Warren "King Fish" King, Pittsburgh's guitar hero, grew up in Monroeville, Pa. His story begins in a Monroeville parking lot in the late 1960s where future Wild Cherry and Fog Hat guitarist Bryan Basset first encountered Warren playing. In an interview Bryan reported that he was inspired to become a guitarist after hearing Warren perform. Bryan said "He was the first good guitar player I ever saw. He really turned my head and made me think of being a musician myself."
As word of Warren's talent grew another musician from Pittsburgh's East side, Norm Nardini, sought him out. Norman first saw Warren perform at an afterhours club. Norman Nardini and Franki Cruzi formed the band Diamond Reo in 1969. They were one of the first rock bands in Pittsburgh to do original music, according to Norman. Having landed a major label record contract they needed a hot guitar player. Warren the “King Fish” was their man. In 1975 Warren performed as the guest guitarist on Diamond Reo's Big Tree/Atlantic Records debut release "Diamond Reo". Scoring a top 40 hit with a version of the Marvin Gaye song, "Ain't That Peculiar." the band launched a national tour. Warren joined with Frankie Czuri, Norm Nardini, Bubs McKeg, and Rob Johns appearing on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" and performing with Kiss, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Frank Zappa, Kansas, Ian Hunter, Blue Oyster Cult, and Canned Heat. Diamond Reo went on to record "Dirty Diamonds," in 1976 on Kama Sutra, and 1978's "Ruff Cuts," on Piccadilly. According to Nardini Warren’s guitar took the starring role on those releases. The rock group disbanded in 1978 as punk and new wave were emerging.
Norm Nardini and the Tigers
Wanting to perform his own music Norman launched his own punk rock band Norman Nardini and Eastside Tigers in 1979 with Warren as guitarist. They gigged at the Fat City bar in Swissvale, Morry’s Speakeasy in Rochester, and other area clubs. Warren co-wrote with Norman and Frank Cruzi Norman's song "In the Heat of the Night". But restless Warren did not stick with the Tigers.
After seeing new wave artist Joe Jackson in 1979 Warren was swept away by new wave. Warren left the Eastside Tigers and called another former Diamond Reo bandmate, vocalist Franki Cruzi, saying he had written some songs and wanted to start a new wave band. Cruzi who had been working on demo songs of his own for CBS's Precision records joined forces with Warren to found the Silencers. They hired drummer Ron "Byrd" Foster away from Roy Buchanan's band and recruited bass guitarist Mike Pella, and keyboard player Dennis Takos. They began rehearsals in the summer of 1979 and signed with manger/record promoter Tom Cossi. Cossi, who found national success with the group Chic, landed the Silencers a record contract with CBS's Precision Records before they played their first gig.. They quickly became a local sensation with their tight new wave sound and cool shade wearing trench coat detective demeanor. They packed Fat City, Morry's Speakeasy, the Decade, and other venues. Their fans danced to the "Remote Control" groove and hit the thrift stores to buy skinny ties and shark skin suites. The new wave craze swept the Pittsburgh club scene.
Precision/CBS records released their debut album "Rock 'n' Roll Enforcers" in 1980. It was produced by Bob Clearmountain at the Power Station in New York. Clearmountain also worked with Hall & Oats, David Bowie, The Prentenders, Chic, and David Werner. WDVE gave the record its launch adding several songs to their rotation playlist creating the local hits: "The Peter Gunn Theme," "Modern Love," "Head On Collision" and "Shiver and Shake". Warren wrote and co-wrote five of the cuts on the album. He wrote “Head On Collision and co-wrote “Modern Love” and “Shiver and Shake” with C. Capiola. “Shiver and Shake” reached number 89 on the Billboard Top 100 chart.
The Silencers drew national attention in 1981 when their video for the medley "Peter Gunn/Remote Control/Illegal" was aired on the MTV on the day that MTV made its first broadcast. Precision Records released the Silencer's last album "Romantic" in 1981 spawning the local radio hit "Side Walk Romeo". Warren wrote/co-wrote 7 of the cuts on “Romantic” . Warren left the Silencers in 1982. Having ridden the crest of the new wave Warren's musical interest turned to blues and rock.
During the 1980's Warren played with several bands in Pittsburgh. He joined the Iron City Houserockers for six months. He then formed the blues band Red Hot & Blue. He also played in the blues rock band Torn and Frayed that was founded by Mark Scheer and MCA artist Vinnie Q.
The Mystic Knights
In 1984 Dom DiSilvio, owner of the Decade club, asked Warren to form an "all-star" band to bring in customers on club's slow Monday nights. Thus the Mystic Knights were formed with Warren, guitarist Bryant Basset, keyboard player Gil Synder from the Houserockers. and drummer Ron 'Bryd' Foster who had just left the disbanded Silencers. The Mystic Knights became a popular blues act and appeared in several Iron City Beer commercials performing their song "Spread Yourself Around." The members changed over time and the band become known as "Warren King and the Mystic Knights of the Sea." Blues vocalist Chizmo Charles and young guitarist Zack Wiesinger were part of the band.
In the early '90s, Warren relocated to Orlando and took a job at Kingsnake Studio as a recording engineer and a member of the studio band, The Midnight Creepers. The lineup of the Midnight Creepers included Warren on guitar, Bryd Foster on drums, gritty vocalist Mike Galloway on harp, and bassist Bob "Rattlesnake" Greenlee (owner of Kingsnake Studios). Greenlee got his start in the music business playing in high-school rock bands with Duane and Gregg Allman. “Rattlesnake" a former captain of the Yale football team who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins, choose instead of football going to law school and then a touring career as bassist with Root Boy Slim. He founded KingSnake Studio and produced recordings for the Alligator and Ichiban labels, with the Midnight Creepers as session players. During a 10 to 12 year period working with Greenlee Warren engineered and performed on albums by noted blues artists Kenny Neal, Bill Wharton, Jimmy Thackery, Greg Allman, Kenny Neal, Bill Wharton, Ace Moreland, Lucky Petterson, and others. The Midnight Creepers also performed in the Orlando area and released three albums in 1993: "Breaking Point" on Wild Dog Records and "Wild" and "Wild Dogs" on the Ichiban label.
Bob Greenlee passed away in 2004 and Warren began to work in both Florida and Pitttsburgh. He moved back to Pittsburgh in 2006 playing the blues around town again. King fronted his own band the Jaminators, performed with Wil E Tri and the Bluescasters, and played jam sessions around Pittsburgh with the Granati Brothers and others. He collabrated with Billy Evanochko on a set of recordings at David Granati's Maplewood Studio. The "King Fish" passed away from Cancer on January 29th, 2010 twelve days after his last appearance at Moondogs.
Warren was highly respected by Pittsburgh fans, musicians, and music writers.
"Warren was one of the most well known and respected guitar players around and anyone who knew music, knew Warren. He was someone who had that spark, that presence, that you would go out of your way to see. He had that star quality. On stage he was not very gregarious, but his playing was captivating to watch - he was very focused- he'd play with his eyes closed. His expression, energy, style and phrasing were very powerful to watch." -Bryan Basset
"He was a hero of mine, as a person and a player." -Norman Nardini
"He was a legendary guitar player and an integral part of the scene. He had a fantastic tone, fantastic touch. We wanted him to stay with the Houserockers." -Joe Gruschecky
"In life and on stage, he was a quiet storm - subtle, but deadly. His laid-back demeanor and expression never seemed to change, but the times I ever played with him on stage, it was if there was a tempest building into a tornado inside of him. His brilliance and wry sense of humor will be sorely missed." - Hermie Granati
He was a dazzling guitarist, the kind of ringer who steals the spotlight away from the frontman. - Scott Mervis- Pittsburgh Post Gazette -
"First and foremost a bluesman, with the Mystic Knights King would unleash sinuous, heart-stopping solos that ripped through one’s being. A Warren King solo was a surreal experience, something that you felt as well as heard…. no one — no one — played the opening chords to the “Peter Gunn Theme” better than King." -Rege Behe - Pittsburgh Tribute Review
“He was a bluesman’s bluesman” - Billy Evanochko