Category: Entertainment Written by Associated Press
FREE MAN-In this Sept. 9, 2009 photo, Wesley Snipes poses during the photo call for the film "Brooklyn's Finest" at the 66th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
LEWIS RUN, Pa. (AP) — Wesley Snipes has been released from a federal prison in Pennsylvania.
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 April 2013 12:09
Category: Entertainment Written by Genea Webb
Comedian Bill Bellamy promises Pittsburgh ladies the best night of their lives when his Ladies Night Out Tour hits the Pittsburgh Improv stage this weekend after a 4 to five year absence.
Last Updated on Friday, 05 April 2013 09:15
Category: Entertainment Written by Associated Press
NO WOMEN OR MINORITIES-This June 3, 1992 photo shows Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, right, playing the saxophone with the band during the musical opening of "The Arsenio Hall Show." (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, file)
by Lynn Elber
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The role of female talk show hosts in late-night TV broadcast network history, all 50-plus years of it, can be summed up in two words: Joan Rivers. It takes just another two — Arsenio Hall — to do the same for minorities.
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 April 2013 12:22
Category: Entertainment Written by Timothy Cox
(Pittsburgh’s funky R&B legacy Part 3)
Pittsburgh is noted for its jazz greats both those locally as well as those who made it big nationally, but little is known about its R&B greats because very few went national.
Cecil Brooks III, played in a variety of funk bands though he later made his mark as a jazz musician and became a New York area jazz club owner. Dolphin grew up on the Hill and was influenced by his older brother Freddie Dolphin, a guitarist who also played the funk circuit. Dwayne Dolphin currently performs internationally with James Brown’s former trombonist/bandleader Fred Wesley & The New JBs.
Brooks recalls the early-1980s as the “Golden Era” of Pittsburgh’s live-music era, just before the rise of illicit crack cocaine use which perpetuated neighborhood violence and the eventual death of the city’s social scene.
“That was just a great era. We could hang anywhere we wanted, at all times of the night,” said Brooks, who learned some of his formal chops with the Ozanam Strings youth orchestra. Brooks later led the Pyramid house band which featured young guns like violinist Rodney McCoy, Tony Campbell, Arnold Stagger, Bobby Yates and Larry Estes.
Brooks notes the following clubs as special during the early to late 1980s: The Hollywood Club in Homewood; Phase II Rendevous in Homewood, Clairton’s Hollywood Club; Eileen’s Zebra Room and Karl’s Kork & Keg, both in Homewood; The Pyramid in East Liberty; The Travelers Club and Tourist Club, both in East Liberty area; Sqawkers Club Downtown on Liberty Avenue.
Why Pittsburgh Funk Never Reached the Acclaim As Its Big Brother—Jazz?
Dr. Nathan Davis, the longtime Jazz Department Chair of the University of Pittsburgh, offers his take on reasons why the Tri-state’s R&B scene never received equal accolades and reputation as received by the Pittsburgh Jazz scene.
“Mainly, it’s because that sort of music, funk, was always driven by the recording industry. In Pittsburgh, we never really had a major recording industry like they did in Detroit, Chicago, Memphis—or even Philadelphia.
“Granted, we had The Marcels of “Blue Moon” fame, but still, never a strong recording presence. Even many of the jazz stars from here had to leave Pittsburgh before they received any real acclaim,” said Davis, a Kansas City native who has led Pitt’s Jazz Department since 1969.
In 1982, Pittsburgh native Alfred “Al” Cleveland, started a recording company called HITSBURGH Records. The business never caught hold and its artist lineup never achieved hit status. Cleveland made his mark as a Motown executive under Barry Gordy. He’s also a co-writer of the Marvin Gaye classic, “What’s Going On.”
Music Historian Darryl Dunn Provides An Overall View
Darryl “Boogie Machine” Dunn is considered Pittsburgh’s resident music historian when it comes to knowledge about the height of the R&B scene from the late 1950s well into the 1980s.
Dunn, a Homewood native, vividly recalls the early 1960s when many bands regularly played Westray Plaza and the Diamond Roller Rink on the Hill District.
“Joe Westray was president of the Black (Pittsburgh) Musicians Union, located at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Frankstown Road,” Dunn said.
Dunn says he recalls seeing a young George Benson playing R&B with The Altairs at Westrays, prior to Benson going on the road with organist, Brother Jack McDuff.
Lonzie Cox Jr. also recalls seeing The Altairs at The Fire Hall social club in Beaver Falls.
“I remember seeing this young guy they called Georgie—and he could absolutely play a guitar. I also played guitar with The Fabulous Embers, so, there was some competitive fire there,” said Cox.
The Fabulous Embers of Beaver County were predecessors to funk groups like The Notations and El Pooks. Bandleader/guitarist Cox, said the group played the Diamond Skating Rink in Pittsburgh and Ohio chitlin’ circuit clubs in Steubenville and Canton. A battle of the bands competition with The Altairs and Georgie Benson is notable, he said. “We were all teenagers hoping for the big-time. George made it out, and the rest is history.”
Cox also lists organist George Jones, Aron Cox, Fred Davis, Del Palmer, Johnny Josey, James Moon and bassist Mike Taylor as significant to Western Pa.’s early soul sound. Grover McBride’s Alpines are another swingin’ band of note, he said.
George Jones is Reggie “Wizard” Jones’ father. The late Mike Taylor was a music academician who performed with the Ahmad Jamal Trio. Taylor, died in 2009 and is a member of the Beaver County Music Hall of Fame.
Cox and Midland drummer Gill Clark, both agree that a small venue in Midland, aptly called the Hole In The Wall aka Love’s Hotel, remains a place of note— even to this day. “People had real good times there,” said Clark, a noted drum instructor and Beaver County NAACP executive.
Another small footnote in Beaver County social history is a hole-in-the-wall venue simply called JACK’S in Aliquippa’s Plan 11 housing subdivision.
“Jack’s wasn’t the most beautiful place,” said Cox. “It actually had a dirt floor, but fried chicken, good drinks and great conversation made it a notable after-hours club. Very rarely was there any hint of violence. Nothing like the horrifying stories we hear about today,” said Cox.
Ironically, Dr. Nathan Davis said he also first heard of George Benson’s talents in the early 1960s.
“We were both in Switzerland. I was doing recording sessions and he was on tour with organist McDuff. They kept saying how good he was—and he really was—and still is,” said Dr. Davis.
In the mid-1960s, Darryl Dunn founded a group called The Larells which included the sons of legendary Pittsburgh Courier photographer, Teenie Harris.
Van Harris and Lionel Harris were part of the group, which largely patterned themselves after The Temptations and Motown’s success, said Dunn, who had several relatives living in Detroit and Flint during that time and was enamored with Detroit’s economic boon period.
After graduating from Westinghouse High School in 1964, Dunn relocated to the Motor City to work in one of its many factories—hence the Tempations’ hit lyric, “Plenty of work, and the bosses are paying”—from The Tempts’ classic hit, “Since I Lost My Baby.”
While the ‘70s era remains significant to survivors of the period, says Dunn, for many musicians and performers of the same era—today, it’s almost like it never existed.
“Mainly, because people never really talk about it or speak positively about that era. You always hear about Pittsburgh’s jazz legacy, but never about the great funk, soul and R&B traditions,” said Dunn, a vocalist who also formed a popular group called 8th Wonder in 1974.
By 1976, “I saw the handwriting on the wall and started my deejay business,” said Dunn. “Less personnel meant less headaches as the industry evolved toward Disco,” he admitted. Dunn added that the following musicians are also valuable to the Burgh’s funk legacy: Larry McGee, Tim Stevens, Penny Wilson, Karl Black, Joe Lattimore, Crystal Wilson and The Levations.
After the LaRells disbanded, Boogie Dunn formed the Fabulous Precisions, another popular showband that existed from 1972 to 1974.
Dunn said his groups played various outlying venues including the Masons Lounge in New Kensington, Square Club in Braddock and the New Look Club in Hazelwood, but it was the Beaver Falls Elks where the band hit its stride, said Dunn.
Beaver Falls Elks: The place where stars were born.
“Most of our jobs were in the smaller towns like Beaver Falls and we also had good gigs at the Oldtimer’s Club in Youngstown, Ohio,” said Dunn.
“In the outlying areas, the patrons treated us like we were big stars. Those people appreciated the bands way more than the inner-city clientele did. And we never took that for granted.
“We practiced hard and made sure our show was tight and worthy of their price of admission. For them, it was exciting for a band to travel to their small towns,” said Dunn—adding that he’ll always be indebted to the late Leon Glover, the Beaver Falls Elks’ Exalted Ruler or General Manager, at the time.
“Mr. Glover gave us a chance, and we never disappointed him,” recalls Dunn. “He was a no-nonsense manager, but well-respected.”
Markie “AJ” Jackson concurs with Dunn’s sentiment, considering his experiences as a young band-leader/guitarist of a Beaver Falls group called Shades of Night, featuring Dicky Morris, on guitar/bass; Darrell Gibson, bass; Kevin “Maceo” Wiley, trumpet with Ronald Bryant and T.C. on drums.
“I worked with Mr. Glover on several occasions,” said Jackson. “Gloves was our guy. Mainly, because he was fair and that’s all you could ask for,” said Jackson, now a retired Army officer in Georgia.
TNT Flashers, as recalled by Rodney “Bogey” Burrows, was probably the hottest group in Western Pa. Burrows not only played with the group, but was a highly-requested drummer on the R&B scene during the ‘70s era.
Last Updated on Friday, 05 April 2013 06:01
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