Friday, October 24, 2008

G-Force

Photobucket
Granati Brothers from MySpace

Music always filled the Patterson Township ranch house of the Granati family. Dad Herman Granati Sr. is a classically trained musician who had played with several local long hair groups. His boys took to music, too, although of a decidedly different stripe.

Growing up to the Beatles, the Who and Led Zep sounds, the four brothers formed a band in the 1970s and began playing local gigs. They were the Granati Brothers.

Hermie played keyboards, Rick the drums, Joey was on bass, and David picked the guitar. The brothers enlisted next-door-neighbor, cousin Tony Bonomo, to fill out the roster.

The Granati Brothers had a regular weekend date at Morry's Speakeasy in Rochester Township. On a good Saturday night, 300 to 400 people would pack Morry's to see the Granatis and other area acts like B.E. Taylor and Donnie Iris. The club was a regular Rock Hall of Fame for Beaver County.

Label talent scouts began bird-dogging the shows. Warner Brothers showed some interest, but in 1977 Derek and Ray Shulman of the band Gentle Giant signed them to both a management deal with Premiere Talent, which handled Bruce Springsteen, the Who, and Van Halen, and to A&M Records.

On Feb. 15, 1979, A&M released the band's debut album, “G-Force,” and later their track "Go Crazy" was featured as the opening song of the label's "Propaganda" compilation album that included cuts by the Police, Squeeze, and Joe Jackson.

They had the G-Brothers open for 10 dates on the West Coast tour of British rockers Fabulous Poodles. In the audience for a San Francisco show was Steve Hansen, who soon would move to Pittsburgh and become one of the Granatis' biggest supporters as a morning man on WDVE-FM.

The Granatis big break came at the Whisky a Go Go in 1979, packed by dozens of Pittsburgh nomads who went wild for their hometown boys. Impressed, A&M asked the Granatis to fill in as a warm-up act for two shows by Van Halen.

They opened for Van Halen in Caldwell, Idaho, and Logan, Utah, where Eddie Van Halen fell in love with their classic rock style and stage routine. They become Van Halen's opening act for the next 36 shows.

The Granati Brothers knew how to make an entrance. The group would sprint onto the stage at full speed, and vault from speakers and drum risers, doing splits and looking for all the world like crazed, long-haired circus acrobats. The crowd was wired by their high-energy act, a perfect warm up for VH.

Besides Van Halen, the brothers played with Heart, Peter Frampton, Boston, J Geils, Ian Hunter, the Doobie Brothers and others during a seven-month national tour. Over 250,000 fans in 50 cities caught their perfomance.

The highlight of the tour was appearing before 62,000 fans at the Louisiana Superdome rock festival in New Orleans, where the Granati Brothers took the stage first, followed by Sammy Hagar, Nazareth, Blue Oyster Cult, Van Halen, Heart and Boston.

Back in Pittsburgh, WDVE was spinning the band's single "What in the World" seven times a day, the first time a local band had received so much air time.

Philly stations were playing the G-Brother's "You Look So Good," while West Coast stations spun the band's "Night is the Best Time." One New York station opted for the B-side, "It Was You." 50,000 copies of the album sold. Sounds like a lot of love, hey?

Not really. There's a reason labels don't release four tracks at once – you can't promote them all. Besides the poor marketing effort by A&M, insult was added to injury when they decided to push the band 1999 at the expense of the Granatis. Remember them? Neither do we.

While their quest for stardom on the radio fizzled, they were still hot on the road.

In 1981, G-Force performed for over 500,000 fans in 39 cities in the U.S. and Canada, appearing with Van Halen at 46 sold out concerts. It was the third largest tour of 1981. All in all, they performed in 78 sold out Van Halen concerts. David Granati earned a nomination for player of the year by Guitar Player Magazine.

In 1982, Rick Granati, Mike Stout of the United Steel Workers, and WDVE organized a benefit concert at Pittsburgh’s Stanley Theater to raise money for thousands of unemployed steel workers cast aside when Big Steel died in the city. The Granati Brothers and local artists Iron City House Rockers and Billy Price performed.

CBS Evening News, Today Show, New York Times, LA Times, AP, and UPI all covered the show and put out the story of the devastated mill families.

The funds raised by the concert led to the founding of the USW Local #1397 Food Bank that eventually morphed into the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, which is still feeding hungry Pittsburgh families to this day.

They have also performed with or recorded Bruce Springsteen, J. Geils, Ian Hunter, the Doobie Brothers, Yes, Sammy Haggar, Nazareth, Heart, Peter Frampton, Boston, Blue Oyster Cult, Def Leppard, Black Foot, Molly Hatchet, Southside Johnny, Dionne Warwick, Joe Grushecky, the Clarks, BE Taylor, the Jaggerz, and Norm Nardini. Pretty fair list, we'd say.

The band signed with Atlantic Records in 1986 and recorded an album called "Enter". But the Atlantic era wasn't any more successful than A&M's, as local bands like the Granatis, the Silencers and the Houserockers were cut out of even hometown airplay for the big-name, easy sell national rock groups by the station managers.

"But that's why Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh, and Cleveland is Cleveland, and some cities have a reputation for breaking local bands, and some don't," Hansen told the Ellwood City Ledger. He and partner Jimmy Roach fought the local playlist ban, but we all know that's a fight the suits always win.

As the local platter pushers turned their backs to homegrown talent, the brother's interests began to branch off in different directions.

The band went their separate ways in 1995 as they pursued their own projects. Joey and David, along with Gary Carolla and Sputzy Sparacino, co-wrote Aaron Carter's hit song "Tell Me How to Make You Smile.” Hermie kept his hand in the business, and performed and recorded with area artists. Joey became one of the big-time performers nationally in the niche world of Dueling Pianos.

In 2006, Hermie, Joey, and David Granati wrote the theme song "Reach For The Light" for the TV documentary "The Actors Journey Project".

David has his own 24 track studio, “DaveWorld Productions,” and specialized in taping local bands including the Gathering Field, Corbin and Hanner, Jimmy Beaumont, Johnny Angel, Norm Nardini, the Vogues, the Jaggerz, the Tremblers, and Soda Jerks, along with some national acts. He also did independent projects in Ireland and at Lenny Kravitz Studios.

In 2002 the Granati Brothers got the itch and reunited. They released “G - The Continuing Adventures of the Granati Brothers,” recorded at DaveWorld Productions. They once again rode the club circuit, and still gig when the spirit moves them at the local joints. They just finished up polishing and showing off the Lincoln Park school rockers for their foray into the world of show biz.

Their day jobs are:

Hermie: Plays keyboards for B.E. Taylor's band.
Joey: Co-manager and performer at Charlie Murdoch's piano bar on South Side's East Carson Street
David: Album producer and also music instructor, along with Joey, at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland.
Rick: A commercial and residential painter and event promoter.

May the G-Force always be with us.

To keep up with the Granati clan, visit their MySpace - Granati Brothers site.

4 comments:

Sharkonwheels said...

Granati....

That was (is) a SUPER CLASSY bunch of guys...

I remember one summer in the 80's, they played at a hotel in Miami Beach for a time. I was a teen, and enjoyed their playing.

i distinctly remember David, and the fact that he played a Roland GR synthesized guitar.

Ron Ieraci said...

Yah, Shark, in the 80's and 90s Pittsburgh music broke out of its jazz/R&B mold and began to rock it some. The Granati's were just one of several top rockers, along with the Cynics, Houserockers, Norm Nardini and the Tigers, Diamond REO, Donny Iris, and a posse of other top bands.
Now if Pittsburgh radio ever got its head out and started supporting the locals with some airwave love, just maybe someone can break out of the City and make some noise.

Bryan said...

Without a doubt, the classiest of folks. We recorded at Dave World years ago, and felt very at home.

Ron Ieraci said...

Hey, Bryan, thanks for the shout otu for the Granati Bros. Your story is just one of many that I've heard about the Granatis remaining a contributing part of the local music scene. And while the 'Burgh isn't as cut throat as some markets, they're one of the good guys for aspiring bands and fans.