Sunday, June 21, 2009

Flashback 1979 - Alexanders

From Atlantic City Sun newspaper (September 28, 1979)

Rockin' in the Pines

By William E. Kelly

The quiet hamlet near Mirror Lake is known as Browns Mills "in the Pines," but today it is better known as the rock music capitol of South Jersey.

Alexander's Sunset Inn has put Browns Mills on the map as the area's only showcase of traveling rock bands.

Some years ago, the old Sunset Inn was refurbished and renamed Alexander's. The large dance hall was closed off from the side bar by a sliding wall. With the wall closed, Alexander's has the appearance of a typical small, local tavern, complete with electronic games, pool table and a small stage for go-go dancers.

The dancers were the club's biggest attraction as they gyrated before lonely soldiers on leave from nearby Fort Dix.

Then, last January, owner Butch Lupinetti let Steve Benson produce a few shows in the huge back room dance hall. The sliding doors were folded back, another bar opened, and a traveling rock show performed on stage. It was such a success that they are now doing it as regularly as a couple a nights a week. The acts that perform aren't local talents but rather top recording acts.

The popular acts from the Tower Theater and the Bijou Cafe in Philadelphia were persuaded to come to Browns Mills for a one night stand at Alexander's - just far enough outside Philadelphia not to bother the Electric Factory concert promoters, yet close enough to attract the 18 - 20 year olds who are not old enough to drink legally at home, but are old enough to drive to Browns Mills.

Alexanders and Browns Mills became Philadelphia household names when Steve Benson and Lee Stulman placed radio ads on the popular FM rock stations that beckoned you to go out of your way to see and hear a great show. The ads gave directions from Philadelphia: take the Ben Franklin Bridge to Rt. 38 east to Pemberton, then Rt. 530 past Burlington County College to Browns Mills. If you got lost you were instructed to call 893-6174. Browns Mills is only 40 miles from center city Philadelphia and 60 miles from Atlantic City.

By sunset, the large parking lot is full of cars, most with out-of-state plates - Pennsylvania, Delaware and even New York.

It's not the club, but the music that packs them in. The bands that play Alexander's are top recording acts usually out on the road promoting a new album. The cover charge is typical for a concert, with tickets available from Ticketron, and a dollar more at the door.

Last summer Johnny Winter, Steve Forbert, George Thoroughgood and the Delaware Destroyers, the Average White Band, James Cotton Blues Band, John Lee Hooker and Jorma Kaukonen all made their first South Jersey appearance. Those who follow Jorma's entourage to New York say that his three-hour Alexander show, which he did solo, was by far the best performance of the tour. But the best act last summer had to be by the late Lowell George.

Last June 26, two days before he died of a heart attack, the former leader of Little Feat put on one of his last concerts at Alexander's. Although he was popular for the album, "Feat Don't Fail Me Now," and the song, "Dixie Chicken," Lowell George was more respected by his peers. After he died, the largest benefit since Bangladesh took place at the LA Forum, with Jackson Brown, Linda Ronstadt, Ricki Lee Jones and the rest of the California rock fraternity. Lowell was more influential than popular. His Alexander's concert was a classic.

The lineup of shows for this fall is even better. Edgar Winter and the Nighthawks were at Alexander's on September 21, followed the next night by the Greatful Dead ofshoot, the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Steve Forbert did a one-night engagement on September 26. Tonight, the Philadelphia area's own Nan Mancini and Johnny's Dance Band take the stage.

The big name attractions slated for the fall include Hall and Oats on Saturday, October 13, and Arlo Gunthrie on Sunday, November 11.

Alexander's is not really that hard to find from Atlantic City. To get to Browns Mills take the White Horse Pike to Rt. 206 towards Trenton. From 206 take Rt. 38 east to Pemberton and Rt. 530 to Alexander's. And remember, if you get lost, call Steve at 893-6174 and ask for directions.

1 comment:

Valleygirl said...

I was at that show got to see Lowell George preform! It was an most awesome night!