Friends, colleagues and peers remember the special talent and devilish wit of retired Aquarian Weekly writer, Al Muzer
Beloved Aquarian Weekly writer Al Muzer, 60, of Toms River, passed away April 11 at VA New Jersey Health Care System in East Orange.
Visitation will be held 3 to 8 p.m. on April 15 at Anderson and Campbell Funeral Home, 703 Main St., Toms River. A funeral service will be held 10 a.m. April 18 at Anderson and Campbell Funeral Home. A committal service will follow at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Wrightstown.
In lieu of flowers, donations are being accepted to Jersey Shore Animal Center in Al’s name at jerseyshoreanimalcenter.org/donation-form. Donations also can be made to Associated Humane Societies (ahscares.org) and its Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey Township.
Born March 21, 1958, in Englewood, Al was raised in the Outcalt section of Monroe Township and lived in Berlin; the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Clarksville and Nashville, Tennessee, and South River, before settling in Toms River 27 years ago, the Asbury Park Press reported in his obituary.
He studied graphic arts at Burr D. Coe Vocational and Technical High School in East Brunswick before joining the U.S. Army, the obituary said. During his service, Al served as an infantryman, radio operator and drill sergeant prior to specializing as an army illustrator and photojournalist. He was a duty-bound member of the 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles” with his last deployment as part of the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping mission in the Sinai. He was honorably discharged in 1986 after suffering from the loss of 248 members of his battalion in the Dec. 12, 1985 crash of Arrow Air Flight 1285. The DC-8 was carrying his comrades from Cairo, Egypt, to their home base in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, via Cologne, West Germany, and Gander, Canada. The plane had refueled in Gander and crashed shortly after takeoff.
He continued in his civilian career as a publicist, photojournalist, and newspaper editor and also as manager of The Fast Lane in Asbury Park, before pursuing his passion as a music journalist. Al wrote a weekly column of music reviews called “Mr. Musichead” for The Ocean County Review in Seaside Heights. The column was later published in the now defunct Music Paper and his concert reviews regularly appeared in Musicians’ Exchange, The Aquarian Weekly and East Coast Rocker. He received several Asbury Music Awards, recognizing him as Top Journalist in Support of Live Music. He also won the Living Legend Award, the honor of which he was most proud, said Camille Thomas, his significant other of 27 years.
“Over the years, we saw many, many great bands together and shared the sheer joy and heart-swelling spirituality of the music,” said Camille in a moving tribute on Facebook. “After every great show or concert we saw together, he would squeeze my hand on the car ride home and say, ‘Thanks for liking cool music.’ I’d always thank him back the same. The holiness of the music cemented our bond like a sacrament.”
Al retired from music writing in 2010 to devote time to his garden, bird watching, his birdhouse tree and his beloved rescue dogs: Dixie, Zeke, Banjo and Scooter.
He was predeceased by his mother, Joan Cecelia Bera Williams. He also is survived by his step-father John Williams of Browns Mills; brother Kurt Muzer, his wife Donna of Roosevelt, and their sons, Christopher and Aaron; sister Peggy Vingara, her husband Rick of Spotswood, and their daughter Gina; sister Joan Muzer Bartalis Bonnain of St. Petersburg, Fla., and her children Maria, Laura, David, Liana and Vincent.
“He especially enjoyed being a bad influence on his nephew Charles,” Camille said.
Aquarian publishers Diane Casazza, Chris Farinas, and Mark Sceurman send their condolences: “The Aquarian Weekly family has been together for almost 50 years, and we always feel the loss of one of our own. Al was a great writer and asset to our music community. We send our sympathies to his family and friends. May he rest in peace in that wonderful concert in the sky.”
Here’s what a few of Al’s many adoring friends, colleagues and peers also had to say about him:
Evan Braunstein, former Aquarian Weekly ad rep: 1995 Billboard Music Awards, when they were held at The Coliseum at Columbus Circle in NYC, Al and I stuffed as much food as we could steal from the green room and then followed Coolio around, who had Stevie Wonder on his arm, trying to catch some of the fumes they were smoking. Al was hilarious, intelligent and witty sarcastic, and will be missed my many.”
Mike Grau, leader of The Marbles and promoter at Broadway Central Cafè in South Amboy: “‘I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.’ We stood guard for each other. I’ll miss you, but I’ll see you again.”
Michele Amabile-Angermiller, radio personality, entertainment writer, and former Aquarian/East Coast Rocker writer: “Al Muzer was a true friend, as well as a fan, of music. He had a real talent for describing the music so vividly you could hear it in your head. I met and bonded with Al through a love of music when I was still a DJ at FM 106.3, and it was an honor to co-present with him at the Asbury Music Awards. He truly deserved the Living Legend Award, and he will forever be one in my eyes, and to all the musicians, fellow writers, and those committed to giving artists a voice!”
Rob Acampora, Jersey Shore radio personality: “As we get older, we sadly say goodbye to people. Good people who come into your life — maybe for a short time, maybe for decades. Sometimes the impact these people have you do not realize until later on.
“Al Muzer is one such person, whose passion for music and writing came together. His impact on many Jersey Shore bands was felt over the years! Al lived music, loved to laugh and have fun, and always seemed to get along with everyone. Al has left and he will be missed!
“We do not get an infinite amount of time on this Earth. A passing reminds us to appreciate every day we have. Al lived with passion, with joy and with love — we should all be so lucky to live life this way. RIP my friend!”
Jim Testa, former Aquarian Weekly writer and longtime editor-publisher of Jersey Beat:
I’ve been thinking about Al all day, and I can’t remember how or where we met. It seems like he’s just been there forever. He was actually younger than I, and yet I thought of him as both a mentor and Father Confessor, maybe because he was writing professionally during the years I was publishing a fanzine. I trusted his taste, his honesty, and his advice. We traded ideas, reviews, tips on bands we’d discovered, and complaints (LOTs of complaints) about New Jersey music. I am going to miss him. A lot.”
Jeff Brogowski, former AquarianWeekly co-worker and guitarist of The LawnDarts and The Heshers: “Al was super generous to local bands that needed the exposure. He would always listen to what the LawnDarts sent him (wrote about us sometimes, too), and would help us out with a gig listing whenever he could. You can’t say that about too many music writers and critics. He really did a lot for many of the bands in the ‘scene.’
Mike Daly, former managing editor of East Coast Rocker and The Aquarian Weekly: “For many years, Al and I pretty much only knew each other by name and reputation. But I do recall him surprising me with a batch of black & white prints in the early 1990s; they were photos he took of my band, Every Damn Day, when we played the Court Tavern. I still have those. And when I put out a local holiday music compilation, A Very Indie Christmas, in 1996, he gave it a rave review in The Aquarian. More recently, I got to know him on Facebook, and I came to appreciate his snarky sense of humor and devilish wit.
“I ran into him last November, when Ian Hunter and the Rant Band played Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair. It felt to me like decades of experiences, shared at a distance, were culminating in this hearty handshake and hug. I’m sad it turned out to be the last time we’d ever see each other, but as last times go, it was a really good one.”
Lee Mrowicki, veteran Asbury Park DJ and founder of “Radio Jersey” on AsburyMusic.com: “Al was among the best ever! And you can quote me.”
Matt Angus of Black Potatoe Music Festival:“There were five music journalists in New Jersey that I affectionately refer to as the ‘fab five.’ With the passing of Al Muzer, they are now four. Jersey has long been a leader in the U.S. when it comes to music and its scenes. Al Muzer was a big part of that. Al and I saw eye-to-eye when it came to politics, I will miss seeing his posting in social media and seeing his response to my postings. Peace and Love, Al. Safe travels.”
As for me, I worked with Al at East Coast Rocker and The Aquarian Weekly for more than 20 years. He replaced me as the New Jersey Newsbeat writer when I left The Aquarian full-time in late 1995. It was the first time in the history of the publication that the treasured column was entrusted to a freelancer, but we all knew that Al would excel at it, and he did.
It was his writing ability, sense of humor and loyalty that made him so loved by everyone who knew him in the local music scene. Al could write as well as anyone within these pages and did so artistically and enthusiastically about countless New Jersey bands who have sung his praises in life and in death.
He was a blast to hang out with, which we did quite often, along with Camille, at shows throughout the years. He had this devilish boyhood charm and a sense of mischievousness that might have gotten anybody else into trouble, but with him, it was just like, “Oh, Al.”
My most fond memory of Al is at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, where one of several charity Beatles tribute shows I had organized was held during a day-long statewide marathon in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Fab Four’s landing in America. I was going to guest sing “Don’t Let Me Down” with one of the bands when I forgot a verse. Al saw that I was stumbling, jumped up onstage, sang the rest of the verse, and we sang the rest of the song as a duet. That’s just one small sample of his vast loyalty to the New Jersey music scene, and there’s probably hundreds of similar tales that will be told at his services.