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Throw Back Thursday: The Queen of R&B ... Ruth Brown!

Posted on August 6, 2020 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Mornin' Ginchers,

How about a little Throw Back Thursday with the Queen of R&B ... Ruth Brown!   Now that is a handle right there, Ruth Brown, American Singer-Songwriter and Actress given the title of "Queen of R&B", and rightfully so ... but, it didn't stop there ... for her contributions to Atlantic Records she became known as the "House that Ruth built" (a take off of Yankee Stadium and the house that Babe Ruth built!).  Some of those great records included "So Long" , "Lucky Lipps", "Teardrops From My Eyes", " Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean" and "This Little Girl's Gone Rockin". She also was inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame in 1993, won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical (Black and Blue), received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer award, inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame and a Grammy Lifetime Achievment Award.  At the age of 17, Ruth Brown ran away from home with trumpeter Jimmy Brown, and were soon married after that, to sing in clubs where she spent a month in Lucky Millinder's Orchestra.  Cab Calloway's sister Blanche helped her get into some of the bigger clubs like the Crystal Caverns in D.C., whcih led to a contract with Ahmet Ertigun and Atlantic Records.  In 1950 she released her second record for the label "Teardrops from My Eyes" where it spent 11 weeks at number 1 on the Billboard R&B charts, which earned her the nickname "Miss Rhythm" and within a few months she became the acknowledged "Queen of R&B!".  You can only imagine how excited I was to meet the legendary Ruth Brown, it was at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame that I was invited to a party with some of the distinguished guests for the new wing ribbon cutting.  Bo Diddley, Jerry Butler, my friend Bill Pinkney, Joe Walsh, Michelle Phillips, Little Richard, George Clinton, Ike Turner and Ruth Brown all in one room ... talk about a kid in a candy store!  I still have autographed ribbon pieces from almost all of the artists who cut the opening day ribbon for the new wing and stories to go along with them in my museum. Ruth Brown took time to talk with me, sign my albums and discuss her days as the Queen of R&B.  I asked her if she would like to come to Pittsburgh and do a concert with us  ... she gave me her contact information and I couldn't wait to see her live on stage once again.  Unfortunately not long after that Ruth took sick and it never happened, one of the biggest dissapointments in my music career.  I do have the memories and a lot of her 78 rpm Atlantic records to keep her legacy alive, after all she is royalty, she is a pioneer, she is the  "QUEEN of R&B" ... Ruth Brown!  Till tomorrow, stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, GOD Bless!

Johnny


Wa'sup Wednesday: Teen Clubs ... Valley Cave, Weedville

Posted on August 6, 2020 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Good afternoon Ginchers,

Wa'sup Wednesday and I ask the question ... do remember the teen clubs?  Let me set the stage ... you are 13 or maybe 14 and you play an instrument, in my case the drums.  You meet some other guys at a party or dance or picnic and they mention that they play a guitar or piano or some instrument and you begin to strike up a conversation which leads to hey, let's form a band.  You begin to rehearse in the garage or basement and realize that you have a pretty good sound and that's when the addiction begins.  You start to play at parties, picnics, church halls and school eevents and then the big break ... someone hears you and tells you that you should be playing in the teen clubs ... and in Pittsburgh there were a ton.  Let's recall a few in the 'Burgh: The Red Rooster, The White Elephant, Teen Scene, West View Danceland, Wildwood lodge, the Midnight Hour, the Prism,  the Varsity House and many, many more.  So once you are in playing at one of these great teen venues the door opens to play the others.  But, the biggest thrill when you are a teen in a band and you get the chance to break out of the 'Burgh and play teen clubs away from your area ... our first venture out of the 'Burgh was the Valley Cave in Weedville, Pennsylvania.  I remember going into the dressing room, which was the old projection room of an old theatre and there were pictures of groups all over the wall, some were groups from the 'Burgh that we looked up to ... our first thought was ... "Wow, we made it!"  Well, we changed and got ready for our big introduction and I heard, "direct from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania playing their new record "You Do A Thing To My Mind" that is making it's way up the charts in western PA ... the Cordells!"  We took the stage and didn't know a soul in the audience but the intro made them all think we were big stars!  Although our record never became a big hit, it is now in the Northern Soul Catelog and sells for a starting price of $50 !  The Valley Cave opened many doors in that area and we began playing teen spots in Dubois which took us up to Erie and eventually to the adult clubs.  As I look back on these wonderful experiences I feel bad for young musicians today ... to my knowledge there are no teenclubs for live bands and the industry has changed drastically.   I will always remember those days as some of the best days of my life and I will never forget ... The Valley Cave!  Till tomorrow, stay safe, syat healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, GOD Bless!

Johnny


Tune In Tuesday: Transistors to Boombox to things in Ears!

Posted on August 4, 2020 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Good Afternoon Ginchers,

Time for Tune In Tuesday ... from transistors to boombox's to things in your ears!  One of the greatest inventions ever was the transistor radio, it was a machine we couldn't be without growing up in the 1950's.  It was the vehicle that connected us kids to the World, to the Universe, it painted us a picture of anything and everything we could not see or touch, it introduced us to our music, it gave us the weather, the news, sports ... well hell it was even a device to put some to sleep, it was viagra (need to use your imagination on that one) and brain candy all in one.  What could be better than being at Riverview pool, the old pool on the bend, down in the field behind the pool, where only the big kids went and the smell of suntan oil and towels on the ground each one with a transistor radio on them, and all tuned in to the same radio station ... get the picture?  There is no invention that could top the transistor radio ... until someone invented the Boombox.  It was louder, bigger, heavier ... you didn't need one on each towel at the pool ... many more could enjoy the better, more clear sound and it had a cassette player built in so you could set any mood you wanted...  now what could be better?  Well, introducing the Walkman, Portable cassette players, Cd players, MP3 Players ... and then, SMARTPHONES ... what could they possibly invent that was even better?  Well, I have been seeing all of these people recently running, exercising, walking driving, doing their homework, doing their jobs at work and they all have the same white dangly earing?  What the hell is this new fad?  Well ... my grandkids tell me it is a new listening device that has unbelievable quality and it plays music!  Sooo, we have come a long way since the 1950's with gadgets and listening devices.  We went from caveman to George Jetson in just a few years.  With all of this new technology life has become simpler and these new devices can get the information you need much faster, and the sound quality is so much better but, I still enjoy hearing the bacon frying when I play my old 45 RPM records and I love my old turquoise transistor radio with the cool leather case and the single ear phone.  I guess I'm just an old dog that doesn't want to learn new tricks!  Till tomorrow, stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, GOD Bless!

Johnny


Mo' Music Monday: "The Wanderer ... Dion DiMucci!"

Posted on August 3, 2020 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

G'Day Ginchers,

Time for Mo' Music Monday and a trip to the Bronx, Belmont avenue to be exact ... the Wanderer ... Mr. Dion DiMucci!  A teen idol, another great performer who is recongnized by just a first name like, Frank, Cher, Dino ... today we are talkin' ... Dion!  in 1957 Dion auditioned for Bob & Gene Schwartz of Mohawk Records and they asked Dion to record a record called "The Chosen Few" with a group called the Timberlanes and even though Dion was not pleased with the style of music, he recorded it and it became a regional hit.  It did give Dion a chance to appear on the American Bandstand show which was truly a great move, especially since the kids at the show began to scream during his appearance.  Dion now had a taste of the limelite but was not pleased with the backup group called the Timberlanes ... soooo, Dion went back to the old neighborhood, Belmont, and recruited his friends Carlo Mastrangelo, Fred Milano and Angelo D'Aleo forming the Belmonts and he as the lead singer.  They landed a deal with the new Laurie Records releasing "I Wonder Why" and the rest is Rock n' Roll History.  They had a string of hits that included, "Run Around Sue", "Ruby Baby", "Lovers Who Wander" and the list goes on.  Dion was on the "Winter Dance Party" tour that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper and was offered a seat on the plane which he refused since the cost of the seat was $36 which was equivilent to a months rent that his parents were paying back home.  Dion went on passing through many music genres; Rock, R&B, Christian, Blues and Pop and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.  I had the pleasure of perfoming with Dion a few times and even did an interview with Dion for 3WS when I was part of the team.  The man still had his street corner, old school attitude, which I truly loved.  He still enjoys singing a cappella and old doowop classics, which he is definately one of.  One particular concert at the Point in Pittsburgh, we were on the bill with Dion and he was supposed to take the dingy across the river to 3 Rivers Stadium to sing the National Anthem, Dion invited us (Johnny Angel and the Halos) to go with him ... the Pirates were playing the Montreal Expos so, Dion sang the National Anthem and we (Halos) sang O'Canada ... it was a true experience.  Over the years he has remained a main stay in Rock n' Roll and will always be known as the WANDERER ... Dion DiMucci!  Till tomorrow, stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, GOD Bless!

Johnny


Soul Sunday: An Original Platter ... Herb Reed

Posted on August 2, 2020 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy Sunday Ginchers,

It's time for Soul Sunday ... An Original PLATTER ... HERB REED!  As I sit in my studio every Sunday Morning and think about my radio show that airs every Sunday night on jukinoldies.com, I begin to remenisce about the music I so love.  Today I was looking over the birthdays we will be celebrating this evening and one name just jumped out at me ... Herb Reed ... Bass singer and perfect gentleman of the Platters.  I Began to think about the precious time I spent talking with this National Treasure of a man.  First let's talk about Herb, born August 7, 1928 and raised in poverty in Kansas City, Missouri, he moved to Los Angeles when he was 15 years old and was the founding member of the legendary Platters in 1953.  It was Herb who came up with the name "The Platters" after noticing that DJ's were calling their records "platters" in the 1950's.  Herb was the bass singer of the group and one of the greatest bass voices in music history.  He was also one of the unusual bass singers that actually recorded songs singing lead as a bass singer in a vocal group, especially when you had so many great singers in that group, Tony Williams is one of them. Herb sang lead on songs like "On The Top Of My Mind", "Hey Now", "Darktown Strutters Ball" and "Sit Right Down and Right Myself a Letter" and if you want to hear a true Bass sing lead, listen to their version of "Sixteen Tons" ... incredible!  When I was working for the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, I had the honors of spending two days with Herb and one special night some of my friends in the business had dinner together at the beautiful Tara in Sharon, PA.  I remember the group picture like it was yesterday, Pat Benti (F.A.M.E.), Tony Batala of the Lettermen, Chuck Blasko of the Vogues, Gene Hughes of the Casinos, Herb Reed of the Platters and myself.  We sang, talked music and like a sponge I absorbed everything Herb Reed had to say.  Herb sang in 7 decades from the 1950's thru 2010's and was the only member of the Platters to sing on all recordings of the group approximately 400 songs!  Tonight on my show, I will once again play some of the wonderful songs Herb Reed sang lead on for the Platters and once again I will transform back to those beautiful days when we were all together ... the Original PLATTER ... HERB REED!  Till tomorrow, stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, GOD Bless!

Johnny


No School Saturday: Trip to the Hobby Shop ... Harry's!

Posted on August 1, 2020 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (1)

Good Morning Ginchers,

Welcome to No School Saturday ... and, a trip to Harry's Hobby Shop!  When one says Hobby Shop today it has a different meaning than when I grew up.  Today it's a trip to the Mall or giant building on a major highway somewhere in suburbia U.S.A.  It is now a Craft/Hobby shop where you can get anything from fake plants to jewelry making kits to models and they have private rooms where one can get lessons on how to craft or assemble something.  Let's go back to my old neighborhood and I'm sure it is similar to a lot of city neighborhoods from the 50's and 60's.  I lived on Smithton Street on the Northside of Pittsburgh and it was about a mile walk, including a hike up one of the steepest hills on the northside (Schimmer Street), to Shadeline Avenue and Harry's Hobby Shop.  This trip was a double great experience because Carl's Pizza Den was right next door.  It was like a Saturday ritual for us guys living on Smithton Street.  We would save our pop bottle money or our extra money from our paper route and after watching our favorite cartoons on TV we would make the trip to Harry's.  It was a rather small store but packed from floor to ceiling with models and HO soldiers and cars and planes and Ed "Big Daddy" Roth images and Revell Monster models and ... and ... whew, got carried away for a minute.  Back then a kid could buy a tube of glue for a dime and a model for under two bucks and then save up for some paint for next weeks project of painting your model.  A few years later there was a halt on buying glue and you had to have an adult with you to buy it ... someone told me bad kids were putting it in a bag and sniffing it ... now who came up with that great idea?  I was partial to collecting the Revell Monster Models and a big fan of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and his weird creatures (that is a blog for another day).  I still have some of the models from that era at my Collectible store and I still get that little kid rush every time I look at them.  Today I wish I could take the walk to Harry's Hobby Shop but as most of the great things I remember from childhood, it is no longer there and bigger and better stores with neewer craft items are available ... OK, bigger but not better!  Till tomorrow, stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, GOD Bless!

Johnny


Feature Friday: The Killer ... Jerry Lee Lewis!

Posted on July 31, 2020 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello Ginchers,

It's Feature Friday ... The Killer ... Jerry Lee Lewis!  One of the pioneers of early Rock n' Roll, one of the top six that shaped Rock n' Roll, there was Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.  He was also part of the Million Dollar Quartet from Sun Records with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.  He broke onto the Rock n' Roll scene in 1956 with "Crazy Arms" and in 1957 had a string of hits with "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On", "Great Balls Of Fire", "Breathless" and "High School Confidential".  He became even bigger when he appeared in the Rock n' Roll Movie, "High School Confidential".  In 1958 he married his 13 year old cousin which put a halt to his career for a few years.  In 1964 Jerry Lee went back to his roots and began recording as a Country Artist and hit the charts once again.  He has dozens of Gold Records in both the Rock n' Roll and Country genres.  Jerry Lee recieved four Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Two Grammy Hall of Fame Awards and inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He has been active on the Rock n' Roll scene even into his 80's ... in 2006 he released his "Last Man Standing" album which was his best to date selling over a million copies and in 2010 released "Mean Old Man" one of the best of his career.  The first time I/we worked with Jerry Lee was at "Ponderosa" Park".  Jerry Lee was the headliner and had an up and coming Country artist as his opening act.  Unforntuately the opening act had to cancel and we recieved a call from the promoter to open for Jerry Lee.  We were a bit sceptical knowning that it was a predominately Country audience ... so we did a take off of the Blues Brothers opening with Rawhide.  Jerry Lee watched from the wings and enjoyed our show.  He then met us in the dressing room and asked if he could use Jibbo's brand new Korg instead of the piano they rented for him.  Jibbo of coarse was honored and asked Jerry to autograph his piano.  As Jerry signed his piano, he made mention that he was lknown for setting his pianos on fire during his performances...needless to say, Jibbo was on needles and pins his whole show!  And yes, Jerry Lee teased Jibbo with gestures that he would light it up!  Jerry Lee Lewis is one of the all time greatests and most unbelievable perfomers I have ever experienced.  "The Killer ... Jerry Lee Lewis!"  Till tomorrow, stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, GOD Bless!

Johnny


Throw Back Thursday: The Soul Patrol ... WZUM!

Posted on July 30, 2020 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

G'Day Ginchers,

Throw Back Thursday has arrived ... it's the origin of the Soul Patrol ... WZUM!  If you grew up in Pittsburgh there were two super soul shows on the radio ... WAMO with Porky Chedwick and WZUM with Mad Mike Metro.  Today I'm gonna concentrate on WZUM.  Every week the WZUM Sheet would come out and the top SOUL tunes in the Nation would be listed as heard on WZUM.  Over the years music changed and so did the radio staions ... however, Mad Mike took over WZUM I believe in the late 90's and re-opened the studio in the window of Pietro's Pizza on Route 19 S. (Saw Mill Run Blvd).  Mike asked me if I would like my show on the station ... are you kidding me?  On the air with Mad Mike Metro!!! Well it became reality and I introduced my Soul Patrol, a club of Soul Music lovers in the 'Burgh.  The station was antiquated, it lacked the pizazz of the new modern stations, it smelled like Pizza and the phone was a pay phone ... it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL!  The DJ booth faced the Blvd. and people would come up to the window and watch us spinning our favorite Soul Records.  If you could imagine ... listeners would call the pay phone to make requests ... one of the staff would answer and as soon as a record went on, we would run to the pay phone and take the request.  It was classic, other jocks would come to the window and do things to break up the jock on air ... for example : one Saturday afternoon a bread truck pulled up in front of the window while I was on the air ... out jumped a man in a trench coat and wearing a rubber Johnny Angel Mask and mooned me in broad daylight ... I will not say that it was orchestrated by Rookie Rick and Laid Back Lenny ... but I have my suspicions.  As my show grew in audiance so did my Soul Patrol.  I issued membership cards to the Soul Patrol and just recently had a member pull it out of his wallet to show me.  Some of the memories of WZUM still live in my Music Museum ... articles like the rubber mask worn by Lenny, I mean the unknown flasher, and the membership card from the Soul Patrol.  Life was so much simpler in those days and radio, well radio had personality and painted pictures in your mind.  The Soul Patrol is still alive and meets with me every Sunday Night at 7:00 PM (EST) on jukinoldies.com.  If you want a taste of the old days, join me on Sunday nights!  Till tomorrow, stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, GOD Bless!

Johnny


Wa'sup Wednesday: Pop Bottles and Penny Candy

Posted on July 29, 2020 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Morning Ginchers,

Wa'sup Wednesday ... remember pop bottles and penny candy?  Let's start with Lou' and Mary's, our corner candy store on the Northside of Pittsburgh.  Yeah, they had some bread and things in the back but the real attraction was when you walked in the door, right in front of you was a kick and catch penny machine.  It had a football player that you could make go back and forth and a football kicker with a leg that kicked the penny to the top and it made it's way down bumpin on pegs to make it change direction and with your left hand you made the catcher try to catch it.  If you caught it you won a prize.  Next to it was a row of gumball machines with charms and several gold balls.  If a gold ball came out, you won a prize.  But to the right was an enormous penny candy counter with glass to protect the candy and Topps bubblegum cards!  The goal was to buy a nickel bag, not what you are thinking, of candy and some bubblegum cards they then had penny packs and nickel packs.  That all sounds great but how do you get money to buy this treasured stuff?  Some of us had a paper route, some did chores for neighbors or went to the store for the elderly (anyone 40 or older) and received tips.  But when you are really in a pinch, you went pop bottle hunting ... 2 cents for a regular 12 oz. bottle and 5 cents for the quart bottles.  Back in the day all pop came in bottles, no cans or plastic and the bottles were recycled.  You could always find some pop bottles in the weeds or on someones porch.  On a good day you could collect 3 or 4 quart botles and you were in heaven ... a pack of baseball cards, wax mustache, licorice records, flying saucers, Mary Janes, sin-sins, red shoestrings (licorice), jaw breakers and even a Malo-Cup or Clark bar. We would take our treasure bags and sit on the wall and always said to whomever was with you ... "What did you get?"  Oh, those were the days ... pop bottles and penny candy!  Till tomorrow, stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when yu can ... and, GOD Bless!

Johnny


Mo' Music Monday: From Harlette to starlet ... Melissa

Posted on July 27, 2020 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy Monday Ginchers,

Mo' Music Monday ... from Harlette to Starlet ... Melissa Manchester!  This lady is an amazing musical instrument, her voice that is ... born in the Bronx to a musical family.  Her father was a bassoonist for the New York Metropolitan Opera, she learned how to play piano and harpsichord at the Manhattan School of Music, began singing commercial jingles at the age of 15 and became a staff writer for Chappell Music while attending Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts.  Melissa studied song writing at New York University with Paul Simon and began playing the New York club scene where she was discovered by Barry Manilow, who introduced her to Bette Midler and in 1971 she became one of Bette's Harlettes, her famous back-up singing group.  Melissa's first hit came in 1975 with "Midnight Blue" and was followed by many more including "Don't Cry Out Loud",  "Through The Eyes Of Love" and "You Should Hear How She Talks About You" to name a few.  In addition to singing and song writing, Melissa appeared in movies, on stage and in television, I especially remember her appearance in "For The Boys" with Bette Midler. In 1980 two of her songs were nominated for Academy Awards, "Through the Eyes of Love" from Ice Castles and "I'll Never Say Goodbye" from the Promise.  She won a Grammy Award in 1982 as Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "You Should Hear How She Talks About You".  I met Melissa years ago when she was appearing at Heinz Hall.  One evening I recieved a call from a friend who works at the Hall asking me how late my restaurant (Atria's at PNC Park) was open.  Apparently Melissa heard about my restaurant from another performer and wanted to stop by.  I told them we close at 11.  They said her performance wouldn't be over until a little before 11 and by the time she cooled down and changed it would be late.  I told them to bring her over.  I kept a cook, a server on that night and greeted the lovely Melissa Manchester and some of her band members.  We ate and talked music for hours ... it was a wonderful night.  What a beautiful lady ... from Harlette to Starlet ... Melissa Manchester!  Till tomorrow, stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, GOD Bless!

Johnny



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