|Posted on April 8, 2020 at 9:55 AM||comments (0)|
It's Wa'Sup Wednesday and as I sit here gazing at my old theater posters hanging in my studio, I start to think about something that has changed and I'm not so sure it's for the good. Wa'sup with movie theaters today? Let's go back to when I was growing up on the North Side of Pittsburgh. There were several movie theaters right in our neighborhood. Their was the Paramont in Woods Run, the Perry show on Perrysville Avenue, The Kenyon and the Garden around lower Federal Street there was one on Perry and Charles that I can't remember the name and I'm sure I'm missing a few. They were all good old neighborhood theaters that showed great movies and had cartoons and shorts on before the movie. And as I write this I can still smell the hot popcorn see the candy counter with Ju Ju fruits and Mallocups and Good n' Plenty, there was even a distinct smell of the soft drinks as you slowly brought it toward your mouth. I grew up in the Woods Run section of the Northside and can remember early on Saturday morning catching the street car in front of Gabosh Hardware and getting off on North Ave. right across the Street from the YMCA. We would go in and swim, play basket ball and have lunch, I remember the chocolate pudding distinctly. We would then walk up to the Garden Show and for a small ticket fee watch cartoons almost all afternoon. I'm sure my Brothers and Sisters who grew up at that time have similar memories. Now let's look at today... it is really hard to find a neighborhood theater, if there even are any. No, we now go to the mega-theaters that have multiple theaters all under one roof. A consession stand that sells gourmet popcorn and exotic candies that one needs a small loan to purchase. You can even buy your show ticket in advance, through your phone! But the real joy is walking into the theater that has your movie playing and looking at the layout of the theater...surround sound, a screen that takes up the entire wall ceiling to floor and the seats ... I'm talking about individual reclyners. I tried it once, went on seniors discount days, I bought my gourmet popcorn and a bag of licorice candies with some kind of cake around them since I couldn't find the Ju Ju Fruits and I made my trek to the top of the seats to get a good few of the giant screen. I sat in this seat that tilted back and watched the first ten minutes of the movie ... that's all I remember because at my age sitting in a comfortable chair ... I was out like a light. I woke up about fifteen minutes later to the sound of group snoring. Remember I mentioned it was senior disount day? I did eventually get to see the movie on cable TV in my living room. I guess the changes I've seen over my years are good, the conveniences help many but, I'm stuck in the good old days and would take them back in a heartbeat! Till tomorrow Ginchers, stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can and God Bless!
|Posted on April 7, 2020 at 10:35 AM||comments (0)|
Welcome to Tune in Tuesday and the fun years of 3WS! Recently I was at Giant Eagle when I ran into a young lady that asked me if I was Johnny Angel. I replied and she said Oh my God, you just took me back to my childhood. My parents took me to just about every 3WS Summer Oldies Concert and I grew up watching you on stage. This young lady was, I would guess in her late 30's maybe early 40's and was now a Mom with kids of her own. At first I felt really old but then this good feeling came over me, one of fun and good times and rock n' roll. We talked for a few minutes and she told me her favorite concert was the one with the Four Tops and Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits when we all sang together at the end. Wow, now my brain was really going into remeniscing mode. 3WS, the fun years, was back when Sunday nights were real 50's and early 60's Oldies but Goodies with R.D. Summer. Afternoons were full of fun with Sheri and crazy Mike Frazer but I will never forget the Morning Zoo with Jim Merkel & Gary Dixon and Steve Hanson and Mickey Razor and Gary Marince and Theresa and Tab Douglas phew ... got a bit arried away. Let's talk about the fun, the special guests on the Zoo, the Christmas shows with B.E., Pete Hewlett, Donnie Iris, Lou Christie and even Christine Aguilera. I remember being part of the 3WS drumline that played pots and pans and garbage pails at events, the Car Cruises, the live farm animals in the studio, Jimmy Beaumont's Birthday Party, the skits, Benny Mack, the 3WS softball team and especial the 3WS Summer Oldies Concerts for 11 years at Three Rivers Stadium. Both of my children grew up back stage rubbing elbows with all of the stars, Frankie Valli, Lou Christie, the Four Tops, the Turtles, Ronnie Spector, Leslie Gore and the list goes on. The jocks didn't just play records, they were personalities that actually went out to events and met with the public, their fans. There were events at Malls and car dealerships and schools to get the general public involved. Cars had 3WS bumper stickers, kids wore 3WS t-shirts and families packed into local Churches every Christmas eve to take part in the 3WS Christmas Eve Midnight Masses with Father Scott Sethaler, and, they were broadcast LIVE!. Every now and then I run into some of the old crew, Mike Frazer and I made cameos in the play "Grease", I see Steve Hanson yearly at Larry Richard's Night of the Dead shows, talk to Jim Merkel on the phone but, I truly miss those days. The old 3WS days ... the FUN Years! Till tomorrow stay safe, stay healthy and help a neighbor when you can...God Bless!
|Posted on April 6, 2020 at 10:25 AM||comments (1)|
Time once again for Mo' Music Monday. I often talk about the talent in Pittsburgh and am very proud of the Steel Town I was raised in. Music has always been a large part of my life, either as a performer or as a fan of the art. Our city has produced an abundance of recording artists, it's almost like a Sci-fi movie from the fifties. Let's check out the trailer: Eerie music playing, a shot of our city taken from above zooming in on our smoke covered rivers as the camera winds past the steel mills and the coal barges .. for a moment it seems dark and dreary ... but then ... BAM, lightning strikes down from a mysterious planet in the sky ... it hits thousands of young kids turning them into musical mutants!" I forgot to tell you the Mysterious planet is the planet of Rockopolis! One of the young kids was from Glenwillard, down the Ohio River from the 'Burgh, by the name of Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco who went to Moon High School. The Rays from the Lighning Strike gives this young man the powers of singing in many octives, especially strong in the falsetto range. A man named Nick Cenci witnessed the talents of this singing sensation and immediately took him into C & C records to record a song that inspired him by seeing a Gypsy Crying. He changed Lugee's name to Lou who now had two faces. Across the screen of this new Sci-fi thriller the title of the movie appears ... "Lightning Strikes Pittsburgh!" aaah-ha-ha-ha! Ok let's cut the melodrama you all know where I'm going with this. One of our heroes from the 'Burgh is the great Lou Christie with the voice of an Angel. Lou was born here in the outer regions of Pittsburgh and did attend Moon High School and did go on to Rock n' Roll Fame singing great songs like; The Gypsy Cried, Two Faces Have I, Lightning Strikes, Rhapsody in the Rain and a long list of others. Lou made Pittsburgh proud as we watched him on "Where The Action Is" and American Bandstand. I had the pleasure of working with Lou and his shows never cease to amaze me. His energy level is amazing and when he still hits those high notes the hair on your neck stands straight up. Although Lou no longer lives in Pittsburgh he does make appearances here in da 'Burgh and always performs to sold out audiences. If and when you have the opportunity to catch one of Lou's shows, don't hesitate. Till tomorrow, stay safe, stay healthy and help a neighbor when you can ... God Bless!
|Posted on April 5, 2020 at 9:45 AM||comments (0)|
Today is Soul Sunday and I'm gonna flashback to a Motor City Memory. The radio, Televison, Record Industry, Movies and live concerts have the average person look at music celebrities as untouchable figures. Being in the business I've learned that most of it isn't true. The majority of the artists that we put on a pedistal are actually just down to earth, bonifide good people. When you get to know these Icons you realize that most had average lives like you and I and at some point in their life, caught a break. Let's zero in on one particlular music Icon from Detroit ... Martha Rose Reeves, born in Eufaula, Alabama and the third child of 11 in her family. Her family moved to Detroit when she was a baby started singing at a young age, mostly in church and gospel. In High School she started singing with the Fascinations but soon left the group in 1959 before they became recording artists. While singing in the nightclubs, Martha was noticed by Mickey Stevenson who was associated with Motown. He invited her to an audition and when she arrived, Mickey asked her to answer the phones while he took care of business. She did such a great job that she began working several hours a week at Hitsville, doing other jobs like payroll for the Funk Brothers making herself invaluable to the organization. One day while wortking at Motown, Mary Wells couldn't make a session and Martha stepped into record "I'll Have To Let Him Go" with the Del-Phis backing her ... Martha and the Vandellas were born. Martha and group backed many of the Motown aartists before becoming stars at the label, "Stubborn Kind Of Fellow" for Marvin Gaye is a good example. Soon Martha and the Vandellas began recording their own music, "Come and Get These Memories", "Heat Wave", "Dancing in the Street" and "Nowhere To Run" just to mention a few ... and the rest is Motown History! Let's look deeper into the soul of the lady. I had the pleasure of working with Martha and we (the Halos) backed her up at a concert. After the show Martha asked me if there was anywhere to go to get something to eat. I said yes, my house? So, Martha and some guests went to my place where we had wings and ribs and some other goodies and sat aroung the backyard bar-b-que pit. Martha took pictures with all of our family and friends and my children's friends, it was a true family experience. It was at this time that that I realized Martha Reeves was a down to earth, bonifide good person. That pedistal was removed. Martha actually later became a member of the Detroit City Council and she received an honorary Doctorate in religious studies and humanities. We have stayed friends over the years and I have interviewed her for my radio show, showing people the down to earth, great person she is. I love Martha Reeves and her music ... the memories will last forever! Till tomorrow Ginchers, stay safe, stay healthy and help a neighbor when you can ... God Bless!
|Posted on April 4, 2020 at 10:30 AM||comments (0)|
Happy Saturday Ginchers,
No school today, no work today, no shopping today, no clubbin' tonight ... more remeniscing and digging through photos and records to pass the time until we are able to shed our lockdown, quarantine shackles. So I was sitting in my studio this morning looking through a box of old photos and one that jumped out at me was a photo of me with Richard Berry ... I immediately started to remenisce. Then I started to file some 45 rpm records and came to a stack that had some old Flip labels and Richard Berry again. As I looked at the record it took me back to when we started the band and one of the first songs we learned to play, that's when I realized it's gonna be a Louie, Louie Day! My partners in the band said "hey let's learn Louie, Louie by the Kingsmen" ... if you know me I immediately corrected them and said, "you mean by Richard Berry and the Pharoahs" ... the battle began. Richard Berry wrote and recorded the Iconic "LOUIE, LOUIE" and in my opinion, is still the best and only version of the song. I had the pleasure of spending some time with Richard Berry before he passed and once again I became a sponge, obsorbing all he had to throw at me. I asked Richard how he came to write the song and his response blew me away, here is the skinny on the tune. Richard Berry was with a group called the Flairs in the early 50's when he was asked by the Robins to add a bass part to their new record called "Riot In Cell Block #9". He was then used to counter sing on Etta James big record "The Wallflower (Dance with me Henry)". After leaving the Flairs he played with Rick Rillera and the Rhythm Rockers doing a calypso style, R&B type music. The year was 1955 and Richard was inspired to write "Louie, Louie" based on Rene' Touzet's "El Loco Cha Cha" and Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon". Using the rhythm of "El Loco" and began to add lyrics remeniscent of "Havana Moon" ... and wha-La, "Louie, Louie" was born. Richard Berry and the Pharoahs released it as the "B" side of "You Are My Sunshine" in 1957. Being that the song was considered obsecene and the devil's music it was not played on the popular radio stations until it was covered years later by the Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders and so many others. Richard Berry recieved hardly nocompensation for his masterpiece until years later, the mid 1980's, when he received a settlement out of court ... making Richard Berry a millionaire! He remains one of my heroes in music and one of the nicest men I have ever met. I think I'll just sit in my studio and play old records ... it's gonna be a "Louie, Louie" day! Till tomorrow stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can and God Bless!
|Posted on April 3, 2020 at 10:15 AM||comments (0)|
It's Feature Friday and diggin' some Rhythm N' Blues (R&B)? What is Rhythm N' Blues? Let's disect it a bit...There was a time at the end of the Big Band Era where a new sound was born. When it grew up people called it Rock n' Roll or Soul music but, let's talk about it's early days. The Big Bands were slowly fizzling out but there was a need for that style of music. Let's take a soulful singer with a kick ass rhythm section (Drums, Bass, Guitar and Piano) add a scalled down horn section (Multiple sax's maybe a Trumpet) mix in the swing culture and the Gospel feel and let it fly! Enter Rosco Gordon. Born in Memphis Tennessee, learned to play piano from his sister who took lessons, became associated with Johnny Ace, Bobby Bland and B.B. King often referred to as the Beale Streeters and pioneered a sound soon to become known as the Memphis Blues style. The Rosco Rhythm was a style that highlighted the off beat giving it a new feel. I had the pleasure of meeting Roscoe and it had a life long affect on me as a musician. His personality was kind, loving and soulful. Listening to him talk about the birth of the new sound was an incredible experience from his stories about the Sam Phillips days to his introduction to the Chess record days. But the thing that stuck with me more than the music stories was his aviators hat. Yes, you read that correctly...he was wearing a lined aviators hat and it was a hot day. This caught me flat floot and I just had to ask him ... "Why are you wearing that hot aviators hat on such a hot day?" Roscoe got a big smile on his face and looked up at me and responded... "My Grandson got me this hat and asked me to wear when I perfomed". This expression of love and family just blew me away. That evening Roscoe took the stage under hot lights and a performance of hard hitting Rhythm n' Blues ... and yes, he wore the Aviators Hat the entire performance! After seeing this and talking with one of the greats of R&B ... I thought to myself, maybe I should call this music Roscoe N' Blues instead of Rhythm N' Blues ... just sayin'. Till tomorrow Ginchers, stay safe, stay healthy and help a neighbor when you can. God Bless!
|Posted on April 2, 2020 at 9:50 AM||comments (0)|
Top o' the Mornin' Ginchers,
Welcome to Throw Back Thursday. During this quarantine for the Coronavirus shutdown, I find myself doing things that take me back to more happier days like cleaning my record collection, going through old photos and putting all of my videos in some kind of order where I can find things quicker. All this does is take my mind back to days that were easier, more fun and that I yearn for. Here is an example: I was sitting last night alphabetizing my TV videos and I came across the TV Teen Shows in my collection, one of them being Hullabaloo. As I flipped through them one in particular jumped out at me ... "Is That The Vogues? My good friend to this very day, Chuck Blasko? Are they wearing double breasted sweaters and singing around giant gears? Yep, that's them right there on Hullabaloo!" That's all it took and my brain transformed back to the Hullabaloo days and my memories of working with the Vogues and especially with Chuck. I remember sitting around before a gig talking with Chuck about the early days of the Vogues and how they came to be...this is how it happened. The Vogues began their singing career as a local Pittsburgh area group called the Val-Aires from Turtle Creek High School (if you are a Burger that is Turtle Crick H.S.). Bill Burkette, Don Miller, Hugh Geyer and Chuck Blasko all went their own ways after High School, some to the Army and some to College. After they finished their enlistments and college they decided to get back together and record. In 1965 at the guidance of Nick Cenci, they recorded a record for the CO & CE record label that was written for Petula Clark ... "You're the One" ... and did I mention it was at this time they changed their name to the Vogues. That's when the hits started to come. Well, the rest is like a story book history lesson ... The Red Skelton Show, the Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand, Shindig and Hullabaloo ... need I say anymore? I satartred to think about this even deeper. Right here in my own backyard were some of the greatest recording artists in Rock n' Roll History, the likes of Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners, George Benson, The Jaggerz, The Marcels, Tommy Hunt, Lou Christie and The Vogues. To many they are National Icons but to use here in the 'Burgh, they are our friends that we grew up with and are very proud of. After all of this crazy quarantine lockdown stuff is over, do yourselves a favor and catch one of Chuck Blasko's Shows ... still one of my favorites and a class act! Till tomorrow, stay safe, stay healthy and help a neighbor when you can. God Bless!
|Posted on April 1, 2020 at 9:55 AM||comments (0)|
Thanks for Checking in Ginchers,
It's Wa'sup Wednesday, last week we asked Wa'sup with the Twist .. this week my question is Wa'sup with the peppermint Twist? "we got a new dance and it goes like this, the name of the dance is the Peppermint Twist" ... the famous teachings of my old friend Joey Dee and his Starlighters. Joey was and still is one of the fireballs of Rock n' Roll, when he hits the stage you are in for a show. I had the pleasure of working with Joey but the best memory I have of him was at my house. Joey and I were working at the Emerald Room Theatre and I invited him and some of his band to my house for dinner. After dinner we sat around talking about the business and the history of our groups and that's when I became a sponge again, absorbing all of this great Rock n' Roll history. Did you know that in the early days of Joey Dee and the Starlighters several members of his bands went onto stardom? Well let's chat for a minute ... Joe Pesci, played rhythm guitar in his band and you can see him briefly in the movie "Hey, Let's Twist", the Ronettes were his dancers before become singing sensations, two members of the Rascals were with him before they hit the charts and Jimmi Hendrix even did a stint with his band. Joey's home of coarse was the Peppermint Lounge, a famous New York hot spot. A few weeks after our performance, I recieved an ash tray from the Peppermint Lounge and on the back it was signed Joey Dee! This is actually on display at my Music Museum in the Joey Dee and the Starlighters Exhibit. I have a movie poster that hangs above my computer in my studio and it is from the movie, "Hey, Let's Twist" ... I can't get away from the good old days. I got a bit sentimental over the past few days of quarantine with this Coronavirus situation and started to watch some of my old videos and movies. Sooo, I had to pull my DVD of "Hey, Let's Twist" and this started the old memory wheels a churning ... Joey Dee is another one of our National Treasures, and that's Wa'sup with the Peppermint Twist! Till tomorrow Ginchers, stay safe, stay healthy and help a neighbor when you can! God Bless!
|Posted on March 31, 2020 at 11:00 AM||comments (0)|
What's shakin' Ginchers,
It's Tune in Tuesday and we are Rappin' about Jack the Rapper? Who's that you say, well I'm sure some of today's famous Hip Hop artists know him but do they know that he actually started back in the late 40's and was to young black's of the early 50's what Porky Chedwick was to us here in the 'Burg? Jack the Rapper opened the first Black owned and operated radio station in America ... Atlanta's WERD. He is considered to be the "Father of Black Radio" and created that style of unique on air announcing with rhymes and jingle type phrases. Jack was one of the pioneers of our R&R, R&B, Soul Music jocks. He is in the same company as Jocko Henderson, Martha Jean The Queen, Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsberg, Joe Niagra, Cousin Brucie, Porky Chedwick, Joey Reynolds and Jerry Blavit. In fact I got to meet alot of the Fathers of DJ R&R at the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame when they were honored in the "Dedicated To The One I Love" Exhibit. I took my mentor and hero, Porky Chedwick to the event since he was one of the jocks being honored. It was there that I first met Jack The Rapper. He was one of the smoothest jocks I ever heard and had me mesmerized with his slick yet smooth delivery of our hip teenculture language, much like Porky Chedwick did with us Juvenile Delinquents here in the 'Burgh. I worked with Jack the Rapper at the First Induction Ceremony of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and got to spend some quality time with him and Martha Jean the Queen Steinberg. I was like a sponge trying to absorb as much as I could from these two radio giants. It was jocks like this that got me interested in radio and one of the reasons why I still have my radio show today ... Johnny Angel's Heavenly Soul Show on jukinoldies.com. They taught me the true excitement of radio and delivery of our classic music. I learned from them the stories and the history behind the music we love. Althought all of my radio heroes have passed, I still have great memories of their contribution to R&R, R&B and Soul music. I can only imagine the parties going on in Rock and Roll Heaven! Til tomorrow, stay safe, stay healthy and help a neighbor when you can. God Bless!
|Posted on March 30, 2020 at 10:05 AM||comments (0)|
Happy Monday Ginchers,
It's Mo' Music Monday and I'm gonna talk a little about the Battle of the Bands scene here in the 'Burgh during the 1960's. I think the whole idea or concept came with the introduction of the Beatles to all of us teens with some music ability. I know a lot of my friends in the business were inspired by the sight of this English phenomenon sweeping the Nation and the local music stores just loved it. Some of us were not as lucky to purchase our first instrument at the music stores...too expensive and this music explosion may be just a passing thing. Some of us had to buy our instruments through the sears catalog, I'm talking about Kent Guitars and Silvertone amps and knock off brand drums or if you were lucky, the pawn shops had some great used finds. So here we are in the 60's, a multitude of young inspired musicians buying equipment and starting bands and trying to come up with catchy names and looking for a big break to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. Enter the local battle of the bands. There was the Wildwood battle of the bands, the Silverman's clothing battle of the bands, the local church dance battle of the bands but the grand Daddy of them all was at West View Amusement Park in the Talkie Temple. Yes, and sponsored by a Tea Company, thus the name Tea Tournament. Bands from all over were applying and each week bands would compete with the winners each week coming back for a grand Finale and a wack at a recording contract and a cash money prize. I remember us, the Cordells, taking our shot and with us were the Red Coats (B.E. Taylors Band), The El Pooks from I believe Aliquippa, Peters Pipers (Pete Hewlett's Band from the Rocks),The V.J's and the the Rising Sons from North Hills and a whole buch more. Each week we would gather at the park to see what bands were entering and what our competition might be. Each group had to play three songs, One cover tune, One Original and One called the Tea Song that we wrote. As much as I thought we would win ... we didn't. We made it to the semi-finals and lost to the Peter's Pipers...yes, Pete Hewlett's band from the Rocks ... our nemesis rivals. Pete as you all know went on to record as Sweet Lightning, Sweet Pete and others and got a great gig singing back-up for Billy Joel for years. Pete of coarse is no longer my nemesis but rather one of my closest friends in the business and we actually work together from time to time in a trio. Many of the musicians who played in this historic Pittsburgh event are still performing today. Oh where did the years go and where did the Battle of the Bands go? Well, they all still live in my memories and at my Johnny Angel's Ginchy Stuff and Music Museum. Long live Rock 'n' Roll! Til tomorrow Ginchers, stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can and GOD Bless!