Fat City Lounge

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Rock in the Shadow of the Mills

The Fat City Lounge located in Swissvale, Pa. was one of the top small venues for Pittsburgh area bands and national blues artists from the 1970s through the 1980s.  Breaking the mold of Pittsburgh’s many top-40 cover song bars, Fat City supported bands that played original music.  It was the launching pad of the Silencers and Norman Nardini and the Tigers.  Also heard at Fat City on a frequent basis was the great funk sax band the Rhythm Kings, the blue eyed soul man Billy Price and the Keystone Rhythm Band, and the Granati Brothers with their mix of rock, reggae, funk, and jazz.  Located one block from busy Braddock Avenue at 2018 Waverly Avenue it was the rock and blues club of the East End and the Mon Valley.  Mill workers from the steel towns of Braddock, Rankin, Swissvale, Homestead, Munhall, and McKeesport partied with East End Yuppies from Regent Square, Edgewood, Squirrel Hill, and Point Breeze.  

Unlike the cramped Decade in Oakland it was a larger venue with more room to move.  There was big round center bar, a dance floor in front of the stage, and rows of tables along both sides of the room.  There was always a good view of the band as the stage was raised about 5 feet above the floor.  It was packed every Friday and Saturday night. The Swissvale Police showed up many a Saturday to empty the club.

Oriental Lounge

The club was originally known as the Oriental Lounge.  Owned by Sid Rubenstein the Oriental featured popular music acts.  Newspaper articles show that it was in operation in 1967.  A Pittsburgh Press article from 1968 lists a weekly schedule of Barry Glen on Tuesdays, the Beau Jacks on Wednesdays, the Teardrops on Monday and Friday, and the Vibrators on Saturdays.  A 1970 Pittsburgh Press advertisement billed the club as “Popular Entertainment Nightly with Go Go Girls”.  The Racket Squad and the Exceptions performed there in 1970.  By 1973 the Pittsburgh Press listed the Oriental as one of the top Pittsburgh area clubs for hard rock along with Mancini’s, the Grog Shop and the Staircase.

Fat City Rocks

Paul Diaz, Dick Dunlap and his wife Tina took over ownership of the Oriental sometime in 1975 renaming it the Fat City Lounge.  Gravel, the Rhythm Kings, Billy Price and the Keystone Rhythm band played there in the mid 1970s.  Salt and Pepper, a band featuring Joe, David, and Rick Granati, started playing there in 1975.  Joined by their brother Hermie Granati, the Granati Brothers played at Fat City regularly in 1978 before they went on tour with Van Halen in 1979.  

Norman Nardini started his band the Tigers at Fat City and made it his home base for years. The highlight of his sets where his energetic tour de force "I'm Burnin' Up" and "Ready Freddy"  

The Silencers made their first appearance at Fat City in 1980 quickly becoming Pittsburgh’s hottest act.  With the Silencers and Nardini Fat City was the Pittsburgh’s early 1980’s new wave club.  The crowds danced to the beat of "Remote Control" and Sidewalk Romeo".  The Silencers played Fat City until their break-up in 1984.  

Other Pittsburgh area bands that gigged at Fat City were the Rave-Ups, Brick Alley (who later became the Houserocker), Floyd Beck, Tumblin’ Dice, the Hell Bad, High Roller, the Eight Balls.

Big Time Blues at Fat City

Expanding into blues in 1978 Diaz and Dunlap booked several nationally known blues acts at Fat City.  Room Full of Blues appeared in August of 1978.  John Lee Hooker appeared in July of 1979.  Willie Dixon, Albert Collins, Albert King, the Nighthawks with Pittsburgh native Jimmy Thackeray, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and the John Cadillac Band all performed at Fat City.  Humble Pie appeared in 1982.

The Skinny on Fat City

Fat City changed ownership sometime in the early 1980s.  The last story about the Fat City Lounge appeared in the Pittsburgh Press in February of 1985.  A Bloomfield woman, Carmen Carmella D'Andrea, was convicted of embezzling $75,000 from a construction firm.  Stealing the funds between 1980 and 1982 she gave the money to two of her nephews who purchased the Swissvale Fat City Lounge.  The Fat City Lounge closed sometime in mid 1980s leaving lots of memories of great music and fun times.  Ironically the building is now the office of a construction company.

Nick's Fat City

In July of 1992 a new bar Nick’s Fat City opened on Carson Street on Pittsburgh’s South City.  It featured an indoor “walk of fame” honoring the bands who played at the original Swissvale Fat City including the Silencers, Nardini and the Tigers, Billy Price, and the Granati Brothers.  It became the home of another generation of Pittsburgh rock bands including the Gathering Field and the Clarks.

Norman Nardini & the Tigers on stage Fat City

2018 Waverly Street in 2011

Oriental Lounge Ad 1970 
Pgh's Finest Exocic Dancers