Billy Hector at the Hedger House - Friday, April 10, 2009
And the Snapper, known as "Rub."
7 pm is dinner time and it's Billy Hector's dinner show at the Hedger House. At least that's what it was for Tim and Robin, who caught the big booth in the corner and scoured the new menu.
B.J. is the new, relatively new owner, along with her husband Keith Burns and her dad, who is in charge of the kitchen, so they have a family thing going on, which is a good thing. Val, from the now defunct Outback, is in the kitchen cooking with B.J.'s dad.
The previous owner had a wife named B.J. too, and now the historic Hedger House, in the middle of nowhere in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, has had three owners in the past three years now, but it looks like these guys might make it.
They built a fabulous deck, complete with a bandstand stage and two handicap access ramps, with an open air fireplace and picknick tables. Then they knocked out two doors from the bar to the deck and put in two picture windows so you can see the Jersey Pines from your bar stool.
B.J. is behind the bar, another good thing, since the bartender usually makes out better than the owner. She's kicking herself, she says, for not having Billy play out on the deck, but rain was forcast. But its clear sky, stars shining and a full moon on the horizon.
When she delivers my bottle of Yungenling, I plug Billy, asking her to book him every Sunday afternoon, and she says would like to if she could. She owes Billy one, and Billy's fan's one for canceling a show in the middle of the winter, after everybody had plans to be there. She says she will most certainly have Billy Hector back again this summer, playing out in the open air barn where there's another bar, barbeque and more picnic tables.
You can't get any closer to the wilderness of the Jersey Pines than right here. It's a few miles north of Chatsworth (- the Capitol of the Pines), and a mile off of Rt. 70 in Woodland Township. The Hedger House is listed on maps that go back over a hundred years, so it must have been a stagecoach stop before it became a roadhouse bar that's popular with bikers.
It's as good a pit stop for bikers on the backroads as it was a stagecoach stop.
Either you come here on purpose for the music or food, or you stumble on it while riding around.
And the food is good, or so say Tim (thin sliced prime rib sandwich) and Robin (wings & salad), so this just might become a tourist destination once again, at least tourists who want to enjoy the nature of the Pine Barrens, good drinks, fine food, and great music like Billy Hector.
For those who have been following Billy Hector for the past few years, the first thing you notice is the new sidemen - a drummer and bassist I've never seen before, and that is rare. Billy's regular guys love to play with him, whereever he's playing, and while a few guys may shift on and off, two new guys on the same night makes it even more interesting.
The first set is no waltz in the park, as most dinner shows start off slow and pick up later on, but he gets into it quickly.
The small bar fills quickly and there's no room dance, no problem, you dance in place, whereever you are. Billy has a bevy of girls who like to dance and they're up front and if you don't know the moves or forgot them, they'll show you how its done.
Timmy had earlier planted the seed for some Allman Brothers and Hendix, and Billy's obliging, laying down some serious guitar riffs on some familiar songs that he gives a unique twist.
Then he'll play a few songs you never heard of, by the likes of Lightning Hopkins or Muddy Waters.
With everybody up and dancing in the first set, he keeps them there with the Stones' "Carol," and then quiets things down a bit with an obscure Dylan song.
B.J., her dad, Val and Keith are busy now, so Roger Beckwith, a veteran of Camp Jams, pumps a few longs into the fire pit and fires it up, as more people spill out from the bar, not a few from Browns Mills.
On break, Billy comes along and I get the names of his sidemen drummer Dan Hicky and Suger Lee on bass, and says he's looking forward to a show at the World Cafe Live in Philly [April 19, Sunday, 8pm, be there or you won't know what you missed].
Then along comes the sidemen, who I learn played together with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, with Hickey having also played with John Eddie and the South Street Runners, both veteran professionals. Sugar Lee's real name: Rich Scalnella.
Then it was back for Round 2, and with the fire going and the drinks and food flowing, the Billy Hector Band was cookin' at the Hedger House.
Having started at 7pm, they got off early, around 11, before midnight.
The next night Billy played the Bitter End in New York City, starting at midnight.
Before the night is over it is confirmed that Billy Hector will return to the Hedger House on Friday night, May 8, again a dinner show, beginning at 7pm, and again, he will play the Bitter End in New York the next night, beginning at midnight.
At the Hedger House, in the back of the bar, near the front door and restrooms, there's some old framed photos on the wall.
One shows some guy picking blueberries with the caption: "James Eugene Wills, Sr., known as Rally or Gene, picking blueberries in the blueberry field. His daughter is standing beside him - Linda Wills.
Then there's a photo dated "about 1938" of kid who looks about ten years old holding a giant snapper turtle, as you should, by the tail, with a mouth as big as a foot, and two smaller kids standing on each side of him.
The caption reads: "Alfred Reuben Wills, holding the snapper, known as Rub, John Henry Wills, Sr. on the left, known as Jackie. Theodore C. Willis on the right, known as Teddy. I don't know the name of the snapper."
I thought the snapper's was known as Rub?
B.J.'s Hedger House
4265 Route 563
Chatsworth, New Jersey, 08019
World Cafe Live:
Camp Jam in the Pines:
www.campjam.org 6th Annual Camp Jam in the Pines - May 14,15,16, 2009, Old Cedar Campground, Monroeville, N.J. (near Elmer) (609) 206-3787 or (609) 206-2888
Billy Hector Official Party Line:
Hedger House Map:
Official Biker Rated and Approved:
Hedgar House map listing: Lat, Long.
Billy in NYT:
Roger Beckwith Roadhouse Report:
Bitter End, NYC - (212) 673-7030