Ever hear of the wayfaring Pine Barrens fiddler from the mid-1800s named Sammy Giberson, who would walk around doing back flips?
Or Maurice “Merce” Ridgway Sr.? He was a member of the Pinehawkers trio that played at the 1941 National Folk Festival in Washington, D.C.
These are some of the local folk figures Michael Gabriele discovered while researching his new book, “New Jersey Folk Revival Music — History and Tradition.”
The author will sign copies of the book at Bogart’s Book Store and Cafe in Millville from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. He will be at Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City on Sunday, where books will be available to buy.
An author of books on New Jersey bicycle racing and diners, Gabriele began researching the topic for his new book more than two years ago.
“I’ve been interested in it for a long time. The more I researched it, the more I thought there was something that just kept fascinating me,” said Gabriele, 63, of Clifton. “I thought there was a story there.”
So Gabriele began researching the state, talking to historical societies and heading to libraries to find out more about the music genre.
He discovered an unpublished paper from folklorist Herman Halpert — someone who was interested and studied Pine Barrens folk tale and folk music in the 1930s.
He learned Pete Seeger had traveled through Camden County to Victor Studios.
And he discovered early performances and appearances by Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie.
He dusted off Pine Barrens heroes including Giberson and Ridgway. A good chunk of South Jersey’s involvement began at Albert Hall in Waretown.
Gabriele hopes New Jersey residents come away learning more about the ties their hometowns have with folk and to see the importance in that relationship.
“It flies under the radar. I wanted a comprehensive story to tell people how much history and tradition we have here, and that’s what I hope New Jersey people realize,” he said.
Musician or not, Gabriele said, the history of music in the state is important.
“I’m not a folk musician. I approached it as an outsider. The narrative for this book started way back when. We had a lot of important stuff happening here in New Jersey,” Gabriele said.