Gateway Records

Label & Recording Studio of Harold Betters, Lou Christie, & the Human Beinz
Founded in Pitttsburgh by Robert W. Schachner in 1961 Gateway Records recorded and released jazz, rock, folk, and polka music.  On the Gateway roster were Harold Betters, Slide Hampton, Walt Harper, Charles Bell, Jerry Betters, the Human Beinz, Jon Walton, 
The Del Vikings, Norman Charles, The Classmen, Marie La Donna, Donnie Elbert, Liz Seneff, the Duquesne University Tamburitzans and many polka bands. The Gateway recording studio was located above the main National Record Mart store on Forbes Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. Several hit songs recorded at Gateway Studios were released by other labels including songs from Louis Armstrong, the Vogues, and Lou Christie.  Gateway operated the subsidiary labels Scotty Records and the polka label Gateway Dyna.  At its peak in 1967 Gateway had 9 employees which included two sound engineers.   Gateway played an important role in Pittsburgh's 1960s music scene providing a recording studio and helping to launch the recording careers of several artists.

Robert W. Schachner Founds Gateway Recordings in Pittsburgh

Robert Schachner, a native of New Jersey, was the son of an audio aficionado.  His father owned 
sophisticated audio equipment and a cutting disc to manufacture records.  Schachner came to Pittsburgh to study drama at Carnegie Tech but transferred to Duquense University to study journalism.  While in school he worked part time selling records and produced recordings of the Duquesne University Tamburitzans.  He quit school in 1961 to open Gateway Recordings with an initial investment of $341. Gateway Recordings Inc was located on the second floor of 234 Forbes Avenue above the flagship National Record Mart (NRM) store.  NRM owners Sam and Howard Shapiro were part owners of Gateway Recordings.  Bob was the producer, recording engineer, and writer of liner notes.  Gateway sold its records in the 25 store National Record Mart Chain.  The first releases from Gateway were albums by the Duquesne University Tamburitzans.  At age 24 Schachner got Gateway off the ground scoring a regional Top-10 hit in early 1962 with the single "Stand By Me / Ram-Bunk-Shush" by Jazz Trombonist Harold Betters.  

Harold Betters
Harold Betters was the best selling artist on the Gateway Records label . The jazz trombonist was the main attraction at Pittsburgh's Encore Night Club for 17 years. Fans line up around the block to get into his Encore shows. Betters recorded his first album "Harold Betters at the Encore" live at the club. Released in January of 1962 on Gateway Records the album sold 10,000 copies. Betters scored a national hit in 1964 with his Gateway Records release of “Do Anything You Wanna” which peaked at No. 74 on the Billboard Top 100 and sold 100,000 copies. Betters released nine albums and several singles on Gateway before he signed with Reprise Records.  Betters gained national attention 
performing on the "Tonight Show", “The Merv Griffin Show” and did the “Mike Douglas Show” four times, including a performance with Louis Armstrong.   He was named in the "Best Trombonist" category of the Playboy readers’ poll. Downbeat Magazine called him "Mr. Versatility".

Pittsburgh Jazz Roster

Having achieved success with Harold Betters Gateway expanded its roster to record and release music by several other Pittsburgh jazz musicians.  Walt Harper released three albums on Gateway: "Harper's Ferry" (1962), "Walt Harper Plays The College Jazz Beat" recorded live at Pittsburgh's Soldiers and Sailors Hall (1963), and "On the Road" (1966).  Saxophonist Jon Walton released "Jon Walton Swings Again" in 1963.  Gateway released two live recordings by pianist / composer Charles Bell.  The recording of Bell's November 9 ,1963 Carnegie Lecture Hall concert was released as "Charles Bell in Concert" in 1963.   A second live concert recording "The Charles Bell Trio in Concert" was released in 1964.  Pittsburgh native trombonist Slide Hampton returned to Pittsburgh to record "Harold Betters Meets Slide Hampton" in 1965.

Louis Armstrong Records Mame at Gateway Studios

In April of 1966 Louis Armstrong was appearing with his All Star Band at the Twin Coaches night club near Pittsburgh.  Armstrong's record label Mercury rushed Louis in the studio to record a single of the hot new song from a Broadway musical slated to open in May of 1966.  On April 20, 1996 after their Twin Coaches show, Armstrong and his band turned up at 3:00 AM for a recording session at the Gateway Records Studio.  They cut the track that night.  
The master tape was flown to New York and 24 hours later the record was released as the Mercury single "Mame" / "Tin Roof Blues".  A radio hit Armstrong's "Mame" reached number 7 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and number 81 on the Hot 100.  It sold 400,000 copies.


Lou Christie's Breakout Hit - The Gypsy Cried

Singer Lugee Sacco approached Co&Ce Record company owner Nick Cenci in 1962 asking him to promote his song  “The Gypsy Cried”.  Cenci produced a full band recording of the song at Gateway studio paying the band with wine and $500.  Cenci released the single under the name of Lou Christie on his Co & Ce label.  Within two weeks Nick broke the record on Pittsburgh radio stations.  Airplay quickly spread to Johnstown, Cleveland, and San Francisco.  Roulette Records picked up national distribution of the "The Gypsy Cried" making it a smash hit at number 24 on the Billboard charts.  Selling over one million copies of the song, Christie at age 19 was awarded a gold record.   

Cenci produced more recording sessions at Gateway for Christie in 1963 generating the million selling hits "Two Faces Have I" that reached number 6 on the charts in March 1963, and “How Many Tear Drops” that was number 46.  With those hits Christie joined Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars Tour appearing the Supremes, Gene Pitney, Paul and Paula, The Ronettes, Fabian, and Frankie Avalon. After a stint in the Army Christie went on to record several more hits.

Gateway's Singers and Vocal Groups

Robert Schachner and the Shapiros decided to expand beyond the jazz market into pop music releasing records by pop singers, Doo Wop, R&B, and rock artists.  
Thirteen year old singer Marie La Donna's first release on Gateway was her 1963 single "Bobby Baby".  The Chapelaires released their Gateway single "Vacation Time" in 1964. The Chapelaires backed up teen singer Marie La Donna on the A side of her 1964 Gateway single "How Can I Let Him Know"/ "Georgie Porgie". La Donna, who later called herself Donna Maria, became a lead singer for the Archies and sang on two of their hit singles "Who's Your Baby" (1970) and "Together We Two" (1971).  Janet Lee who left the Skyliners in 1961 went solo changing her name to Janet Deane.  She recorded and released her first single "Another Night Alone/I'm Glad I Waited" on Gateway Records.  Among the 1960s era vocal groups who recorded at Gateway studios were the Capitols and the Cresendos from McKeesport,   The Classman released the Gateway single "Silver Medal/True Love" also in 1963. R&B singer Norman Charles released two singles on Gateway in 1963: Over And Gone / Try and Give Me Your Hand/We Shall Overcome.

The Kripp Johnson led Del-Vikings recorded and released the single "We Three" / "I've Got To Know" on the Gateway Recordings label in 1964.  The Del-Vikings at the time of the recording consisted of Kripp Johnson, Willie Glenn, Ritzy Lee, Doug White, and Clarence Quick. It was their last single before the group disbanded in 1965.

Soul singer 
Donnie Elbert recorded his classic R&B falsetto single "A Little Piece of Leather" at Gateway Studios in 1965 playing all of the instrumental parts himself.  It did not chart in the U.S.  But Elbert became a star in the U.K. when "A LIttle Piece of Me" became a standard in soul clubs and reached #27 on the U.K. charts.  Elbert also recorded the songs "Run Little Girls" and "Your Red Wagon (You Can Push It or Pull It)" at Gateway.



The Four Coins, who came to fame with the big hit "Shangri-La" recorded four tracks in April of 1966 that were released nationally on Laurie Records on two singles: I'll Never Love Again" / "Try Your Luck" and "Shout Shout (Knock Yourself Out" / "People get Jealous".

Gateway Gets Over with the Human Beinz

The Human Beinz were a band from Youngstown, Ohio who scored a national hit with the song "Nobody But Me" in 1967. But their first single releases were on Gateway Records. Founded in 1965 as The Human Beingz, they made their recording debut on Gateway Records in February 1966 with a cover version of the garage band classic 'Gloria'. But it did not make to the charts as another group The Shadows Of Knight beat them to the punch.  Over the next year the Human Beinz release singles on other small labels and built a following with their live shows. An executive Capital Records caught their act at the Youngstown club Mickey's Bar. Capital signed the band and released "Nobody But Me" in September of 1967 which peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Bob Schachner of Gateway spotted an opportunity to cash in on the Human Beinz's success. As recounted in his book "
How and When to Be Your Own Lawyer"  Schachner reported that he had ownership of five recordings made by the band. Bob called Capital Records offering to sell them his Human Beinz recordings.  He said they could purchase them to keep them off the market or could put them on an album.  Capital said "No" rejecting Gateway's offer. Gateway Records quickly packaged the five Human Beinz songs with six tracks from another band, the Mammals, releasing the album entitled "The Human Beinz \The Mammels" in late 1967.  The five Human Beinz tracks were the cover songs "Nobody But Me" (an early demo version of hit recording), Crispian St. Peters' "The Pied Piper," the Who's "My Generation," Them's "Gloria," and Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'".  The six tracks by the Mammals were also cover songs.  A 45 single with "My Generation" was also released.  Gateway pressed the records and had them shipped by special delivery to all of the Gateway Records retail outlets on a Friday.  On the following Monday morning a lawyer from Capital Records called Schachner furious that he had released the Human Beinz recordings.  Capital demanded that the record by taken off the market immediately.  Knowing that Capital had no rights to the Human Beinz Gateway recordings, Schachnerr negotiated a deal.  Capital agreed to purchase the master recordings from Gateway for $5,000 and to let Gateway sell off all 5,000 of its copies of the "The Human Beinz \The Mammals" album. 

Folk and Bluegrass

Pittsburgh native folk singer Liz Seneff, who had toured the country with Dave Guard and the Whiskeyhill Singers in 1961, recorded for Gateway Records. After leaving the folk super group the Kingston Trio Dave Guard formed Whiskyhill and recruited Liz.  After Whiskeyhill broke up in lates 1962 Liz returned to Pittsburgh to work with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and the Pittsburgh Playhouse.  Liz Seneff released her solo album "Listen to Liz" ("Liz Seneff Sings Folk Songs, Ballads and Blues") on Gateway in 1964. 
Cashbox made her album "pick of the week' Billboard named its to its "Folk Song Merit" list.  Featured on the album was "Bloomin' Heather" a song that Liz performed on the national "Hootenanny" TV show.   Aileen Goodman, a popular folk singer and story teller, recorded her album "Funny Folk and Wee People" at Gateway in 1964.  The bluegrass group  Mac Martin and the Dixie Travelers recorded two albums at Gateway studios and released their first album the single "Bluegrass Breakdown" on Gateway in 1963.

Polka Kings

Gateway at one point was the third largest distributor of Polka music in the United States. In February of 1966 Gateway announce that it acquired Dyna Records, a Chicago- based polka label operated by Marion Lush. Dyna became a division of Gateway headed by Lush.  In 1967 Gateway announced it would release 100 polka albums to become the large Polka label in the U.S.  The Polka business was should good 
Schachner announced he was planning to build a record pressing plant in Mt. Pleasant outside of Pittsburgh.  Polka artists who had releases on Gateway / Dnyo lables included Walt Cieslik and the Ambassadors, the Polka Kings, Lil' Ronnie, Al Morouse, Frank Wojnarowski, Bob Gazda, and John Chrzasz. 


Bob Schachner Sails Away

The last Pittsburgh releases from Gateway Recordings, Inc were in 1967.  Disappointed in the low sales of Gateway's pop music releases, the Shapiros sold their share of the company to Bob Schachner.  Schachner moved to New York City in 1970 where he recorded and marketed educational records. He released a three jazz recordings by Theonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Kai Winding on the Gateway Recordings label in 1977. Around 1980 he signed a contract with the British Broadcasting Corp.giving him exclusive U.S. record distribution rights. Freed from the New York music market he moved in 1980 to Davie in the Fort Lauderdale area of Florida. In 1980 he produced and released the aerobic dancing instruction record "Barbara Ann Auer's Aerobic Dancing" that sold 1 million copies. Schachner produced a comedy album titled "Professor Irwin Corey's Stories Out Of School" at his Gencom Studios in Fort Lauderdale that was released in 1982. Schachner told the Miami Herald in 1985 that Gemcom would achieve $2 million in sales on 500 album and tape titles. He produced a series of live jazz recordings from performances at Fort Lauderdale nightclub He produced a series of live jazz recordings from performances at the Fort Lauderdale nightclub Bubba's with singer Carmen McCrae , pianist Ahmad Jamal and other artists. He's staged jazz concerts in Cannes, France. He also released live recordings of B.B. King, guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Dave Brubeck. Gateway's signature series, "Who's Who in Jazz" included recordings of Chick Corea and saxophonist Sonny Stitt.

Later in life Bob Schachner lived on a 40 foot sail boat called the "Aerobic" off the coast of Florida and became a sail boat racer. Schachner went on to write and publish five books. The first was "The Official Scrabble Word-Finder" in 1998/  He published "Lost Words of the English Language" in 1993 that he co-wrote with John Whited. His other books include  "How and When to be Your Own Lawyer" (2001). and "How & When to Sue Your Lawyer" (2005). His interest in sailing led him to write the book "The Barefoot Pirate" published in 2003 about Captain Mike Burke of the Windjammer Barefoot Cruise line. He also was a weekly columnist for the Independent newspaper in Key Largo, Florida.