Beaver County: A safe haven for city and suburban musicians alike
Russell “Rusty” Carter, bandleader for Beaver County-based soul band LUV, formerly known as Black Love, confirmed the difficulties faced by many inner-city musicians.
“For some reason, they always had trouble finding work in Pittsburgh,” said Carter, while adding that he thinks the outskirt venues also paid better.
Carter said he enjoyed his musician life during the ‘60s up through about 1985. He, like many musicians of his era, said the Disco wave of the late ‘70s had an ill impact on live musicianship. Since the mid-‘80s, Carter said he hasn’t played much music and now concentrates on his livelihood as a computer technician who does installations for commercial facilities.
Carter, a Freedom, Pa. native, however, admits the live soul music era was unique in the ‘Burgh.
“It was a great time and there were some great and unforgettable experiences,” said the father of four daughters.
“Sure, my children know of my musical past and sometimes they’ll ask me about those times,” he said with a reflective smile concerning his family.
Carter recalls Black Love at its height, when they were a well sought-after performance act at various Pittsburgh area lounges and bars. At the height of their popularity in the mid-1970s, the band opened for James Brown at the Civic Arena.
“We even recorded some records, but it seems like that’s when it all came to an end,” he said with some remorse.
Meanwhile Bobby Short, the drummer/lead singer with Black Love, provides another view of this successful band.
Short lived in Rochester at the time when The Notations were formed in Beaver Falls. That band consisted of Short on drums, singers Ricky Brinson, Fletcher “Corky” Brooks Jr., Wayney Goosby and Chucky Dawson with Jack Lavette on keyboards.
“Corky’s dad, Fletcher Brooks Sr., was our booking agent,” said Short.
That outfit eventually transformed into the Sweet No Band, which ultimately became Black Love, he said.
Black Love recorded several records at Jeree’s Recording Studio in New Brighton.
“This was a special time for young musicians in the area,” said Short who also noted that keyboardist Francis “Jet” Barnes and vocalists Lina Lee and Lain Lee were special to the band’s success.
“We, in Beaver County along with Pittsburgh, were the bedrock for funk music in Western Pa. Black Love led the way for the El Pooks and later, Rare Experience—the two hottest bands from Aliquippa,” said Short.
The Crazy Quilt in Market Square was the cool, hip Downtown Pittsburgh night spot that regularly featured live music performed by Black bands, throughout the week.
“Black Love? We ran the Quilt,” boasted Short. “We performed there a lot and had a good following too.” He added that, for the times, his band made “good money” while playing week-long gigs at the Quilt. The Quilt was downstairs from Reflections disco, which was formerly known as Walt Harper’s Attic.
At their height, Black Love commanded $500 per man, at the end of a week-long stint at the Quilt, said Short.
The Crazy Quilt success also led to the band’s demise, Short admits. “That’s when the egos started flying and it led to our breakup. Just too many chiefs,” he said.
Meanwhile, when Black Love experienced a brief breakup due to “creative differences,” the group was reorganized by Rusty Carter in Spring 1972 and featured Ronnie Cox on keyboards, his 14-year-old brother, Timmy Cox on drums and a trio of lady vocalists from Aliquippa, including Debbie Hines and Gloria “Glo” Savage.
That faction of Black Love made its mark during the 1972 Black Arts Festival at the Mount Washington Housing (Projects) Apartments in Beaver Falls, an event which still looms legendary—considering it was a one-time successful ordeal that occurred during the height of Black consciousness nationwide.
Later that year, on August 20, 1972, the epic Wattstax concert in Los Angeles attracted more than 100,000 Black patrons to the LA Coliseum, for what’s now considered the largest-ever Black consciousness show of its kind—often dubbed the Black Woodstock.
Similar concerts occurred at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium in the form of Black arts festivals and jazz festivals, often sponsored by the KOOL cigarette company.
For more information about the Black Love experience and other Western Pa. bands, access the website www.IdigPgh.blogspot.com. This website was developed by a local niteclub owner and researcher named Jay Mulls, and provides a wealth of information about the Pittsburgh funk music scene from years gone by.
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