Friday, July 30, 2010


The Dynamics photo from Doo Wop

Hey, North Side is famous for its singers. In the fifties, a group of guys from the Shadeland Avenue neighborhood discovered they made a pretty good sound together and became the Dynamics.

They were George Winesburgh (lead), Jimmy Shoup (first tenor), Earl Viney (second tenor), Dick Johns (baritone), and Donny Fuchs (bass).

They released their first wax on the George Goldner/Jay Michael's Cindy label in 1957, "When The Saints Come Marching In" b/w "Gone Is My Love." The flip got a lot of air time locally.

Looking to break out of the Pittsburgh market, they approached Brighton Height's George Bodnar, who organized area hops, managed West View Park's Danceland (in fact, he would manage West View and White Swan parks after Danceland burned down), and was the founder of a then-new local label, Impala Records.

Bodnar was impressed with the act, and took them to Nashville to tape two songs at the Bradley Film and Recording Studios. On May 4, 1958, the Dynamics had a tape of "Someone" penned by Dick Johns and "Moonlight," written by Donnie Fuchs. The backing group of studio session players included Harold Bradley on guitar, Bob Moore on bass, and Floyd Cramer Jr. on piano, all to become famous as founders of the "Nashville Sound."

The 45 was released as Impala 501, and "Moonlight"/"Someone" rose to the top of the charts in the City.

Bodnar sold the distributing rights to New York based Seeco Records in November 1958, hoping to turn the local big fish into a national seller. The deal was for the Dynamics and Bodnar to receive 5% of the sales.

It was reissued as Seeco 6008; they even sold European rights to the song. But we all know how the industry worked then - Seeco didn't push the record, and the Pittsburgh connection didn't receive a red penny for the work.

To add insult to injury, the record had a revival a few years later, but as a pirate on the Steel City label, again cutting out the artists from the take.

Winesburgh and Viney split, and Ron Barnett and Dick Spracier replaced them. But the new Dynamics didn't have much more luck than the originals.

They released a couple of more singles - "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams" b/w "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" on Laverve Records in 1961, and "Christmas Plea' b/w "Dream Girl" for Jules Kruspar's Dynamic Sound Records in 1962.

Neither took off, and the group faded into the mists of musical history. One problem was that no one took proper care of the business end for them. Another drawback was the group's name itself - it was estimated that up to a dozen groups went under the Dynamics tag during the fifties and sixties, and it's hard to break from the pack without a strong brand.

But they didn't entirely disappear. In 1991 Impala Records was sold by Bodnar. Along with the masters of "Moonlight" and "Someone" were 56 outtakes of a song called "Wedding Bells", which was never released in any format. The new Impala went into the Audible Images Studios, and made an EP of the three songs, now sold on eBay as a sort of Dynamics Greatest Hits collection.

"Someone" by the Dynamics (1958)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gus Collins Still Rollin'

Gus Collins from Elmoz Fire

Everybody was singing on street corners in the North Side during the 1950s, including Gus Collins. But he was a bit more advanced than his 'hood harmonizers; by the age of eleven, he was singing second tenor with his first group, Sammy and the Belltones.

By the time 1960 rolled around, Gus was singing lead vocal for a local group called the Lateers. Signed to Lenny Martin's World Artist label, the Lateers had two singles that landed on the national R&B charts in 1962 and 1963, “Dance Party” and “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac” featuring Collins on the lead. After a couple of years of national tours and one-night stands, the Lateers called it quits in 1965.

Collins began working with a four-piece group on the national college circuit, serving up R&B, Motown, and Soul sounds to the frat rats as JC and the Silver Strings. He was their front man until 1978, when he retired from show business to take care of his ailing wife.

He rejoined the music-making biz in 1995, singing tenor for The Marcels, as he reunited with old friends Fred Johnson, Bingo Mundy, and Dick Knauss, who had all sung on those same North Side street corners as kids with Collins.

In 2003, Collins teamed up with Ron Griglia and the Elmonics, as the group transformed from an oldies act to an R&B show band. Now they perform as Elmoz Fire, switching names in 2005 as their music changed from the Flamingos to the Temptations.

And hey, Gus Collins isn't just part of an ensemble; he has some powerhouse chops of his own. Jeff Ingersoll's Bonedog Records, a soul and blues outfit based in Duquesne, released his solo album "Soul Social" (after all these years, his first solo work) with a R&B revue show at McKeesport's Palisades Ballroom a few weeks ago.

The album features eleven songs written by Mike Sweeney with a couple of covers thrown in, and a local All-Star band that includes Stevee Wellons, Dave Avery, Zack Weisinger, Jimmy Britton, Robbie Klein, Steve Delach, Robert Peckman and Sweeney.

And if you're looking for some sweet Motown sounds coming from this slab of wax, look again - this is Stax stuff, all brawn and brass, torch and scorch, funk and junk. It's just what you'd expect from a Pittsburgh player with roots in the 50's and 60's, when the town's two finest products were steel and soul.

The steel may be gone, but its soul remains.

"Soul Social" - Gus Collins

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

DJ With A Resume


Hey, Travis Klein, local music biz institution, put up this post and Old Mon thought he'd pass it along:

"Many of you know Porky Chedwick, if not personally, by reputation. Porky is a living legend as America’s preeminent oldies disc jockey. He and Jeannie now live in Tarpon Springs, Florida and Porky is looking for work as an M.C. or disc jockey. If you know someone that would like to offer Porky a paying gig, call Jeannie’s cell phone at (412) 513-5928."

As Travis says "There are so many ex-Pittsburghers down there as well as oldies fans from New York and elsewhere..." So if you're in the business of booking guys for record hop or club gigs, Old Mon and a few million fans vouch for Porky's resume. Give Jeannie a call.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Stickers

The Stickers

The Stickers have opened for Hank Williams Jr., Little Big Town, Alan Jackson, Zac Brown Band, Billy Ray Cyrus, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Mark Wills, and a host of other country biggies.

They play the country fair circuit like madmen. Heck, today will mark their third fair appearance in three days in two states, and they have another handful booked. The band has four tracks from their debut CD that made Billboard's Country List, including two in the top 100.

Not too bad for a rock band that turned country just four years ago. They said that their writing style prompted the change (they are three time Billboard Song Writing Award Winners for original songs), and their musical influences - The Eagles, Hank Williams Jr, Keith Urban - made the switch natural.

The band members are brothers John Woderak (bass), Joe Woderak (lead vocals, lyricist), and Jim Woderak (drums) along with childhood bud Miguel "Tito" Garcia (guitar), sometimes adding Mark Zucco (keyboards).

Joe Wodarek is used to big crowds. He's sang the National Anthem several times for the Pittsburgh Steelers (who are undefeated when he opens for them), once even teaming up with Bret Michaels of Poison.

It didn't hurt that John Woderak is an events coordinator for the Steelers. Brother Jim is a graphics arts teacher at Baldwin High; rumor has it that he's trying to work out a gig for Joe before one of the Fighting Highlander clashes (OK, we started the rumor, but hey, Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park are tough!)

The Stickers, who spent a year as the opening act for the now defunct PovertyNeck Hillbillies, are doing it the hard way, without the support of a label. But they're getting a lot of local help pushing their sound.

Their CD, "The Stingers," was produced in Nashville (where else?) at the renowned Curb Studios. And it has a local country legend's hands all over it, Bob Corbin of Corbin/Hanner note.

Corbin has written tunes for Alabama ("Can't Keep A Good Man Down," "Fire In The Night," both #1), Hank Williams Jr., George Jones, Mel Tillis ("Blind In Love," #1), Kenny Rogers, and The Oak Ridge Boys, and produced The Sticker's album.

The band worked through the winter of 2008 laying down the tracks, and it was released in June of 2009 at Saddleridge.

The Pittsburgh country radio guys, unlike their rock counterparts, pushed the home boys' music hard. WFGA 94.9 - Froggy - and Y108 put the songs in rotation, and other country stations picked them up from there.

Since then, The Stickers have charted four singles on the national country charts, including "Girl in a Pick Up Truck" which is at #60, and their new single "You Put the Woo in Me," breaking at #84. "Young Wild & Free" and "Let's Make Some Memories" also charted.

Now their songs have gotten airplay on some 150 radio stations, and "Pickup Truck" was even picked up in France.

Hey, a country band from Pittsburgh hitting the big time is a long shot, especially one without a label. But The Stickers are looking to break that mold. They just shared a stage with the Zac Brown Band at the Morristown Ohio "Jamboree in the Hills," often called "the Super Bowl of Country Music." Maybe they'll be the next, like stagemates Zac Brown, to hit paydirt.

The Stickers - "Girl In A Pick Up Truck"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Another Great Gone

Gene Ludwig from All About Jazz

Gene Ludwig, one of this country's most passionate and expert jazz players of the Hammond organ, passed away today at the age of 72. Our deepest sympathies to Pattye. Play on forever, Gene.
(Visitation hours are from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday and 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Jobe Funeral Home, on Beatty Road at Route 48 in Monroeville.)

Gene Ludwig Trio - "Rivers Invitation," October 2009

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blues Orphans

Blues Orphans (2008) from Pittsburgh Live Music

The Blues Orphans is a misnomer for this gang of musicians. Oh, they do a mean lick when it comes to playing bluesy material; They were voted Pittsburgh's Best Blues Band by the readers of the City Paper four times in the past seven years. But at heart they're an Americana roots band.

Their sets cover the blues, jazz, country, bluegrass, zydeco, rockabilly, and rap. Heck, they even do a rap version of Roger Miller's "King of the Road." As Bobby Gabig told JE Rosenfeld of the City Paper, "We're like the birds in the trees. We just sing."

The heart of the band are brothers Bobby and Andy Gabig, who grew up in the Rosslyn Heights neighborhood of Carnegie, where they shot hoops with old B-Ball coach Skip Prosser.

But roundball wasn't their passion. They grew up in a musical family. Their grandfather and uncles played country & western and Irish music, and the brothers have been students and performers of music as long as they can remember.

The brothers started their career riding the rails around the country, busking and performing in San Francisco, Montreal, Chicago, New York, and New Orleans.

In 1974, they began to gig as a group; it took them until 1979 to actually come up with a permanent name. They became the Blues Orphans after a bar customer called them "just a couple of blues orphans." It was a good enough description of them.

In 1983, they came back home and hooked up with their bass-playing cousin Roy "Bones" Fitzpatrick, who joined the band (He passed away in 2009).

The band roster now is: Dave Yoho (drums); Andy Gabig (harmonica, backing vocals); Nelson Harrison (trombone); Bobby Gabig (guitar, vocals); Mark Custer (trumpet); and Joe Briggs (upright bass).

They're all, like the Gabig's, pretty serious musicians. Dr. Nelson Harrison has played with the Count Basie Orchestra and the Boilermaker Jazz Band; he's now a member of the Roger Humphries Big Band and the Pittsburgh Jazz All Stars.

Yoho also leads his own bands, The Heard and Yinzide Out. Custer is a classically trained trumpeter and is a member of the River City Brass Band. Briggs studied bass in college and has played music ranging from bluegrass and jazz to classical. Eclectic group, eclectic sound.

They've released four CDs over the years. The first pair are "Neighborhood Beat" (1997), followed by "Schism 'N Blues," (2003).

In 2005, they recorded "Corn Creek Travesty," in which the Gabig brothers and Fitzpatrick formed a trio calling themselves The Blue Opry Brothers. The record is a mix of country & western and Irish music performed as a tribute to their grandfather, Leo Fitzpatrick.

The latest is 2007's "Root Rot," released on their Staggerin Fitz Music label.

The Gabig brothers not just practitioners but historians on the sounds of Americana roots music. Bob and Andy ran a kid's workshop entitled "The Influence of Blues in Appalachian Music" during the Pittsburgh Blues Festival. It focused on the connections among artists such as Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry to exhibit the link between the blues and mountain music.

Check out the paper and find the current Blues Orphans gig (They're regulars at East Ohio Street's Park House). Hey, not all of it works; but in between the rare clunker is a lot of sweet sounds that cover the gamut of American music.

They may jam band a four hour set for you, and if any other musicians are in the house, rest assured they'll be on stage sooner or later, sitting in with the Orphans. They put on a show that shouldn't be missed.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Aviation Blondes

Aviation Blondes photo by Steve Dwyer Enright

Steve Morrison made quite a name for himself around the region in the 1980's as the guitarist for both The Affordable Floors and Fusebox. But after a fire burned down his Bloomfield pad, he moved to New Orleans in the late '90s.

Morrison scored a gig with the guys that produce the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival while also working on a solo project. But as so often happens, you can take the kid out of Pittsburgh, but can't take the Pittsburgh out of the kid.

Hurricane Katrina, even though it caused him no personal damage, provided him with the perfect excuse to head back north in 2005 and hook up with his old buds.

His homecoming coincided nicely with a reunion gig with the Floors, playing on the bill of a show put together to honor the late New Wave station WXXP at the Rex.

Morrison got back into the swing of things quickly, and successfully entered a track to qualify for the Graffiti Rock Challenge. The problem was that he didn't have a band or any more new music.

So he called on a few musical pals whom he had run across at the XX show.

Lexi Rebert (vocals) and Jen Fisher (vocals, keyboard) performed sexy cocktail-lounge music with Salena Catalina, a jazz-influenced quartet. The two began helping Morrison with his solo CD project and some material for the Rock Challenge.

To join the singers, he added bassist Rod Schwartz (The 11th Hour), British-born guitarist/vocalist Daryl Cross (The Joyce Brothers) and drummer Troy Cramer (Ritual Space Travel Agency), who would be replaced later by Dave Klug (SPUDS, Hector in Paris, 11th Hour).

There was no trouble bonding as a group; Morrison, Schwartz, Cross and Klug had played together in the 80's for the cover band Saturday's Kids.

While Morrison's record never came to be (and he was eliminated in the first round of the Rock Challenge), the outfit did come up with a backlog of new songs, and came together in 2006 as the Aviation Blondes.

They went through a variety of styles at the start, but one thing became obvious to Morrison; he'd leave the lead singing and frontman scene to the ladies; Rebert is a show unto herself. They settled on a bright, poppy sound with plenty of harmony and hooks to go with solid guitar and rhythm work.

After a couple or three years of honing their act on stage, the AB's released their first CD (and at seven tracks and under a half-hour, probably closer to an EP) called "Edge of Forever" (GH-1155CD) in November of 2009.

The band's label was local indie Get Hip Recordings, run by Gregg Kostelich of the Cynics. Get Hip is a pretty solid outfit for an area imprest; it landed the CD on iTunes, Bomp, Amazon, CD Baby, DigStation, Rhapsody, and Napster, along with getting some college station airplay.

The band earned itself a little extra local love too, thanks to the Pittsburgh Pirates, sad sacks on the field but top guns at marketing.

The team runs a promotion called the Local Music Inning, where they play a song by a Pittsburgh artist during the sixth-inning break. It's a throwback to an old 1990's idea, and was revived when a Pirate PR guy saw the AB's performing at the Three Rivers Arts Festival last year.

So PNC blasted "Catch and Release" on opening day and "Crash and Burn" later in the season, both off the CD, while the band and a vid are displayed on the Jumbotron. Hey, maybe not as good as heavy rotation on DVE, but still a nice intro to the home folks and all the young fans in the outfield.

In kind of an oddity, the Aviation Blondes didn't tour like madmen to support their release; in fact, they did the opposite, concentrating on a new set of songs for their follow-up CD.

So hey, get ready. The AB's are out of the studio and should popping up all over town this summer, and another CD is on the way. And if your iPod is on the blink, just buy a cheap seat to the ballgame - odds are you may catch their playlist there.

"Pretend" - Aviation Blondes