Friday, July 12, 2013

El Reys

El Reys from

In 1961, Bishop Canevin HS was the foundry for a band called the “El Reys” (Spanish for “The Kings”), a name that lead vocalist Stan Bogdan came up with to christen the group.

The sextet consisted of West End's Stanley "Stush" Bogdan, along with Chuck Black (co-founder), Randy Riddle, Westwood's Tim Eyermann (sax - jazz fusion artist, did couple dozen albums, two Grammy nominations, East Coast Offering), Green Tree's Rick Jablonski (drums), and Glendale's Bill Marszalek (guitar), who started out by performing at their own high school dances. They added a manager, local DJ Jack Schieffer.

The El Reys had a pretty good sound. They played with both both harmony and a beat, an on-time segue from the vocal era to the Liverpool scene, and pretty soon were doing shows all up and down the Chartiers Valley. They played at other schools, some college gigs, hops, talent shows and, as befitting a band from a Catholic school backed by Sister Maria Goretti and Father Armand, did more than their fair share of benefits.

Ed Salamon, who wrote "Pittsburgh's Golden Age of Radio," remembers the band as " of the wildest acts I had ever seen." Bill Marszalek agreed. He and the instrumentalists got a front row seat for the performances of vocalists Stush, Chuck and Randy, who would banter with the audience, dance, flip their jackets and generally get the joint hoppin'. Ed added that he thought they claimed to be on the verge of landing a contract with music giant Capitol, but Marszalek shot that down, believing it was just some wishful jiving by the front men. But they did get on a label, albeit a local one.

One night during this period, they were performing at a talent show/hop at the CIO Hall in Aliquippa, where they made a couple of notable industry acquaintances. One was Pittsburgh favorite Bo Diddley, lurking and listening in the back of the hall before his show as the headliner at the nearby Villa Lounge. He liked what he heard and invited the El Reys to catch his act that night. That was cool, but the next intro was better.

Augie Bernardo, owner of local label Ideal Records (the Stereos, John Harrison & the Hustlers, Vibra-Sonics), who was also was in the crowd. That unplanned audition won the El Reys' a record contract worth a couple of slabs that were big locally. DJ Porky Chedwick was spinning all four of their sides - "Diamonds and Pearls," "Angalie," "Beverly" and "Rocket of Love" - on WAMO in 1965.

They were big for a minute. They had records on the radio, a fan club, opened for some traveling rock shows during their local stops, made an appearance on Clark Race's Dance Party and played a few of the bigger clubs like the Coach Lounge, although the majority of their shows were at hops and smaller halls.

Their biggest moment was when they were part of the card during The Rolling Stones first American tour, which made a KQV sponsored stop at West View's Danceland on Wednesday, June 17th, 1964. The El Reys dressing room was next to the Stones (they shared space with The Shadows).

The El Reys weren't laying a foundation for a show biz future, though, just taking things pretty much as they came. And in 1965 came graduation for the group that had formed when most of the guys were freshmen. Stush was drafted, the other guys moved on to college, and the El Reys were no more.

But after five decades off, Stush Bogdan reformed the El Rays as an acappella group.

The new El Reys include Paul Durham of Monroeville, Bill Leverette of Wilkinsburg (The Cameos, Del Vikings, and The New Marcels), Tim Steele of Greensburg and J.D. Merkle of Baden. They're performing at high school reunions, birthdays and weddings. Once a month, you can find them singing at Atria's, and they've had bookings in clubs like the Johnny Angel Lounge, the Hophouse and the Obey House.

Stush is the only original member in the group. Bill Marszalek works for the City and spent 10 years serving as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Pittsburgh Musician's Union. Tim Eyermann earned national acclaim as the saxman of the East Coast Offering before he died in 2007. Chuck Black and Randy Riddle have also passed away. We couldn't track down Rick Jablonski, so if any of you know what became of him, please give us a yell.

(Local doo-wop historian Carl Janusek, who writes for the quarterly music magazine "Echoes of the Past" penned an article that is the definitive El Reys bio. The address is Echoes of the Past, PO Box 40, Agawam, MA 01001-0040 if you'd like more info on the band or the magazine.)


1965 - Rocket Of Love b/w Diamonds And Pearls (Ideal 94706)
1965 - Angalie /Beverly (Ideal 95388)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chapel Boys/Chapelaires/Softwinds

The Chapelaires (photo from White Doo-Wop Collector)

In 1955, a small posse of eighth graders from Troy Hill were members of Saint Anthony's Chapel choir. It wasn't a far leap for teens of the era to segue from hymns to street corner doo wop once mass was done and four of the guys - Tony Rausch, Paul Young, Ross Melodia and Fred Ferketic - became the Chapel Boys.

The quartet worked the local hops circuit, with one change: in 1957, Young was replaced by Bob Bubarth. The Chapel Boys cut some demos of tunes they had written: "A Tear," "Scarlet Scarf," "Swing Loose" and "Walla Walla Bong Bong" (none ever made vinyl, but are on the "Cross My Heart" compilation). They picked up a manager and a new name in 1958 when Bob Ross, a local promoter, took the group's reins and they became The Chapelaires.

DJ Mark Flanagan (Bob Pappas) of WEEP, then a top-40 station, took over the business end for the group from Ross and landed a contract for them with start-up HAC Records. Good timing; Flanagan left the station in late 1960, and presumably the group also, but left behind studio time.

Ferketic went off to college and was replaced by Bill Schmidt. The Chapelaires lineup that recorded for HAC in 1961 was Schmidt (first tenor), Tony Rausch (second tenor), Ross Melodia (baritone) and Bob Bubarth (bass). They produced two records, "Not Good Enough" b/w "I'm Still In Love With You" (HAC 101) and "Gloria" b/w "Under Hawaiian Skies (HAC 102), with "Gloria" in particular becoming a popular tune locally.

Schmidt had his stay cut short by Uncle Sam when he was drafted, and the Chapelaires added John Lajzo and Wayne Goldie from acappella group The Suburbans to bring the group up to five voices strong.

The Chapelaires became the Softwinds, and recorded one more slab for HAC, "Cross My Heart" b/w "Oh Baby" (HAC 105). It would be the last song recorded by the label; it went belly-up after releasing five 45s in 1961. Goldie left, and the Softwinds reclaimed The Chapelaires brand once again, performing on the local dance club circuit.

Music impresario Elmer Willett (he managed acts, had a label and ran a club) eventually got the group back in the studio with some backing gigs for Gateway Records. 1965 was the last recording date we could find, so we suppose they went their separate ways about then.

But doo-woppers never go gently into the night, and the Softwinds are back in action. They're now a bigger ensemble, with four vocalists and a four man band: Craig Bodenlos, James Satterwhite, Bob Gally, and John Lajzo (original Softwind member) provide the harmony with Tony Zottola (bass, keyboards, and vocals), John Voegtly (sax, flute, and vocals), John Clark (guitar) and John "Boom Boom" Kuhn (drums) backing them.

Their biggest gig to date was as the opening act at the Consol Energy Center for the 2012 Holiday Reunion Show in December, along with Johnny Angel and the Halos. The Softwinds perform around tri-state area, and worked with the Skyliners, Marvelettes, & DelVikings, at the Meadows & Mountaineer casinos, resorts, community days, and car cruises, nary missing a stop on the local oldies circuit.

While known for tight harmonies befitting their background, they don't limit the playlist except by era, easily slipping from "In the Still of the Night" into "Run Around Sue." They even released a CD in 2008, "Let Us Turn Back the Years," with three original songs along with nine covers from the day.

From a Troy Hill street corner in 1957 to Consol's stage in 2012, the Softwinds nee Chapelaires are still singin' and swingin' sweet.

Discography :

The Chapelaires
1961 - Not Good Enough b/w I'm Still In Love With You (HAC 101)
1961 - Gloria b/w Under Hawaiian Skies (HAC 102)

The Softwinds (Original)
1961 - Cross My Heart b/w Oh Baby (HAC 105)

John Ivey backed by the Chapelaires
1963-64? - Own A Real Live Clown b/w Far Far Far Away (Scotty 615)

Marie LaDonna & the Chapelaires
1964 - How Can I Let You Know b/w Georgie Porgie (Gateway 730; backed A Side only)

Chuck Johnston and the Jaycees
1964 - Forever Is A Long Long Time b/w Goodnight Irene (Gateway 738 - this is iffy, but it's likely the Jaycees were the Chapelaires)

Joni Kay & The Chapelaires
1964 - Lonely Star b/w Happy Memories (Gateway 744)
1965 - It's Impossible, Why Try b/w Vacation Time (Gateway 746)

1978 - Cross My Heart; The Best of 1956-66 (Crystal Ball CD 1087 - the disk includes 17 unreleased titles)

The Softwinds (Current)
2008 - Let Us Turn Back the Years (Victory CD)

The group also has tracks on "They Sang In Pittsburgh Volume 1" and various "Pittsburgh's Greatest Hits" issues.

Thanks to Ed Engel of Crystal Ball Records for providing much of the early information on the act.

The Softwinds - "Cross My Heart" 1961

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Joey Covington

Image from Vintage Vinyl News

Joseph Edward Michno, later to be known as Joey Covington, was born in East Conemaugh, near Johnstown, on June 27th, 1945, the third of six children of teamster Lou and aspiring country singer Betty. He began teaching himself to play the drums when he was 10 by listening to Joe Morello, Cozy Cole, Sandy Nelson, Candido and Preston Epps. Learned pretty quick, too.

13 year old Joey played with polka bands at local halls like the VFW with mom and dad chaperoning. When he was 14, he played the drums at a strip joint in Johnstown, The Airway Club. Mom and dad didn't drive him there; that gig was his little secret.

Then it was off to East Conemaugh High (he was class of '63) and the marching band, later followed by his first real rock group. He joined what he called a "hot rod band," The Vibra Sonics. They were pretty popular locally - they won a few battles of the bands, played dance clubs around Western and Central PA, and opened for a Simon and Garfunkel show. The Vibra Sonics even released a 45, Drag Race b/w Thunderstorm, in 1964 on full time florist and part time music producer Augie Bernardo's Ideal label.

The band had a run of wretched luck. At the Cowsill in Conneaut Lake, a fire destroyed their instruments. Later, a wreck while touring laid up Covington up for six months with a broken pelvis and some other snapped bones.

He recovered and got the itch to go to every East Coast musician's Mecca, New York City. He introduced himself out of the blue to Joey Dee, who sent him to a manager for possible work. The guy was ready to buy Joey a ticket back home when fate intervened. On short notice, a drummer was needed for the Danny Apollinar Trio, and the very available Covington landed some show tune dates in Florida.

Afterward, Covington went back home and scored some gigs from the union hall. He played for shows like the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars and backed the Shangri Las, Billy Stewart, the Supremes, Donald Jenkins & the Delighters and the Shirelles as a hired gun.

Then in 1966, he got a call from Sonny DiNunzio of the Fenways, who told him he knew of him from the Vibra Sonics and wondered if he was interested in coming to Pittsburgh to play with his band. He was; the Fenways had been turning out hot local singles since 1964 and were the big fish in the Steel City pond.

He cut a couple of 45s with the Fenways, played seven nights a week at clubs like Mancini's Lounge, and opened shows for the Rolling Stones, Dave Clark 5, Shangri Las, Lee Dorsey, Lou Christie, Chad & Jeremy, and Jimmy Beaumont & the Skyliners.

Covington hung around until 1967 as the Fenways, rolling with the rock tide, transitioned themselves from a pop group into the psychedelic Racket Squad. He doesn't mention playing for the Squad in his Pittsburgh years, but is credited on the album notes as being part of the band for awhile, so he likely stayed long enough to record a track or three.

It was the summer of love, and at age 22 he headed west with a bud for San Francisco in 1967. He would never look back. Right around this time is when he became Joey Covington; it's said that he thought Michno sounded negative, and that era, if you recall it, was all about the vibes.

He got some work from the hall (union cards are a good thing for a traveling minstrel) and played in several early Bay Area bands, including Pacific Gas and Electric. Joey ran across an electric violinist born in Beaver Falls, Papa John Creach, who he would later introduce to the San Francisco scene and played with Covington in several of his bands.

Covington hit it big when he helped form Hot Tuna in 1969, with Jefferson Airplane players Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen. While the tracks he cut were never released, the association with the Airplane members would prove big time.

Later that year, he joined Casady and Kaukonen in the studio with the Airplane, replacing drummer Spencer Dryden midway through the recording of Volunteers, and became a full time member in 1970 when the Airplane voted the erratic Dryden off the island.

He recorded with the band on the 1971 album Bark. Covington sang and wrote their last big track “Pretty as You Feel.” After the Long John Silver album in 1972, he left for a solo career as the band spun apart, with only one disappointment. He wasn't inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the other Jefferson Airplane members in 1996, because the Hall would only recognize the original members; Dryden got that honor.

During the Airplane era, he also appeared on Paul Kantner's 1970 concept album Blows Against The Empire and Grace Slick's 1971 Sunfighter LP.

Covington released his own LP Fat Fandango in 1973. He wrote all the songs, and though it was received well by the critics, it never sold. He also performed on 1976's Spitfire by Jefferson Starship and co-wrote the hit single "With Your Love." In 1978, he founded the San Francisco All Stars with Steve Love of New Riders of the Purple Sage and Quicksilver Messenger Service's John Cipollina, and they toured nationally during the eighties and nineties; one of his band mates was old bud Papa John Creach.

After that gig, he went into semi-retirement in Palm Springs, not a bad way to chill after decades in the hectic Bay Area music scene. Covington would gig as the spirit moved him, performing for free during community events, and he continued writing songs for local artists. His last show was gratis at a Marilyn Monroe memorial on June 1st, ending with him telling war stories and signing autographs.

On June 4th, 2013, the car he was driving slammed into a retaining wall at a curve in the road and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Joey Covington was 67.

Drag Race by the Vibra Sonics - 1964

Friday, May 24, 2013

Kaz: Rockin' Brownie Mary to Jericho Theory

Jericho Theory from the band's Facebook page

Steve "Kaz" Kaczynski Sr. became a guitar man back in his Fox Chapel HS days (he still lives in Cheswick). The only problem was that he couldn't land a gig for any of the school ensembles because he was a second banana behind a couple of other Fox axeman. So he went with the flow, took up drums and joined the school band. He must of been pretty good at pounding the skins. Around graduation time, he landed his first regular date when he toured with Al Latta (formerly of the Duprees).

Kaz first made his mark in the City in the nineties. He was Brownie Mary's original drummer, and that 'Burgh group was hot - they recorded, were club headliners and opened for local performances by the Smithereens & Hootie and the Blowfish, and were the big thing in the region for fifteen minutes before spinning their separate ways.

He was part of their debut 1994 "That's Me" album, writing a handful of the songs. The cover photo of the CD was a picture of Kaz's tyke Aaron. But Mary drifted from rock toward pop, and Steve, along with bassist Mike Marks, left the band to form the hard driving group PUSH. They won the 1997 Grafitti Rock Challenge and released a couple of CDs. After a three year run, he joined forces with 11th Hour. Originally, they had the Clarks open for them, but it wasn't long before those roles were reversed.

After that, it was a series of gigs with area acts like Carny Stomp, Vern's Winnebago, Cloud, Heartbeat, Tempis Fugit, The Strangers, In Time, LoFiDELUX, Shari Richards Group, Ron Obvious, The Abominable Honkies, and 13/thirteen.

Kaz never took to the touring, full-time band life; he had a day job and family. But he teamed with son Aaron a couple of years ago to form the metal/punk band Jericho Theory, with the self description of a "prog rock bassist, a metal guitarist, and a punk rock singer, stirred up by whomever we can get to play drums for us on a given night." Don't expect Brownie Mary stuff; try thinking along the lines of the Code Orange Kids.

The members are: Lead Vocals/Guitar/Writer- Aaron Kaczynski (who also plays with Meth Quarry); Guitars/Vocals - Steve Kaczynski Sr.; Bass Guitar - Ken Walzer; Drums - Randy Thomson/Steve Kaczynski Jr./Joshua Kane Hobaugh were/are the usual suspects. Asa and Ira Kaczynski also contribute with vids and editing. The band mostly plays original stuff, with a cover or two of their favs.

They still aren't touring or regular gig guys; sometimes JT has trouble finding bodies to fill a weekend date. But they've done a lap of the club circuit, performing at Diesel, Hambone's, the 31st Street Pub, Smiling Moose, Inn-Termission Lounge, Kopecs, Bloomfield Bridge Cafe and The Hideout. They've done street shows for Little Italy Days in Bloomfield, Art All Night in Lawrenceville, and Live on Liberty, with a live jam on WPTS.

If you're looking for some nineties metal with a punkish snarl, Jericho Theory is your band.

Jericho Theory performs one of its quieter songs, a live cover of the Plimsoll's "A Million Miles Away."

Monday, May 20, 2013

Free Summer Concerts

Citiparks Market Square Summer Concert Series

Got some time to spare, but not the change? No worries. Rock, pop, blues, indie, americana, jazz, classical, broadway - the City, County and some civic groups have put together a summer-wide schedule of free musical events to please just about every ear, and they're beginning to crank up the amps now:

May 23: Y108's 8-Man Jam (7 - River's Casino Amphitheater)
May 23: Joel Lindsey (11:30 - Market Square)
May 24: Almost Journey & Rockin the Paradise (7 - River's Casino Amphitheater)
May 25: Green River Band & Who Are You (7 - River's Casino Amphitheater)
May 26: New York Disco Review & Abba Girlz (7 - River's Casino Amphitheater)
May 30: Nick Marzock (11:30 - Market Square)
May 31: Pittsburgh CLO "A Gleeful Evening" (7:30 - South Park Amphitheater)

June 1: Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra Junior (2 - South Hills Village)
June 1: Max Leake w/Maureen Budway (2 - Ross Mall)
June 1: Thomas Wendt (2 - Robinson Mall)
June 1: Dennis Garner Band (2 - Monroeville Mall)
June 2: Pittsburgh Opera (7:30 - Hartwood Acres)
June 6: Andy's Jazz (11:30 - Market Square)
June 6: Finally Free (6 - South Side Works Amphitheater)
June 7: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (7:30 - Point State Park - Arts Festival)
June 7: Pittsburgh Jazz Crawl (5:30-9, Cultural District - Pgh. Jazz Live)
June 7: Italian Night w/ We Three, Vito DiSalvo & Giorgia Fumanti (7:30 - South Park Amphitheater)
June 8: Ralph Stanley w/Allegheny Drifters, Mon River Ramblers & Great American Taxi (7:30 - Point State Park - Arts Festival)
June 8: Orrin Evans (1:15 - Penn Ave Stage 2 - Pgh Jazz Live)
June 8: Sarah Elizabeth Quartet (1:45 - 9th St Stage - Pgh Jazz Live)
June 8: Rudresh Mahanthappa Gamak (3 - Penn Ave Stage 2 - Pgh Live Jazz)
June 8: Gerald Clayton (4:15 - Penn Ave Stage 1 - Pgh Jazz Live)
June 8: Pat Martino Trio (5:30 - Penn Ave Stage 2 - Pgh Jazz Live)
June 8: Charles Wallace Band (7 - Riverview Park)
June 9: Cello Fury w/ Joy Ike and Scott Blasey (7:30 - Point State Park - Arts Festival)
June 9: Sean Jones Quartet (1:15 - Penn Ave Stage 2 - Pgh Jazz Live)
June 9: Gregory Porter (3 - Penn Ave Stage 2 - Pgh Jazz Live)
June 9: Marcus Miller (4 - Penn Ave Stage 1 - Pgh Jazz Live)
June 9: Roger Humphries & RH Factor (4:45 - Penn Ave Stage 2 - Pgh Jazz Live)
June 9: Allison Miller & Boom Tic Boom (4:45 - 9th St Stage - Pgh Jazz Live)
June 9: Ralph Peterson Sextet (5:30 - Penn Ave Stage 2 - Pgh Jazz Live)
June 9: Bob Mould (7:30 - Hartwood Acres)
June 10: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (7:30 - Point State Park - Arts Festival)
June 11: Grupo Fantasma (7:30 - Point State Park - Arts Festival)
June 12: Glen Hansard (7:30 - Point State Park - Arts Festival)
June 12: Jeff Bush (7- Flagstaff Hill followed by movie)
June 13: Lucius (7:30 - Point State Park - Arts Festival)
June 14: Red Baraat (7:30 - Point State Park - Arts Festival)
June 14: Tommy Castro & the Painkillers (7:30 - South Park Amphitheater)
June 14: Shotgun Blues Brotherhood (2 - Ford City Community Park)
June 15: The Airborne Toxic Event (7:30 - Point State Park - Arts Festival)
June 15: Mark Lucas (7 - Riverview Park)
June 16: Blind Boys of Alabama (7:30 - Point State Park - Arts Festival)
June 16: The Pittsburgh Philharmonic (10:30 - Mellon Park)
June 16: The Vogues (7:30 - Hartwood Acres)
June 19: L'Lamint (7- Flagstaff Hill followed by movie)
June 20: Second Empire (noon - Mellon Square)
June 20: Gregory Macklin (11:30 - Market Square)
June 21: The Wailers (7:30 - South Park Amphitheater)
June 22: Colter Harper (7 - Riverview Park)
June 23: River City Brass (10:30 - Mellon Park)
June 23: Langhorne Slim & the Law (7:30 - Hartwood Acres)
June 26: Patti Spadaro Band (7- Flagstaff Hill followed by movie)
June 27: Lyndsey Smith & Soul Distribution (noon - Mellon Square)
June 27: Joey Molland of Badfinger (6:30 - Bessemer Court, Station Square)
June 28: Anders Osborne, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Jesse Dee, Neighbours (6 - Schenley Plaza/WYEP Summer Music Festival) 
June 28: BNY Mellon Jazz presents Monty Alexander (7:30 - South Park Amphitheater)
June 28: Leanne Regalla & the Lost Marbles (St. Joesph's Festival, Coraopolis)
June 29: Dancing Queen/Kelsey Friday (7- Walnut Street)
June 29: Roger Humphries (7 - Riverview Park)
June 30: Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra (10:30 - Mellon Park)
June 30: Sara Watkins (7:30 - Hartwood Acres)

July 2: Decoldest3 (4 - Point State Park - Regatta)
July 2: Dancing Queen (6 - Point State Park - Regatta)
July 2: Jersey Four (8 - Point State Park - Regatta)
July 3: Decoldest 3 (4 - Point State Park - Regatta)
July 3: The Chain (6 - Point State Park - Regatta)
July 3: Kenny Blake (7 - Point State Park - Regatta)
July 3: Paul Kantner & Jefferson Starship (8 - Point State Park - Regatta)
July 3: Beatlemania Magic (7 - River's Casino Amphitheater)
July 3: Muddy Kreek Blues Band (7- Flagstaff Hill followed by movie)
July 4: Holiday (noon - Mellon Square)
July 4: Decoldest 3 (4 - Point State Park - Regatta)
July 4: The Chain (7 - Point State Park - Regatta)
July 4: 4th of July (Heinz Field - 5: Sydney Hutchen; 6:30 The Stickers; 8:15 Florida-Georgia Line)
July 4: Air National Guard Band  (8 - Point State Park - Regatta)
July 4: Rich Larrimore (7 - River's Casino Amphitheater)

July 6: Eric Johnson (7 - Riverview Park)
July 6: Deutschtown Music Festival (Foreland & Middle -  2 Ishtar; 3 autobahn; 4 Chet Vincent & the Big Bend; 5 Locks & Dams; 6 Round Black Ghosts; 7 Bastard Bearded Irishmen)
July 6: Deutschtown Music Festival (Bistro To Go 415 E Ohio - 2:30 Tyree Morgan; 3 Ike Mississippi; 3:45 Dan Pritchard; 4:30 Faithful Sinners; 5:15 Blue X Baxter; 6 The Wreckids)
July 6: Deutschtown Music Festival (Elks 400 Cedar - 8 Sleep Experiments; 9:15 The Harlan Twins; 10:30 MOIP)
July 6: Deutschtown Music Festival (James Street 422 Moreland - 8 Dave O'Brien Trio; 9 Brewers Row; 10 The Red Western; 11 Big Gypsy; midnite Grand Piano)
July 6: Deutschtown Music Festival (Max's Allegheny Tavern 537 Suisman - 8 Lonesome Bob & the Socially Inept; 9 The FED; 10 Legs Like Tree Trunks; 11 Sun Ray Shining Light; midnite Triggers)
July 6: Deutschtown Music Festival (Stedeford Record 517 E Ohio - 8 Gene Stovall; 9 Nerve Ending; 10 Neighbours; 11 Nic Lawless & His Young Criminales)
July 6: Deutschtown Music Festival (AIR 518 Foreland - 8 DJ Harry Lurker; 9:30 Chrome Baby Jesus; 10 DJ Three; 11;15 Tracksploitation/Mega Def)
July 6: Deutschtown Music Festival (Key West 719 East - 8 The Dressed Frets; 9 Adadsdad; 10 Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo; 11 Blue Redshift)
July 6: Deutschtown Music Festival (Penutz - 8 Household Stories; 9 Western Pennsylvania) 
July 6: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (8:15 - South Park Amphitheater)
July 7: Allegheny Brass Band (10:30 - Mellon Park)
July 7: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (8 - Hartwood Acres)
July 10: Swing Nova (7- Flagstaff Hill followed by movie)
July 11: English Beat  (6:30 - Bessemer Court, Station Square)
July 11: Ben Shannon (noon - Mellon Square)
July 13: Jeff Grubbs (7 - Riverview Park)
July 14: Aeolian Winds of Pittsburgh (10:30 - Mellon Park)
July 14: Great Big Sea (7:30 - Hartwood Acres)
July 17: Hot Metal Bridge (7- Flagstaff Hill followed by movie)
July 18: Mark Ferrari (noon - Mellon Square)
July 19: The Stickers (7:30 - South Park Amphitheater)
July 20: Chris Higbee w/Abacus Jones (7 - River's Casino Amphitheater)
July 20: Maddi George (6 - South Side Works Amphitheater)
July 20: Spanky Wilson (7 - Riverview Park)
July 21: West Hills Symphonic Band (10:30 - Mellon Park)
July 24: theFIVE6 (7- Flagstaff Hill followed by movie)
July 25: Joe Grushecky  (6:30 - Bessemer Court, Station Square)
July 25: The Loose Play Connection (6 - Penn Ave.Parklet, Wilkinsburg)
July 25: Andy's Jazz (11:30 - Market Square)
July 25: Big Fat Jazz (7 - Cranberry Community Park)
July 25: Random Play (noon - Mellon Square) 
July 26: Maddi George (6 - South Side Works)
July 26: Sixpence None the Richer (7:30 - South Park Amphitheater)
July 26: Guggenheim Grotto (7 - St. Clair Park Amphitheater)
July 26: Chris Vipond & the Stanley Street Band (6 - Sweetwater Center, Sewickley)
July 27: Pure Gold (7 - River's Casino Amphitheater)
July 27: Radio Tokyo/Donora (7- Walnut Street)
July 27: Chelsea Baratz (7 - Riverview Park)
July 27: Any Way You Want It (6 - South Side Works)
July 27: Ras (4 - Waterfront)
July 28: Cello Fury (10:30 - Mellon Park)
July 28: Wally Gingers Orchestra (4 - Cedar Creek Park)
July 28: Clarks (6:30 -  Irwin Park Amphitheater)
July 28: Joy Ike w/ Johnny Miller (7:30 - Hartwood Acres)
July 28: Ron D'Amico (4 - CCAC Boyce Auditorium)
July 28: Powerplay (3 - Twin Lakes Park)
July 28: Penn-Trafford Community Band (7 - Ligonier Town Square)
July 29 : Nina Sainato (Noon - Market Square)
July 30: Nick Marzock (Noon - Schenley Plaza)
July 30: Salsamba (5 - Katz Plaza)
July 31: Dan Bubien (Noon - Market Square)
July 31: Shinizyn (7- Flagstaff Hill followed by movie)
July 31: Mark Dingham (12:15 - Allegheny Square)

Aug. 1: Mia Z (noon - Mellon Square)
Aug. 1: Jill West and the Blues Attack  (6:30 - Bessemer Court, Station Square)
Aug. 2: The August Wilson Dance Ensemble (7:30 - South Park)
Aug. 3: Kevin Howard (7 - Riverview Park)
Aug. 4: Kenia (5 - Highland Park)
Aug. 4: Cincopation (10:30 - Mellon Park)
Aug. 4: BNY Mellon Jazz presents The Yellowjackets (7:30 - Hartwood Acres)
Aug. 7: Bobby Short Band (7- Flagstaff Hill followed by movie)
Aug. 8: The East Enders (noon - Mellon Square)
Aug. 8: Broadway at the Overlook (6 - West End Overlook Amphitheater)
Aug. 9: Finally Free (6 - South Side Works Amphitheater)
Aug. 9: Broadway at the Overlook (6 - West End Overlook Amphitheater)
Aug. 9: Los Amigos Invisibles (7:30 - South Park Amphitheater)
Aug. 10: Elevations (7 - Riverview Park)
Aug. 10: Broadway at the Overlook (6 - West End Overlook Amphitheater)
Aug. 11: Joe Negri (5 - Highland Park)
Aug. 11: East Winds Symphonic Band (10:30 - Mellon Park)
Aug. 11: Galactic (7:30 - Hartwood Acres)
Aug. 14: Bridgette Perdue (7- Flagstaff Hill followed by movie)
Aug. 15: Hugo Down (noon - Mellon Square)
Aug. 15 - Jeff Jimerson and Airborne  (6:30 - Bessemer Court, Station Square)
Aug. 16: Broadway at the Overlook (6 - West End Overlook Amphitheater)
Aug. 16: James Hunter (7:30 - South Park)
Aug. 17: Leanne Regalla & the Lost Marbles (6 - South Side Works Amphitheater)
Aug. 17: Chris Higbee/Abacus Jones (7- Walnut Street)
Aug. 17: Marty Ashby Quartet (7 - Riverview Park)
Aug. 17: Broadway at the Overlook (6 - West End Overlook Amphitheater)
Aug. 18: Flexure (5 - Highland Park)
Aug. 18: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (7:30 - Hartwood Acres)
Aug. 21: The Grid (7- Flagstaff Hill followed by movie)
Aug. 22: The Williams Band (noon - Mellon Square)
Aug. 23: Duquesne Tamburitzans (7:30 - South Park Amphitheater)
Aug. 24: Beach Bums & Beach Party Boys (7 - River's Casino Amphitheater)
Aug. 24: Salsamba (7 - Riverview Park)
Aug. 25: Michele Bensen (5 - Highland Park)
Aug. 25: Rickie Lee Jones (7:30 - Hartwood Acres)
Aug. 28: Daniels & McClain (7- Flagstaff Hill followed by movie)
Aug. 29: Highway 4 (noon - Mellon Square)
Aug. 29: Starship  (6:30 - Bessemer Court, Station Square)
Aug. 30: Hometown Music Fest w/ JD Eicher, Caleb Lovely & Danielle Barbe (7:30 - South Park)
Aug. 31: Kenny Blake (7 - Riverview Park)

Sept. 1: Shining Star & Beat It (7 - River's Casino Amphitheater)

Spanky Wilson will be at Riverview on July 20th.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Stosh: Music From Madison To Greenfield...

Stosh Jonjak from his personal collection

Stosh Jonjak moved from the hipster haven of Madison, Wisconsin to its Pittsburgh counterpart, Greenfield - yah, we're comin' after you, Larryville - and has moved on from his bassist days with the popular and hard traveling Midwestern band Clovis Mann to becoming a complete musical entity unto himself - band, producer, promoter and distributor.

Jonjak, a native Wisconsinite, played for the blues and power rock trio for six years. In his paraphrased words "...we saw a lot of asphalt together, hanging out in a van, and subsisting on beef jerky and Dio sing-alongs at 4 in the morning after playing another roadside attraction. We averaged 60-100 shows a year around the Midwest, and did everything from hour-long showcases in college towns to playing roadhouses in the middle of nowhere."

"If you’re at some bar at the edge of civilization, you need to be able to play everything, whether it be outlaw country, classic rock, or even a polka or two, so that definitely stretched me as a player, and taught me a lot about arrangement and songcraft (not that I plan on writing any polkas anytime soon)."

He's effusive in his praise of old bandmates Ethan Noordyk and Dan Walkner, and Clovis Mann, still going strong, recorded a couple of albums with enough material for another.  Stosh learned about more than just laying down a bass line with Clovis, and began putting that business-end knowledge to good use here.

Jonjak came to Pittsburgh three years ago because of career opportunities for both his wife, a Pittsburgh native, and himself. He's a dad and has a day job to pay the bills. As for the music scene, he thinks Pittsburgh " the ideal size, big enough to support the local legends of the area yet small enough to be inclusive of newer talent. There are great media outlets, a host of blogs and good coverage in the press. And there are some really strong venues for every slice of the musical pie."

It's also where he found a chance to indulge his Euterpe. He explains "I spend too much time in my basement in front of flickering computer screens while recording and engineering away on Pro Tools. Assuredly, I’ve melted my mind, but that’s a small price to pay because, of all aspects of music, I’ve found I am most excited about writing and recording."

He writes his songs by notebook jots and records by structuring a lead vocal with live guitar riffs, throwing in a beat with a drum machine, overlaying the whole thing and adding the background vocals, a process that makes him "an army of Stoshes."

The result is his album Stosh. "This album is for people interested in sitting down and exploring 55 minutes of music straight," Jonjak said. "Unintentionally, in creating the songs, there happened to be a theme (each song is about a close friend or a family member) that ran through the whole album, so it made sense to put it all together and hope that people listen to the thing all the way through." (Just click on either this Broadjam or Stoshsounds link). It's definitely an olio of rock genres, described as "psychedelia, grunty, sludgy rock, and catchy electronic space sounds."

So any chance of getting Stosh out of the basement and on the stage? Probably not for awhile, anyway. "I’m not sure I’m ready to play laptop live just yet, which brings up the larger umbrella topic of what is the most effective way of promoting music?" Jonjak's take is "Playing thirty minute showcases was essentially the only game in town twenty years ago and I won’t disparage the value of a live show, but so much of the musical landscape has changed. Once you have a product you now have the potential to reach an unprecedented number of people via electronic promotion."

"With just a little legwork and at basically no cost you can upload your album to streaming services, submit your album to multiple, high-traffic marketplaces, and reach everyone you know via social media. It’s an exciting time for small, indie bands or musicians because of this access."

Give "Stosh" a listen; Old Mon played the album through while writing the post and it does work well as a unified piece even with the mash of styles. And you can't beat the inspiration.

The song “Life Intervenes” is about driving around with his bandmate buddies. For "Black Coffee" Stosh wonders if you've ever downed so much joe that you feel like your heart is going to explode? "See You In The Yucatan" is the tale of Evel Knievel meeting Metallica. "The End of the World" is based on an exchange held after the apocalypse. The tune "Grand Ambition" is a more traditional theme written after his daughter was born.

So hit one of the links above and let the rock roll.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Marcus Meston - Not Yet, But Soon

 Marcus Meston image by Billy Sukitch

Marcus Meston, the teen multi-instrumentalist and song writer from Upper St. Clair, is following his 2011 LP "Everything Will be Fine" with the EP "Not Yet, But Soon." He'll be at the Hard Rock Cafe on Tuesday, February 26th, opening for Aaron Carter and introducing the new tracks.

He hooked up with Steve Soboslai, Punchline's frontman and owner of the label Modern Short Stories, in February of last year. The eventual result was the song "Scissors," which they co-wrote, with another tune in hand that may be released as part of a future project.

In May, Soboslai come to Meston's home studio and did some pre-production work. Soboslai suggested laying down tracks with Mike Ofca of Innovation Studios in Steubenville, who had worked with Punchline, and so Meston went to Ohio last summer. In four sessions, they recorded three tracks ("Scissors" and "Today is the Day" made the EP), engineered by Ofca and mastered by Randy Leroy at Airshow's Takoma Park Studios in Maryland.

Veteran (Bill Deasy, Maynard Ferguson) Dave "Throck" Throckmorton did the drumming, Ofca provided bass, guitars, and keys while Meston played guitars, shaker and did the vocal work. His dad, Tom, who played for Stir Fry and is a popular sideman, overlaid keys from the home base in Pittsburgh for the sessions.

The remaining songs were a virtuoso performance by Marcus. He wrote the songs, laid down all the vocal & instrumental tracks and mixed them. Who said one man bands are dead? Meston mastered the tracks "Before We Begin", "Eventually" and "Time" while Harrison Wargo of the local Bad Boxes Studios (and former member of The Morning Light) mastered "Not Yet, But Soon (Intro)" and "New."

The tracklist for "Not Yet, But Soon" is:
  • Not Yet, But Soon (Intro)
  • Scissors
  • Time
  • Today is the Day
  • Before We Begin
  • New
  • Eventually 
The stuff is a little New Wave, a little pop, and a little rock, and shows a growing maturity in Meston as a writer and performer. The EP will be available in all online stores on March 17th. So get down to Station Square Tuesday to get a preview. Hard Rock's doors open at 7:30 and the music starts at 8.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lennie Martin

Lennie Martin from Robbee Records

Lennie Martin was one of the key players in mid-fifties to early-sixties Pittsburgh pop music scene. His JEM label broke the ice for local R&B artists in the City, he was the A&R man for and part owner of Calico Records who arranged the orchestration behind the Skyliners, and was co-owner of both Robbee Records and World Records, Pittsburgh's first label to push beyond regional acts.

He was born Rinaldo Marino in 1916, and was educated at Duquesne University. He was a pianist, arranger and composer, and found work as a staff musician for KDKA and WCAE radio. Martin became an orchestra leader and highly sought after as a jingle writer for ads.

Martin entered the industry side in 1955 when he formed JEM Records, based out of his Carlton House office.

In 1955, the Smoothtones recorded two sides for Martin's JEM label, both written by Alfred Gaitwood, who would later hit it big with the Cuff Links' "Guided Missile." The 45 was “Bring Back Your Love” b/w “No Doubt About It” (JEM #412), backed by the Walt Harper Orchestra. The wax was released in June 1955. As a historical note, it's thought that slab of vinyl was the first song by a black R&B vocal group issued on a Pittsburgh label.

Also on the label were local artists The Wright Brothers and Patty Troy, who would record both separately and together for JEM.

As the A&R man for Calico (he was also part owner), Martin took a trip to New York City's Capitol Studios with Bill Lawrence and Joe Rock for Skyliners "Since I Don't Have You" session. Martin arranged the lush chart, later cited by wall-of-sound producer Phil Spector as an early influence on his arrangements. He and band manager Rock shared the musical credits for all the early Skyliner songs released on Calico.

Founded to promote Pittsburgh music, Calico was driven by the Skyliners success. They also recorded the Donnybrooks from Canonsburg, Chuck Johnson and Walt Maddox. After a two year run, Martin closed shop and moved on to a new venture after Rock took the Skyliners to Columbia Pictures Colpix label.

Martin and Lou Guarino founded the Robbee Record Label in 1960, named after Martin's youngest son, Robert. He didn't forget the rest of the family; his Mary Jo Publishing company was named after his wife, and Jeff-Paul Music was named after his eldest, Jeffrey. The Robbee label even tried to break out the region with a distribution deal with Hollywood's Liberty Records, which had Henry Mancini among its artists.

Robbee had one song that charted: Marcy Jo's "Ronnie" (#81 Billboard, #64 Cash Box/1961 R-110). The label, like Calico, was heavy with local artists - Lugee (Lou Christie) and the Lions, Holidays, La Rells, Chapelaires, Honorable Fats Wilson and the South Hills' Four Seasons recorded for Robbee.

Martin catered to the sports crowd, too, with Benny Benack's "Beat 'Em Bucs" (1960/R-108) and Pirates' pitcher ElRoy Face (he fronted a small jazz club on Grant Street that as memory serves was called The Bandbox, a few doors away from Martin's offices at the Carlton House) and catcher Hal Smith as part of  Robbee's stable of artists. Heck, Lennie even recorded "La Femme" with his Orchestra for the label.

In 1963, Martin and Guarino formed a new label, World Records. They had some local talent, like Lou Christie, the Laurels & Joe Negri, and with Guarino's discovery of English act Chad and Jeremy, the duo hoped to finally make Pittsburgh a destination point in the industry. That never quite happened, though Guarino is still in the industry and running WAE Records, short for World Artists Entertainment, today's remnant of World Records.

Unfortunately, World Records and Pittsburgh didn't have Lennie Martin around long. He died at West Penn Hospital after a long illness in 1963 at the age of 46 and was buried at Mt. Carmel cemetery.

Lennie Martin left behind quite a legacy for such a short spell - he owned parts of four labels, orchestrated the Skyliners, was a vocal coach to a lot of young area talent, and his jingles (he was said to have produced thousands of them) cemented media branding and moved lots of product on TV and radio.

Marcy Jo - "Ronnie" (1961)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bill Lawrence

Image from the Doo Wop Shoo Bop.

Back in the early sixties, it was easy enough for local groups to get recorded; there were studios and labels galore. The labels may have been regional in reach, but getting on vinyl could at least get a band some local airtime, and that led to steady gigs.

They could even launch chart-landing careers, like Joe Averbach's Fee Bee did with the Del Vikings, Herb Cohen and Nick Cenci's Co & Ce did with Lou Christie and the Vogues, Lou Guarino's World Artist did with Chad & Jeremy, and Lou Caposi & Bill Lawrence's Calico did with the Skyliners.

Today we're gonna take a quick peep at Lawrence, who is often the forgotten guy among Pittsburgh's early rock entrepreneurs.

Bill Lawrence was a South Side kid who came up when times were tough during the Depression, scuffling for nickels and dimes. Entertainment is often an economic driver out of the 'hood, and Bill had a voice that helped punch his ticket. He went from singing telegrams to a spot on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour in New York, taking first place on the nationally broadcast CBS Radio show.

That led Lawrence on a barnstorming career as a big band leader, but making music wouldn't end up his calling card. As the curtain closed on the big band era, he moved on to the industry side of the business in the early fifties.

He started out as the sales director of Chicago's United Record Distributors, then went on to become CBS/Columbia Records as a Promo and Sales exec, pushing acts like Johnny Ray and Guy Mitchell. Next, Lawrence jumped to the new Epic label, where he became an A&R guy, the National Director of Artists Relations and was in charge of pop single sales.

But like many Pittsburgh guys, he discovered that the grass wasn't any greener in the outside world, and came back to the City in 1956. He converted partial ownership of Pittsburgh's Portal Distributorship into a company of his own, the One Stop Record Distribution Company. It had a pretty solid stable of labels to push, including Epic, ABC, London, Okeh, Vic, and Zephyr.

About the same time, Lawrence and attorney Lou Caposi set up Calico Records, with Lenny Martin as A&R head, arranger and part owner. In 1958, they fell into a rose garden when Joe Rock brought in the Crescents, fresh off a baker's dozen rejections from national labels, for a knockout demo. They quickly took them to New York's Capitol Studios and recorded “Since I Don’t Have You.” Oh, they also changed the group's name while in the Big Apple, to the Skyliners.

The Skyliners were the mainstays of the label, which also recorded local acts like Canonsburg's Donnybrooks and Walt Maddox. Then in late 1959, Lawrence pulled the plug on Calico after the Skyliners jumped to Columbia Pictures Colpix label and started Alanna Records, named after his wife. That label also focused on local performers like ElRoy (Leroy Grammer) & the Excitements, Chuck Edwards and Baldwin's Four Seasons.

He also started up the Western World label and its subsidiary Super M in the seventies with Lou Gaurino, veering off the beaten path by recording funk artists BlackLove and George Bacasa's cutting edge jazz group The Silhouettes.

While none of Lawrence's labels exactly sent shivers of fear up the spines of the national behemoths, there are two things that have to be remembered. His bread-and-butter was his distribution business, not the labels. And secondly, of all the labels that were jostling for acts in the sixties, Lawrence's Alanna is the only one that is still standing today.

By the early sixties (“Alanna Records Presents - Pittsburgh Rhythm and Blues/Rock 1959-1963” was their last pop release), Lawrence transformed Alanna into an almost boutique label. He made the Fifth Avenue shop a home for the music he appreciated - jazz, big band, swing and adult contemporary with a limited catalog of some 60 titles.

A niche market, to be sure, but one that supported itself. The label was even a pacesetter as a big fish in a small pond. Ed Salamon wrote that "Alanna’s success with The Spitfire Band and their Laurie Bower Singers almost single handedly reestablished the market for authentic Big Band music."

The independent model has its supporters. In 2005, Lawrence finally handed over Alanna's reins to Digital Dynamics Audio Inc., a recording and design group that wants to establish a jazz/classical label. Thomas Kikta, Digital Dynamics president, told the Pittsburgh Business Times that the deal enabled his company to "cover the chain from studio to retailer."

So when you look over your pile of old Pittsburgh-sound 45s, remember that Bill Lawrence not only was responsible for the music on a lot of those scratchy disks; his company was probably the one that got it to the store you bought it from. And of all those labels of yore, his is the only one left in the City.

We'd like to thank again Ed Salamon, whose article gave us a framework to built the post. Ed is a Brookline guy with a influential spot in radio broadcasting history and the author of "Pittsburgh's Golden Age of Radio."