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Bubs McKeg


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Member of the Igniters, Diamond Reo, McKeg Lawson, and Award Winning Bluesman

Bubs McKeg is an award wining blues singer, guitarist, songwriter, and performing artist. As a solo artists he is known for his soulful voice and finger-picking blues guitar.  Bubs has been a fixture in the national and Pittsburgh music scenes since the 1960s entertaining rock and blues fans for fifty years.  As a member of the Igniters, The Friends, and Diamond Reo and as a solo artist Bubs has released hit recordings on the Atltantic and Buddah record labels.

Bugs twice won the  Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania’s International Blues Challenge for solo/duo artist.  He won the award as a solo artist in 2009, and as a duo with Dr. Blue as a duo in 2008.  Bubs performed at the 30th Annual Helsinki Blues Heritage Festival in Finland.  In 2007 he place fourth in blues in Finland's international songwriting competition.

The Igniters

Born Bob McKeag, "Bubs" grew up in Penn Hills.  As a child he began performing at his father's favorite hangout singing on top of the bar while his brother Jimmy danced. 

Bob attended St. Bart’s grade school in Penn Hills where he met his friend and future band mate Frank Czuri  They began singing together in the fifth grade school choir.  Both R&B fans at age ten they were not into choral music.  When the choir director said 'Anybody who doesn't really want to work hard can leave now,” they quit. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post Gaztte Czuri said “Bob and I were sitting next to each other. We looked at each other, got up and walked out."  Ironically both have spent the lives working hard on music.  

Bob McKeag and Frank Cruzi in their early teens formed several bands the Medallions, the Von L's, and Carvelles. Bob played guitar and Frankie sang. 

In the summer of 1963 two 14 year old guitar players Bob McKeag and "Little Joe" Arena started jamming together in Penn Hills.  McKeag and Little Joe recruited drummer Bill Flowers and bass player Joe Santivica to join them in forming the Igniters.  They became a popular live band.  Performing to packed houses at their regular teen gig at Oakmont’s Varsity House, they played rock pop and surf tunes.  

Later in 1963 calling themselves “Inflammable Dan and the Igniters" they released the single "High Flyin' Wine" that was written by radio DJ Charlie Apple. With Apple's help it received local radio airplay.  

Little Joe Arena left the band in 1965 and was replaced by Bubs’ grade school friend singer Frankie Czuri.  Upon their graduation from Penn Hills High in 1966, the Igniters signed with promoter Pat DiCesare who booked gigs for them throughout the region.  They played night clubs and  frat parties at Pitt. West Virginia University  CMU and other area colleges. Constantly on the road performing, they earned a decent living.  Facing the Vietnam era draft Bubs and Joe Santivica left the igniters to enlist in the Navy.  

After Bubs and Joe left the line up of the Igniters  became Frank Cruzi, Jeff Bobula, Gary Gentile, Ron “Byrd” Foster, and Bob Breide. In 1968 Atlantic records signed the Igniters to a contract, making them the second white band on the label after the Rascals.  Insisting that the Igniters change their name to Jimmy Mack and the Music Factory Atlantic released their first single, a pop soul tune, “ Baby I Love You/ Hunter Gets Captured by the Game" in 1968.  It received airplay on some stations across the country.  It made it to number #41 on WAVZ in New Haven, Conn.  

Released from the Navy Bubs formed a group called Captaim Cueball and the Salvation Navy.  He rejoined the Igniters when a roster spot opened. The band, which had changed its name again to "The Friends" consisted of Bubs, keyboard player Fred Delu, drummer Byrd Foster and singer Frank Cruzi. They recorded several original songs for Atlantic Records and released the single (Gonna Try / So Long Mama). The band continued to perform live around the Pittsburgh area and at a regular gig at a club called Psychedilly.  They called it quits in 1970.  Frankie Cruzi joined the Jaggerz. 

Borrowed Time with Sweet Lightning

After the Igniters/Friends broke up Bubs played in the band Borrowed Time with former Igniter member "Big Abb" and guitarist Sid McGinnis, who later became the guitarist for the David Letterman Late Night Orchestra. Sid and Bubs played together for a time in the band "Sweet Lightning" with Pete Hewlett and former Igniter drummer Ron Foster. 

Diamond Reo

In 1974 Bubs and Franki Cruzi joined with Norman Nardini and Robbie Johns to form the band Diamond Reo.  Working with producer Tom Cossie Diamond Reo recorded a demo tape at East Liberty's Red Fox Studio and sent it off to Atlantic Records.  The Atlantic subsidiary Big Tree Records released Diamond Reo’s first album “Diamond Reo” in 1975.  Scoring a top 40 hit with Bubs singing the lead on a version of the Marvin Gaye song, "Ain't That Peculiar" the band launched a national tour. They appeared on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" and performed with Kiss, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Frank Zappa, Kansas, Ian Hunter, Blue Oyster Cult, and Canned Heat.  After Diamond Reo left the Atlantic label Bubs left Diamond Reo.  The band went on the record two more albums before their breakup in 1978.

Solo on Buddah Records

After leaving Diamond Reo, Bubs recorded as a solo artist under the name of “McKeag” on Buddah and Phantom Records.  He released the single Gimme Some / Our Love on Buddah Records in 1977 that reached the top forty.  

McKeg Lawson Band

Bubs joining with James Lawson drummer Paul Martello, keyboard player Fred Delu and Bob Breide Bubs to form the "McKeg Lawson" band.  They became a well known act in the Pittsburgh blues scene.  In 1994 James Lawson lost his life to cancer. Bubs kept the "McKeg Lawson" band going for five more years.  McKeg Lawson released two recordings "The Blues is Allright" cassette in 1995 and the "On the Horizon" CD in 1996. In 1994 James Lawson lost a battle with cancer. Bubs kept the "McKeg Lawson" band going for five more years.  

Bub McKeg Solo Act

Since 2000 Bubs has been writing recording and performing blues under his own name.  Bubs independently released the "Little Detours" CD in 2001, the."Drive On" CD in 2006 and the "Around the Bend" CD in 2009.  

Re-Ignition

Bubs McKeag, Czuri’s grade school friend and former band mate, asked Frank to perform at a Igniters reunion concert in 2003.  Held at the Harmer House the Igniters reunion concert drew over 500 people and sparked interest in more concerts.  After a third successful reunion show the Igniters decided in 2010 to reform. Frank Czuri left Pure Gold in 2011 to rejoin the band along with old friends Bob "Bubs" McKeag, Fred Delu, Bob Breide, Paul Martello and Raymond Falcsik.  They began playing regular shows throughout the Western PA, Ohio, and West Virginia area in 2010 and appeared at the 2011 Pittsburgh Blues Festival.  Bubs and and his grade school friend Frank Czuri are still working hard playing the cool R&B, soul, and rocking roots music that they fell for at age 10.

The Blues of Bugs McKeg
The Music of Bubs

 Bubs with the Igniters at the Varsity House
Diamond Reo