Pittsburgh=Hitsburgh: Discover the History of Local Music In the Steel City - Pittsburgh Article

Pittsburgh=Hitsburgh: Discover the History of Local Music In the Steel City

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Pittsburgh=Hitsburgh: Discover the History of Local Music In the Steel City

Published Sep 10, 2016
Updated Jan 25, 2018

You may not have guessed it, but Pittsburgh has played a large role in the development of Doo Wop, Rock and Roll, and Hip Hop over the past 55+ years.

In the 1950’s, DJ’s such as Porky Chedwick, Mary Dee, Sir Walter, Three D Lee (Lee Doris) and Bill Powell were bona fide hit makers and had considerable power as they personally chose the records they played. Very unlike today’s pre-programmed playlists.

Porky Chedwick, Daddio of the Raddio, spun wax for what later became WAMO in the back of a Homestead candy store. He had a local cult following and his playlist was influential nationwide.

Local groups from the area began to have an impact on airwaves across the country when Pittsburgh label Fee Bee released the Del Vikings’ “Come Go With Me,” in 1957 and it hit #4 on the charts. The Skyliners had a huge hit with “Since I Don’t Have You,” in 1958, which is still a standard on the oldies circuit.

Pittsburgh eventually ended up being a great test market for new songs. Labels assumed that if they could sell several thousand copies in Pittsburgh they could multiply that many times in much bigger markets, such as New York City.

In the 60’s doo wop and vocal groups gave way to the British invasion and Pittsburgh’s prominence in the current music scene faded a bit. By the 70’s, Pittsburgh was back on the map though as a local club located in Oakland, The Decade, began featuring local groups and musicians. The Decade fostered a few great bands that would become prominent throughout the Decade, including Diamond Reo, who would tour with Ted Nugent and Kiss.

In the late 70’s a new band featuring Joe Gruschecky, the Brick Alley Band, surfaced and they later morphed into the Iron City Houserockers and had a string of successful releases that were critically acclaimed and produced by the likes of Ian Hunter and Steve Van Zandt. Joe is still a local favorite, plays shows in the area and consistently makes an occasional appearance with Bruce Springsteen.

Donnie Iris hit big in the 80’s with his hit Ah Leah! and followed with another hit album “King Cool” the next year in 1982. Donnie also still plays the occasional show and is a local favorite.

Pittsburgh’s bands and disc jockeys played a major role in the development of the sound of early and later day Rock and Roll. Today Pittsburgh based artists continue to influence as Rusted Roots, Christina Aguilera, Daya and rappers Mac Miller, Devin Miles, Wiz Khalifa are making their mark on the current Music and music Hip Hop scene.

Recently, the Pittsburgh Rock and Roll Legends Awards were created to honor local individuals who have been instrumental in the Pittsburgh music scene. A permanent display of all honorees, which is updated with each new induction, is hung at the Hard Rock Café in Station Square.

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