Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Rhythm House Rocks No More

Rhythm House Cafe

Hey, today's post is a brief obit to one of the region's rockin' venues that will be no more after tonight, Daryl Price's Rhythm House Cafe.

Located on 79 and 50 in Bridgeville (South Fayette, if you're picky), the club was a fifteen minute drive from Pittsburgh's South Hills and forty minutes from Wheeling.

The Rhythm House was about music all the time. It featured live bands six days a week.

Tuesday and Thursday saw acoustic players, Wednesday was Froggy's Country Night with karaoke and line dancing, and the weekend was a rock potpourri, from 80s pop to soul and funk with the odd name band like Soundgarden and Quiet Riot or local headliners like Billy Price thrown into the mix.

They greeted Sunday with jazz, and Monday was their time out evening, with no bands but a "dinner and a movie" theme.

And if the boogie fever hit you, there was a back room that spun out DJ jams all weekend long. The place was always packed, at least on weekends, and did a decent lunch business too, with an affordable bar menu and plenty of taps to draw.

They're going out with a bang tonight, closing with one last blast starring Donnie Iris, Joe Grushecky and the Iron City Houserockers, B.E. Taylor, Scott Blasey, Bill Deasy, and Rick Witkowski, hosted by DVE's Jimmy Krenn.

Now the place wasn't heaven; the parking was always iffy, the help often had trouble navigating through the crowds, and South Fayette's finest were regular visitors, but hey, that's part and parcel of the live rock and roll scene.

But come Sunday (the venue calls it "the night the music died"), all of that will come to an end. A GetGo is taking its place.

"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've lost 'til it's gone? They've paved paradise and put up a parking lot..."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

City Dwelling Nature Seekers

City Dwelling Nature Seekers

Hey, they were only formed two years ago, and they play in a country-alt niche that is all but foreign to Pittsburgh ears. But the Steel City is about more than R&B and garage rock; folk that like the Band and Phish will have no trouble getting down with the City Dwelling Nature Seekers.

The Americana jammers got together in 2008, and are all grads of the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University. The Bluff might be better known for turning out longhairs and jazz players, but in keeping with the regions' rich tradition of music-making, refuses to pigeon-hole its artists. Whatever gets your foot tappin' is fair game.

City Dwelling Nature Seekers were cobbled together by Mike McCormick, who does the lead vocals and plays acoustic guitar. The other members are Lee Hintenlang (vocals, acoustic guitar); Matt Booth, (bass, also plays with Cuidado); Chris Parker, (drums, also gigs with Bill Deasy); Jim Relja (electric guitar); Mike Borowski (electric guitar; also plays with Cuidado); and Dan Barrett, (keyboards).

Not too surprisingly, they cite The Band and Neil Young as their influences, though much of their set comes from McCormick’s pen. The band itself plays a pretty tight set, with a taste for jamming. They launched their live career when they scored a weekly gig at Market Square's Milano bar.

Now you can catch the CDNS all over town - they've been or will be on the stages of the Brillobox, Howlers Coyote Cafe, the Harp and Fiddle, the Thunderbird Cafe, the Blue Moon, Club Cafe, Hard Rock, and the Smiling Moose. Hey, they were even finalists in WQED's college "Battle of the Bands" last year.

In September of 2009, they released a six-song EP, CDNS, which is available on CDBaby and iTunes, and are in the process of cutting their debut album. A single from the EP, “Will and a Way,” has been featured on WYEP’s Local News showcase, as well as Pittsburgh City Paper’s online MP3 Monday feature.

It didn't take very long for a full length CD to come out. In August of 2010, they self-released "City Dwelling Nature Seekers" with a party at the Thunderbird Café. The disk stayed true to their roots, but showed some growth.

These guys are fairly recent additions to the 'Burg music scene, fresh from college, playing a roots genre, and indies to boot. They have a tough row to hoe ahead of them. But they've put together a tight sound, rock on regularly at the local clubs, got some tracks recorded, and are off and running into the future. If you're a fan of the jingle-jangle music of bands like Whiskeytown, make sure you catch their act.

City Dwelling Nature Singers - "Tradition" live at the Thunderbird Cafe

Monday, February 15, 2010

TL Returns

Hey, the long-gone WMCK/WIXZ DJ Terry Lee was back in McKeesport at the Palisades Saturday night to do a dance after a two-decade disappearance from the 'Burg. Jason Togyer of the Tube City Almanac caught TL's show:

You can still catch his taped "Music For Young Lovers" show on Saturday evenings on WLSW-FM (103.9) between 10PM - midnight. We suggest listening to it from China Wall if at all possible!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Walt Maddox

walt maddox
Walt Maddox

Walt Maddox started singing as a teenager on the street corners of Manchester with a group called The Blenders. The group was a staple of the City's then-bustling lounge circuit, and by 1960, Maddox had cut his first single, released on the local Calico label, "Pinch Me" b/w "Would I?" (CSM 118).

He made his claim to fame when he joined The Marcels in May of 1961, after original members Richard Knauss and Gene Bricker jumped ship.

The group recorded “Heartaches” (Colpix 612), their second big hit, in September of 1961, with Maddox singing as second tenor.

And it's turned into a heck of a long-term relationship. Maddox sang with the group, through its many permutations, for four decades before becoming its manager and producer in 1999. And what a history.

In the early 1990s the group included Maddox, Fred Johnson, Richard Harris, Jules Hopson, and Richie Merritt, a pretty fair collection of Pittsburgh doo-wop All-Stars.

The Marcels split in 1995, when Fred Johnson formed his own group with a new cast. The rest of the gang replaced him with bass man Ted "Reno" Smith. And hey, you know it had to end up in court; how many Marcels can the oldies circuit stand?

Maddox won a lawsuit against now-departed Sunny James Svetnic, the manager of Johnson's group, for trademark infringement in 1996. In February of 2004, after a waging yet another court battle, Maddox was awarded all legal rights to the Marcels.

The Marcels are probably hotter now than in their heyday. The group was elected to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002, and they gigged nationally for 20 weeks last year, hitting clubs from Atlantic City to Las Vegas while touring.

Last year, they performed at the Arena for the annual Christmas-time doo-wop blowout. They cut a track on 2004's "Pittsburgh Music Legends," a disk made to benefit the local Boys and Girls Clubs. But Maddox is much more than the Marcels.

He's gone on stage as a solo act, and his “Tribute to Nat King Cole” show was a huge success. Maddox performed it with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Wheeling Symphony, and the Westmoreland Symphony. Maddox took the hit show overseas to St. Thomas, Aruba, Tokyo and Okinawa.

You can catch his act in local clubs, too. When he has the time, the Walt Maddox Revue plays the region's venues.

He's active in the production end of the business. His Super M label churns out local acts - in fact, his last CD, “Walt Maddox Sings Favorites and More,” was released on the impress.

Maddox still bird-dogs local talent. He pushed the career of Beaver Fall's child prodigy Vanessa Campagna, a country songbird who's opened for Wynona Judd, Clint Black, Vince Gill and Reba McIntire. His label also records up-and comers like Alexa Magnotto, Kelsey Wilson, B. Elle, and Brittany Ulrich.

Maddox, like so many other Pittsburgh musicians, is a home boy who gives back to the community. He produces and performs an anti-drug school assembly program, “Wake Up Your Dreams.” That show may be his greatest achievement; thousands of students in Pittsburgh, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Nevada, Arizona, California and as far away as Okinawa have been exposed to his upbeat message.

In fact, he had a hand in the superstar Christina Aguilera's rise during the early stages of her career, when she opened regularly for his “Wake Up Your Dreams” concerts with The Marcels.

Singer for a Hall of Fame band, Northside Old Timers Lifetime Achievement awardee (even though he lives in Ross now), producer, operator of his own label - Walt Maddox is Pittsburgh's one-man music majordomo - literally, The Mayor of the Palace. And that is who he is.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Jimmy Adler

Jimmy Adler

Jimmy Adler taught himself to play guitar at the age of fifteen, heavily influenced by Eric Clapton’s early recordings. And now he's one of Pittsburgh's premier blues axemen.

But don't expect any riffs from him that are aimed at the rock generation. Adler is a throwback to the old, 1950's blues genre. He plays a nasty slide guitar and growls his vocals, evoking some comparisons to Otis Rush and BB King as a player and Joe Cocker and Dr. John as a singer. Not bad company to be running in, hey?

He's been a fixture on the local blues scene for the past couple of decades. His stage act began when Adler and local bluesman Larry Nath formed The Mohicans in 1988. They had a regular Tuesday night gig at the old Backroom Bar on East Carson Street.

Adler and Nath went their separate ways, but on good terms - the two still perform occasionally as an acoustic/electric duo - and Adler joined Eugene and The Night Crawlers.

The Nighcrawlers, led by frontman Eugene Morgan, performed mainly in the Beaver Valley and Butler county. He also added to his resume by playing with the Mojos, Butler's Natili Restaurant's house band, along with Morgan.

Later Adler joined forces with blues harpist Wil E. Tri and the Bluescasters, who performed Saturday nights at Brother Olive's in the Strip District and gigged throughout the region.

After two years with the Bluescaster's, Adler began subbing for Lenny Smith in The Billy Price Band. He also began playing guitar with Jill West and the Blues Attack, filling in for guitarist Donnie Hollowood. West's band is one of the prime blues incubators in the area, and Adler is another chick she helped nurture.

He also finally got recorded, when he played on three tracks of old bud Eugene Morgan's "Count On Me" CD issued by the Mon Valley's Bonedog Records in 2001.

Adler then got the call to work full-time with Gary Belloma and the Blue Bombers. He recorded one album with the band, "Pack Your 'Chute" (2001 - Moondog Records), and was a member of the Bombers from 1998-2002.

He left Belloma because he felt he had paid enough dues to be fronting his own band and playing his own brand of blues, original stuff with its roots in the past. West, Belloma, and Price had all allowed Adler to sing a song or two, he had done some song writing, and figured he was ready to step out on his own.

So he formed the Jimmy Adler Blues Band. It had a rotating cast of players from the Pittsburgh blues gang, and became a regular act on the circuit.

In 2005, he released the band's first CD "Absolutely Blues! Live at the Boneyard," with John Burgh on piano, Harry McCorkle on bass, and Randy Roth on the kit. The recording was done live at Boneyard Studios, and got some pretty strong reviews.

It featured classic blues, along with tastes of swing, boogie, and New Orleans jazz. Five of the songs were covers, but Adler showed his writing chops by penning the other eight tracks.

The Blues Band followed up with "Swing It Around" in 2008, featuring original tunes written by Adler and Pittsburgh vet Mike Sweeney. The tone was similar, blending Chicago blues with jazz-tinged jump-blues.

The band for this recording consisted of John Burgh & Sudden Steve on the keyboards, Mike Sweeney & Harry McCorkle on bass, Kenny Crisafio & Kenny Kellner pounding the skins, and Eric Spaulding on sax. It was released on the Boneyard label, too.

Adler, like virtually all Pittsburgh musicians, has a day job. He's been a high school English teacher for the Pittsburgh Public Schools for 15 years, and has shared his passion of the blues with many of his students.

Using that background, he was instrumental in organizing and coordinating this first Blues in the Tent event for kids at the 15th Annual Pittsburgh Blues Festival in 2009. Adler's workshop was entitled "Blues History: From the Delta to Chicago" and focused on the legends of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and Jimmy Reed.

So hey, if you're a blues fan, don't run around moping about what a dying art it's become. There are still plenty of tasty bands riding the local circuit that know and play in the tradition, and Jimmy Adler's Blues Band is on the short list.