Rock Clubs


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Circuit of Pittsburgh Area Bars and Nightclubs in the Classic Rock Era
During the glory days of the classic rock era from the late 1970s to the early 1990s music fans partied in dozens of gritty night clubs and bars in the small mill towns and suburbs surrounding Pittsburgh.  Good paying mill jobs were plentiful.  The workers blew off steam on weekend nights with rock n' roll and beer. A $3 cover charge got them in the door for three sets of hot rock n' roll from 10 to 2 A.M.  They'd quenched their thirst with $1 bottles of Rolling Rock, Miller, or Iron City beers. The bands of Pittsburgh worked the circuit and their loyal fans followed them from town to town.

Almost every town and suburb around Pittsburgh had it's local rock n roll den. Aliquippa's J&L workers frequented Villa's and the Fez.  In the North Hills the Evergreen Hotel, Sunny Jim's, the Spare Room, the Conley Hotel, the VIP Hampton, Uncle Charles, MC's Lounge, and Ketzler's Tavern hosted bands. The clubs in the Tarentum / Vandergrift area were Nicastro's and the Golden Lounge.  Monroeville had Stage One, the Parkway Tavern, and the Brown Derby.  La Steela's / Michael J's pub on Banksville Road was famous for rock and as the cocaine drugstore for Dale Berra of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In Mt. Lebanon one could hear rock bands at the Sunken Cork and Jazz Rock at the Boardwalk from the Parker Brothers and Takin' Names. More rock could be be heard south of the city at Someplace Else, Down the Road on Route 51, Pizzaz Saloon on Route 19, Old Southern Saloon, and the VIP Bridgeville.  The Foggy Bottom Inn in West Mifflin offered both country and rock bands.  Billy Price and the Rhythm Kings were popular in Bethel Park playing the huge Warehouse Club and Al's Cafe. Armco and Pullman Standard workers rocked their nights away and the Ribbit in Butler.  In the West Hills airport area there was the giant clubs, Fredericks, Entertainment City and the Avainti Lounge in Coriopolis.  The Beaver Valley hot spots were Morry's Speakeasy and the VIP Baden.  Gus Socrates's Dancer Club  in Wheeling West Virginia became the regular club of the B.E. Taylor Band.  Ford City residents partied to rock at Jacobs.  The Hollywood Show Bar on Electric Avenue hosted bands like Red, Hot, and Blue in East Pittsburgh.  The El Dorada and Hardy's Pub were the rock outlets for the Greensburg area.

End of an ERA

The circuit of rock clubs ringing the Pittsburgh area slowly closed during the 1990s. Stronger drunk driving laws, the loss of good job paying steel industry jobs that forced thousands to leave Pittsburgh in search of work, changing musical tastes, and the settling down of the baby boomers into families and careers all may have contributed to the diminished audience for the classic rock clubs. .

Below are the stories of three of the most popular clubs and the Rock Star movie set in Pittsburgh's classical rock scene in the 1980s.

Evergreen Hotel
The historic Evergreen Hotel at 1937 Babcock Blvd was one of the first suburban clubs to host Pittsburgh and national rock acts in the 1970s and 1980s. The club began booking country rock, texas swing, and rock acts around 1977 including Gravel, Christopher's Rye, New Haven, the Granati Brothers, the Iron City Houserockers, Norm Nardini and the East Side Tigers, Tumblin Dice, Ezy Elmer, Billy Price and the Keystone Rhythm Band, Powers Run Band, Cross Cut Saw, Haywire, Highway Ghost, the Night Hawks, and Toby Beau. James Nauman owned and booked the club.  Sax master David Sanborn sat in with King Solomon at a gig in 1976.

The Evergreen was a small club with a capacity of 175 housed in an historic building. The bands played in the back room of the ground floor on a small raised stage. The bar was in the front room of the ground floor. Upstairs were 19 former hotel rooms converted to efficiency rental units.

Jim Nauman heard a tape of the Granati Brothers and booked them unseen.  He gave them one of their first gigs in the Pittsburgh area.  Glam Rock Whiz Kid David Werner showed up at the Evergreen one night to jam with the Granati's.  The rough edges of the Evergreen Hotel emerged after a Granati Brothers gig.  The G Bros and their entourage where packing up when a bar fight erupted between Jim Mauman, his mother, and one of the patrons. Beer bottles and glasses were thrown across the room spraying shattered everywhere.  Everyone ducked under tables while the battled raged for 30 minutes.  Nauman's mother yelled. "Homer you're no damn good.  You broke our ping ball machine.  Get the hell out of here and don't ever come back".  When the battled ended the G Brothers and their fans made their escape into the night. 

The Evergreen started out as a high class resort one hundred years earlier.  The Evergreen Hotel was built about 1874 at the base of Evergreen Hamlet, hilltop development founded in 1851 and billed as "Pittsburgh's oldest planned suburb." The hotel's original owner, Mathew Cridge, an Englishman,also established the Evergreen Hamlet Passenger Railway Co. It was a horse-drawn rail car that ran 2.7 miles to Millvale to draw city dwellers to the area for weekend excursions. In the 1890s the bar became the Highland Club, an exclusive gentleman's club which hosted corn roasts and stag outings. Female guests were required to enter only by the side door.

James Nauman's grandparents, Harris and Ada Nauman, bought the Evergreen Hotel in the early 1900s. The Evergreen changed hands twice before the Naumans regained ownership. It was a speak-easy during Prohibition. A trap door in the bar slid open to reveal an area dug into the mountainside which housed the secret speak-easy. Comedian Jimmy Durante and several other celebrities of the era enjoyed libations at the Everygreen.. In 1948, August H. Nauman, son of Harris and Ada, leased the hotel with his wife, Mary where for 20 years they raised their four children in the upstairs apartments. They operated the bar downstairs and made it the first bar in Ross to have a television set.  The bar and restaurant became a neighborhood hangout where working class guys played pinochle and enjoyed drinks after work.

August Nauman bought the Evergreen in the 1970s. After he retired his youngest son, James, who studied economics at Pitt, took over ownership of the hotel and began booking bands at the Evergreen.  In 1988 Nuaman stopped booking bands and relaunched the Evergreen backroom as an upscale restaurant that he named "the Highland Room". Chef Joseph served steak and lobster to high-end clientele. After a falling out with the chef, Nauman converted the restaurant into a strip club. Overtime it became a drug-infested bikers' bar with many unsavory characters living in the upstairs efficiency apartments.

The Evergreen's tragic downfall came in 2004 when owner James Numan was arrested for drug trafficking and running a prostitution ring from the Evergreen. He was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison in 2006. After Nuaman's arrest Julius Dawkins and Robert Marino managed an all-nude female review called Jeze Belles Showbar at the Evergreen. State Attorney General Tom Corbett seized the 135-year-old Evergreen Hotel as it had been used for drug trafficking. During the court battle that followed, the club ceased operations for several months but reopened and remained in business until June 2009. Bob Colosimo, owner of the Barn Landscape and Supply of Ross, bought the building at a state auction for $140,000 fin November 2009. It was torn down in 2011.

Stage One 

Talis Live at Stage One 1984
The Stage One Club on route 286 in Plum Boro had been a night club since the 1950s.  It became a rock club in 1980. In 1960 DJ and music promoter Bob Mack purchased the Belvedere Club renaming ti to White Elephant.  He turned it into an under 21 club.  There he held dances three to five nights a week.  In the early 1960s he booked live acts such as the Chuck Berry, the Coasters. Smokey Robinson, the Drifters, Gary U.S. Bonds, Bo Diddley, and the Shirelles. In the rock era of the late 1960s he booked Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Styx, Lynyrd, Spirit, and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.  Mach took on two partners and renamed the White Elephant the Zodiac in 1970. He booked national acts like Little Anthony and the Imperials on weekends and Pittsburgh area bands Freeport and Brain Child on week nights. Mack sold the Zodiak in 1975.  It became an over 21 club called 2002.

Next door to the Stage One club was a restaurant named the Cattleman's Steakhouse.  It was a land mark along route 286 with its 12 foot tall cow named "Herbie" standing along the highway.  Owner Craig Smilak erected Heerbie in 1967.  Craig Smilak purchased the Zodiack/ 2002 club in 1980 and began booking classic rock bands.  His son Shelly Smilak managed and booked the club.. Stage One held 300 people and had plenty of tables and a large dance floor.  Groups that appeared over the years include Murgatroyd, Scarab, US Kids, Empire, Billy Price and the Keystone Rhythm Band Saturday, the Granati Brothers, Norm Nardini and the Tigers, B.E. Taylor Band, Street Walker, Airborne, Trinity, Tumblin Dice / Shroud, Le Slick, Jet, Empire, U.S. Kids, Arabesque, Everwind and more.  DiCeasare Engler Productions presented national acts at Stage One.  Talis appeared at Stage One in with opener Live Wire in May of 1984.   

Tumblin Dice Stage One 1982

Someplace Else
Someplace Else was the most popular rock and roll bar in the South Hills. It was owned and booked by the jump suited bling wearing Iranian immigrant Danny Tiedi and his wife Linda. They began booking bands in 1978.  Located on Streets Run Road just off Route 51 South Someplace Else was easy to get to.   The club as one large room that held 200 to 300 people.The wide, high, and deep stage along the side wall was roomy enough for bands to set up lighting equipment and large P.A.s.  In front of the stage was the dance floor and the four sided bar.  Another bar was along the back wall.  Behind Somplete Else was the Spruce Motel also owned by Danny Tiedi.  Some scratched the "S' from the motel sign and it became known as the "Ruce" Motel.

Among the many acts that appeared were Joe Grushecky and the Iron City House Rockers, Norm Nardini and the Tigers, The Gunslingers, Eviction, G-force/ Granati Brothers, Red Hot and Blue, The Silencers, King Solomon, Torn and Frayed, Trash Vegas, Stiletto, Brick Mistress, Societies Pliers, Triple X with Fred Nelson,  N.M.E , Axton, Raquel, Dr. No, 18 Names, Whiskey High, Dofka, Tung Bandits, New Disasters, Vahalla, Black Sunday, Truth and Soul, Vibro Kings, High Voltage, Black Label Society, Slit Skirt, Dangerous Man, Overlord, Torrid Desire, Nick Danger Black Rose, Avant Garde. Several top 40 dance cover bands appeared such as Streetheart, Gigolo, and Modern Man.  Among national artists to appear where ZAZA, Warrant, Talas with Billy Sheehan, Danny Stag who went to become a member of Kingdom Come. Bon Jovi jammed with their friend Norman Nardini after they opened for Donnie Iris at the Syria Mosque.  The club closed in 1994.

Eighteen Names at Somplace Else 1987


Rock Star - The Movie
Pittsburgh Classic Rock Singer Rises from Clubs to Super Stardom.

Pittsburgh's classical rock scene was the opening setting of the Mark Walberg movie Rock Star.  Walhberg stars in the role of Chris Cole, a wannabe rock star who lives at home with his parents, works by day as a copy machine repairman and performs at night as the lead singer of the Pittsburgh based cover band Blood Pollution, They are a tribute band that plays the music of the fictitious band Steel Dragon, heavy metal English superstars.  Chris worships the front man singer.  Jennifer Aniston plays Mark Wahlberg's Pittsburgh girlfriend and manager. Nine days of filming occurred in Pittsburgh during 1986. 

The movie opens with the title "Pittsburgh 1980s' and a shot of a theater that looks like the Rex. Blood Pollution is rehearsing in the basement while a movie plays upstairs.  In the next scenes Chris and his Blood Pollution band mates cruise through downtown Pittsburgh singing on their way to attend an arena concert of their idols the Steel Dragon.  After the concert Blood Pollution gets into a parking lot fist fight with a rival Pittsburgh Steel Dragon cover band.  Later we see Blood Pollution perform for thousands on a big stage at the Key Steel factory.  During the show Chris argues and wrestles with his band mates when they fail to play the Steel Dragon songs note for note.  In the next scene Chris shows up at the Blood Pollution practice to find that have replaced him with another singer.  His former band mates tell him they want to play original songs and drop the Steel Dragon cover songs.  Chris is out. His rock star dream is in ruins.

Meanwhile out in Hollywood two Pittsburgh groupies (and friends of Chris) who had hopped on the Steel Dragon tour bus in Pittsburgh give Steel Dragon a copy a video of Chris singing a Steel Dragon song. Looking to replace their original unreliable lead singer, the Steel Dragon guitarist calls Chris on the phone inviting him to audition for the band in L.A.   Chris wins the audition and goes on an arena tour with Steel Dragon.  He makes a ton of money, buys the Batmobile, and ditches girlfriend Jennifer Aniston who moves to Seattle.  Chris becomes a wild rock superstar.  After the tour Chris brings new songs and an idea for the next album cover to the Steel Dragon recording sessions, but is told to mind his own business as he is "voice for hire."  Disillusioned Chris walks off the stage and quits Steel Dragon in the middle of a concert.  He turns up in Seattle where he performs his original "Grunge" songs on acoustic guitar accompanied by a cello at Jennifer Aniston's coffee shop.  By the end of the movie Chris has progressed from a Pittsburgh cover band singer to a Seattle "Grunge" Pioneer.