Rich Engler

Concert Promoter and Pittsburgh Rock'N Roll Hall of Fame's First Inductee
Rich Engler promoted over 5,000 concerts in the Pittsburgh area and other markets across the U.S. over his 40 year career as a concert promoter. He began in the music industry during the early 1960s as a drummer for popular Pittsburgh area rock groups. Finding success booking his own bands Engler took on booking for other groups founding his own firm Go Attractions. Expanding into concert promotion Engler renamed his firm Command Performance and booked national acts at shows across the region. Engler then joined forces with Pat DiCesar. Together Rich and Pat built DiCesar-Engler Productions into one the top grossing concert promoters in the U.S.  Their centerpiece venue the Stanley Theater was named the top concert theater in the country by Billboard Magazine. After DiCesar-Engler was acquired Engler promoted shows as CEO of SFX/Clear Channel Entertainment Pittsburgh. 

Over his long career Engler presented a broad range of superstar and up-and-coming  popular music acts at small clubs, the Stanley Theater, The Syria Mosque, the AJ Palumbo Center, the I.C. Light/ Chevy Amphitheater, the Civic/Mellon Arena, the Star Lake Amphitheater / Post Gazette Pavilion, and Three Rivers stadium along with other venues across the region.  Engler also booked Broadway shows at the Syria Mosque and Stanley Theater.  He also promoted national tours for Sha Na Na and other acts.  The Pittsburgh Post Gazette for several years ranked Rich Engler as one of “Top 50 Culture Brokers” in Pittsburgh.  For generations of Pittsburgh area music fans Rich Engler delivered a "Golden Age" of great concerts. 

The Pittsburgh Rock'N Roll Hall of Fame honored Rick Engler by naming him its first inductee for 2014.  Joel Presemen, president and CEO of the international Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, will present Engler with his Hall of Fame plaque at Pittsburgh's Hard Rock Cafe during a fund raising concert event on January 23, 2014.  Presemen began his music industry career working stage security for DiCesare-Engler in 1975.  
Sponsored by the Cancer Caring Center the Pittsburgh Rock'N Roll Hall of Fame will annually honor individuals and organizations that have made an impact on the rock 'n roll music industry in Pittsburgh.   Each year the plaques of the new inductees will be added to a special permanent display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Pittsburgh's Station Square.

Rock'n in Creighton

Rich Engler grew up in a small row house in Creighton, a little town located 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh along the Allegheny River across from New Kensington and Lower Burrell.  His father was a glass worker at the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company and his mother worked for Allegheny County.   With layoffs at PPG his family sometimes struggled o make ends meet surviving on government food handouts.  As a child in the 1950’s Engler grew up listening to the rock'n roll music of Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. DJ Porky Chedwick, who played music heard no-where else on radio, introduced Rich to the music of Bo Diddley, the Cleftones and many other artists.  Inspired by the Beatles Engler started playing drums while attending Deer Lakes High School. On money borrowed from his parents, he bought a used drum kit to join his first band the Royals in 1963 when he was a high school junior. The Royals played standards and Elvis Presley tunes.  Rich booked steady weekend shows for the band at weddings, social clubs and after-hours joints for $100 a night. 

Grains of Sand

After high school Engler
studied art education at Youngstown State before transferring to Carnegie Tech (now CMU). While at Carnegie Tech he continued to play with the Royals who had changed their name to the "Grains of Sand".  The band at that time was comprised of Rich, Bob Weiler, Terry Knoebel, Tony Pierce, and Dave Darmour. The band was earning $750 to $1000 a week playing in Pittsburgh area clubs  The band began to record in 1965 at Gateway Studios in downtown Pittsburgh.  The Vogues, who were also recording at Gateway, heard Rich and asked him to play drums on one of their songs.   That song "Five O'clock World" became a number 4 Billboard hit in 1965. The Grains of Sands released a single of their own titled "Passing Through the Night" in 1967 that was produced by Lou Guarino for his American Music Makers label.  They also recorded several cover songs including "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Under My Thumb".  The band landed jobs opening shows for the Beach Boys at the Penn Theater and for the Yardbirds at the Hunt Armory.  They also toured playing shows across Pennsylvania and in Florida and Canada.  With the Grains of Sands working steadily playing college gigs Engler left Carnegie Tech in 1968.

Phweet Phwew
The Grains of Sand changed their name to “Phweet Phwew” (the name sounded like a 1930’s wolf whistle). Joining Engler in the band around 1971 were Hermie Granati,(a future member of the Jaggerz, the Granati Brothers, and the B.E. Taylor bands), guitarist Max Kendrick from Montgomery Alabama, and bassist Skinny Bishop who later played with King Solomon, Gino Vannelli, and Bobby Vinton. They played all original music and did some recording.  Rich performed with Phweet Phwew through 1972 until he retired his sticks to become a full time concert promoter.

Go Attractions and Command Performance

As the Grains of Sands / Phweet Phwew became very popular the got more offers than they could play. Every club, frat party and church outing wanted to have a live band. Someone had to provide them and Rich saw a hot business opportunity. In 1967 Engler started a booking company called Go Attractions, with partner Paul St. John to book gigs for other Pittsburgh bands. He built up a roster of Pittsburgh bands and earned $20 to $30 commissions on $5000 band bookings.  In 1969, Engler at age 23, opened the Go Attractions office on Walnut Street in Shadyside. To save money he lived in the back room.  

In 1969 Rich promoted his first concert. It was a free concert on Flagstaff Hill in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park featuring several Pittsburgh area bands that drew about 500 people. After that show he began thinking of becoming a concert promoter. Gradually Engler switched from being a booking agent (a seller of acts) to being a concert promoter (a buyer of acts). Go Attractions was renamed Command Performance. He sent mailings to 150 tri-state area colleges offering to book appearances of Santana, Creedance and other groups. St. Bonaventure became with first client where he promoted a Johnny Winters concert. Soon Rich was buying acts for Allegheny College, Gannon, St. Vincent and many other colleges from talent agencies in New York. He also bought talent for Sideshow Productions in Greensburg. Rich did everything from talent buying, advertising, and show production. Engler booked national acts such Foghat, Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After, Blue Oyster Cult, Rick Derringer, Savoy Brown, Lou Reed, the Velvet Underground, and Yes for dates at venues in Erie, Johnstown, Hagerstown, Altoona, and the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh. Phweet Phwew opened many of those shows including appearances with David Bowie, King Crimson, UFO, Bob Seger, Mike Quattro, and Sha Na Na.

In 1972 Rich booked the band "Yes"at Gannon College in Erie with Phweet Phwew as the opening act.  Yes's manager became extremely angry when he saw the concert promoter playing drums with the opening act.  After the show he yelled at Engler "When any of one of my acts comes through that door I want you to be here to greet them and get them whatever they want!"  Rich decided then to stop playing the drums and concentrate all of his time to concert promotion.

In the early 1970s Command Performance needed a venue to present his rock concerts. Engler's competitor Pat DiCesare had exclusive booking rights to most of the major venues in Pittsburgh such as the Civic Arena and the Syria Mosque. The only mid size venue that Engler could book was the ornately decorated former movie palace located in downtown Pittsburgh the Stanley Theater.  Engler booked David Bowie, Yes, Kiss, Styx, Queen, Kansas, Blue Oyster Cult, King Crimson and other rock artists at the Stanley.

DiCesare-Engler Productions

Rich’s success with shows at the Stanley caught the attention of Pat DiCesare.  Pat called Rich in 1973 proposing that they join forces. Pat said “Rich, why should we compete? Let's sit down and make a deal.” They agreed to split the business 50-50. Thus DiCesare- Engler Productions was born to launch a golden age of rock concerts in Pittsburgh. With two driven promoters, DiCesare-Engler became one of the top twenty grossing concert promotion companies in the US.

The first DiCesare-Engler production was a sold out Fleetwood Mac concert at the Syria Mosque.  They followed that with a Jackson Browne sell-out.  Rich negotiated the concert deals and Pat invested the profits.  After several sellout shows Pat began investing their profits into real estate. 

Three Rivers Stadium Shows

Working with Pat DiCesare Engler had the opportunity to promote much larger shows. Pat had promoted the first ever Three Rivers Stadium show in 1971 with Three Dog Night. That show is recognized naionally as the beginning of the era of stadium rock.  Engler booked his first stadium concert with Eric Clapton, the Band, and Todd Rundgren at Three Rivers Stadium on July 5th, 1974.  With a cost of $150,000 just for the two main acts, it was a huge financial risk.  It almost didn't happen as Eric Clapton was so high he could barely walk just before the show.  His roadies lifted him step by step onto the stage and somehow he managed to perform.   DiCesare-Engler promoted several shows at Three Rivers in 1974 including Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers, Chicago, and The Doobie Brothers.   In 1975 they promoted the World Series of Rock with Bachman Turner Overdrive, Johnny Winter, Foghat, Styx, Kansas, and more.  Other Three Rivers shows through 1978 included ZZ Top, Aerosmith, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Boz Scaggs, Beach Boys,  and Peter Frampton.

The Stanley Theater Years

DiCesare-Engler Productions began holding regular rock concerts at the Stanley Theater in 1976. After a few shows Cinemette Corp, the owner of the Stanley, approached Pat DiCesare in late 1976 asking him “Why don't you buy this place?”   Pat negotiated with Cinemette for over a year.  DiCesare-Engler was granted the exclusive rights to operate the theater while they negotiated its purchase. Pat and Rich moved their office into a small mirrored room on the second floor of the Stanley making the theater their headquarters. They completed the purchase of the Stanley for $1.3 million in late 1977. 

The Stanley quickly became one of the nation’s top popular music concert venues hosting a wide variety of major acts. During 1977 and 1978 DiCesare-Engler presented Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, The Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, Hall and Oates, the Kinks, Johnny Mathis, Paul Anka, Harry Chapin, Donna Summer, Journey, Eddie Money, Sha Na Na, Liza Minnelli, Cheap Trick and more.  In 1978, only a year after DiCesare-Engler bought it the Stanley Theater, it became the top grossing concert theater in the United States. One hundred and eight shows were booked at the Stanley in 1978. Billboard Magazine named the Stanley the "Number One Auditorium in the U.S." and honored Pat DiCesare and Rich Engler. DicCesare-Engler won the award for the Stanley several times during the 1970s and early 1980s.

In late 1983 the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust was looking for a new home for the Pittsburgh Opera and the Pittsburgh Ballet. Heinz Hall, home of the Pittsburgh Symphony was overflowing with musicians, dancers and fans. The Cultural Trust with its coffers filled with millions in foundation funds approached DiCesare-Engler with an offer to buy the Stanley. In an interview Rich Engler said that he and Pat loved the Stanley but it needed about $7 million in repairs. They sold it to the Cultural Trust for $12.1 million dollars earning a large return on their original investment of $1.3 million. The last DiCesare-Engler rock concert held at the Stanley was on June 15, 1984 with Ted Nugent. 

Syria Mosque, the Palumbo Center, and the Amphitheater

After selling the Stanley Theater DiCesare-Engler Productions moved its concerts and offices to the Syria Mosque in Oakland. They held concerts at the Mosque until it was torn down on August 27, 1991 to make way for a lovely blacktop parking lot.  DiCesare-Engler began booking some shows at the A.J. Palumbo Center when it opened in 1988 on the campus of Duquesne University.  After the Mosque was destroyed DiCesare-Engler then moved the majority of their mid-sized concerts to the Palumbo Center including shows with Depeche Mode, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Janes Addiction, Oasis, Pat Metheny and more.  Pollstar Magazine named the Palumbo Center, under DiCesare-Engler management, in the top 5 in gross sales for a venue of its size in the country.  

In the late 1980's DiCesare-Engler began hosting outdoor concerts at Station Square..To escape the heat of the un-air conditioned Syria Mosque they sent up the 1,500 seat Melody Tent in the Station Square parking lot along the Monongehala river.  They presented B.B. King, Buckwheat Zydeco, the Neville Brothers, Glen Fyre and others.  Expanding to 5,000 seats and a bigger stage ,they renamed the venue the I.C. Light Amphitheater in 1989.  New comers Dave Matthews, John Mayer, No Doubt, and the Warped Tour appeared at the I.C.  Under Clear Channel Entertainment the venue was expanded to 8,000 seats and renamed the Chevrolet Amphitheater.

SFX - Clear Channel Entertainment

In 1998 SFX Entertainment bought DiCesare-Engler Productions.  Pat DiCesare retired.  Rich Engler stayed on as president and CEO of SFX Pittsburgh and executive director of the I.C. Light Amphitheater. He continued to book artists for shows at Chevy Amphitheater, the Post Gazette Pavilion, and the Mellon Arena.  Engler retired from the music business in 2004 leaving Clear Channel Entertainment..  

Target Energy, Indie Promoter and Author

Rich is now a vice president at Target Energy, a mining and reclamation company. Since 2010 Engler has produced several special event concerts in Pittsburgh. In 2010 he promoted a Bob Marley tribute show to commemorate the 30 year anniversary of Bob Marley's last ever concert which was held at the Stanley Theater. In 2013 he promoted a concert to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band Kansas, which broke out in Pittsburgh and played at the Civic Arena many times.
In December of 2013 Rich Engler published the book "Behind the Stage Door" with 156 pages of stories and photos from his career as a musician and concert promoter.  It is filled with many colorful stories of rock star back-stage antics.  In the book Engler reflects on how he got into the music business and how it changed over the years.  

“I wanted to be a part of this movement  In 1969, when I started my first company, I had the burning desire because this was my music, this was our music, this was our generation, to send a message. And it was a message. It wasn’t just songs, it was a message. That continued on for some time, and then as the business grew, the business started to overshadow the music.”

At the end of his book Engler writes "I just hope through my career, I brought happiness to some people through music, because that was my mission."   Millions of happy Pittsburgh music fans agree.  Mission accomplished Rich!