. To find “A Home in the Pines” you can drag the audio player head to about 17:18, and and the song ends at 19:44. Featuring lyrics celebrating the physical landscape and a valued sense of place, the song is an homage to the Pinelands.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share a few other wonderful audio clips from this rich field collection that have caught my ear.

Comments (8)

  1. Fun to relive this visit, and thanks to John for digging it out, including my diagram! And thanks to Steve Winick (the czar of this blog) for making an effort to correct one of the rather dark Ektachrome color slides I made that night! But readers (lookers?) with a real interest in seeing the place to better advantage may wish to look at the black-and-white imagery I made at the same time — more extensive (!!) and with significantly better clarity. Just search “Albert Hall, Waretown, New Jersey” in the collection — four rolls of black-and-white, one shared with photos of casting foxhounds in nighttime hunt. Thanks again for an enjoyable peek back near-about forty years ago. Best from Carl

    • As usual, Carl, thanks for reading! The tip for readers to seek out other images certainly enriches the post. There are many great shots of the performance venue.

  2. Hi this is amazing! I am current Vice President and archivist of PCS/Albert Music Hall. I would love to talk to you, and Carl.

    Thank you,

    • Thanks for reading and posting your comment. Great to hear from folks featured in our collections!

  3. A wonderful description of the recording and how to find it. Thanks so much. My group has been reviving the repertoire of the Pine Hawkers as well as other Pinelands songs by recording and performing them live over the past two years. Thanks for the article!

    • Many thanks for reading, and great to hear that you’ve found the recordings useful! Sounds like a great project celebrating the Pine Hawkers legacy.

  4. Lovely to relive. Especially on Mother’s Day. Janice Sherwood and Gladys Eayer were my mothers. I spent my childhood traveling the east coast going to folk festivals and gigs with the pineconers. Will enjoy this immensely.

    • Thanks for reading and for sharing the lovely memory!

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