The Igniters were Pittsburgh’s first 1960’s era rock band to release a single on a national label. In the summer of 1963 two 14 year old guitar players "Bubs" McKeag and "Little Joe" Arena started jamming together in Penn Hills. Before moving to Penn Hills from Fort Lauderdale Arena had been an early member of the Kingsmen who later released the hit “Louie Louie”. Little Joe and Bubs recruited drummer Bill Flowers and bass player Joe Santivica to join them. Later in 1963 “Inflammable Dan and the Igniters" released a single written by radio DJ Charlie Apple that was titled "High Flyin' Wine". With Apple's help it received some local airplay. The Igniters became a popular live band. Performing to packed houses at their regular teen gig at Oakmont’s Varsity House, they played Brit Rock and R&B cover tunes. Arena left the band and was replaced by Bubs’ grade school friend singer Frankie Cruzi in 1965. Upon their graduation from Penn Hills High in 1966, the Igniters signed with promoter Pat DiCesare who booked gigs for them throughout the region. Constantly on the road performing, they earned a decent living. Jackie Kier who replaced Flowers on the drums in 1967 was replaced by Ron Foster.
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 Ignitoes change their name to Jimmy Mack and the Music Factory Atlantic released their first single, a pop soul tune, “Baby I Love You" in 1968. It received airplay on some stations across the country. It made it to number #41 on WAVZ in New Haven, Conn. Changing their name again to “The Friends” they recorded two original songs on Atlantic that went unreleased. They continue to perform live around the Pittsburgh area and at a regular gig at a club called Psychedilly. They called it quits in 1970.
After their breakup Bubs and Joe Santivica joined the Navy. Frankie Cruzi joined the Jaggerz. After his Navy gig Bubs and Frankie formed Diamond Reo in 1974 and recorded three albums for Atlantic Records and other labels. Ron Foster went on to be a member the Roy Buchanan Band. Cruzi and Foster later became members of the Silencers. After the Silencers Cruzi was a long time member of the vocal group Pure Group. Bugs performed with McKeag/Lawson Blues Band before going solo.
The Igniters Return
The Igniters reunited in 2011. The current members are Frank Czuri, Bugs McKeg, Fred Delu, Bob Breide, Paul Martello and Ray Falsic. They can be seen performing at Pittsburgh area clubs and on Youtube. The reunited IGNITERS are playing Rhythm and Blues and Soul tunes featuring their stong vocals, tight harmony harmony and first-rate veteran musicianship. The reunited after the great response to their reunion shows jobs at the Harmar House and Syria Shrine Ballroom and Pavillion where they drew 3,000 fans. Since then they have appeared at clubs in the Pittsburgh are and at at the 2011 Pittsburgh Blues Festival.