Bottle Hill

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Coffeehouse owner Jim Albertson formed Bottle Hill in 1970 with harmonica player Davey Burkitt, guitarist/banjoist Lew London, and dulcimer player Walt Michael. Originally calling itself the Bottle Hill…
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Coffeehouse owner Jim Albertson formed Bottle Hill in 1970 with harmonica player Davey Burkitt, guitarist/banjoist Lew London, and dulcimer player Walt Michael. Originally calling itself the Bottle Hill Boys, the band borrowed its name from history: the group's home, Madison, NJ, had been called Bottle Hill during the American Revolution. Although the original incarnation of the band played folk, by the following summer it had transformed into a bluegrass band. Personnel changes, however, were frequent, which meant that Bottle Hill's musical style was continually evolving. By 1971, the band's ranks swelled with mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff, dobro player Rex Hunt, and bassist Frazier Shaw, while founder Albertson had dropped out.

After a performance at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1971, Bottle Hill found a manager and began to tour colleges in the Northeast. They recorded their debut, A Rumor in Their Own Time, in the spring of 1972, and relocated to the Catskills in upstate New York. Following more personnel changes and the loss of their manager, Bottle Hill booked their own appearances at colleges and clubs. "Like many working-traveling groups," Walt Michael explained, "Bottle Hill has seen many changes. People get tired and burned out. Last year we came close to 100,000 miles on the road. It seems to me that often musicians will last a year and a half or so, and then they just can't handle it anymore."

In the mid-'70s Rutgers graduate Dave Schwatz, along with acoustic/electric guitarist Joe Selly, joined, and for short time the band experienced relative stability. They embarked on their only Midwest tour, including a side trip to Colorado. They also recorded their second and final album, Light Our Way Along the Highway, for Biograph Records. Bottle Hill remained active throughout 1976, and then disbanded. Although the group's history was a rocky one, their musical accomplishments would precede the work of New Acoustic Music as practiced by David Grisman and others in the mid-'70s, and the jam band predilection for mixing acoustic and electric instruments.