Morry's Speakeasy

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At the Junction - Beaver County's Entertainment Hot Spot

Rochester Pennsylvania is located at the junction of the Ohio and Beaver Rivers about 25 miles northeast of Pittsburgh and 35 miles southwest of Youngstown. Near the Ohio River junction the hottest entertainment night spot between Pittsburgh and Youngstown operated for over 100 years. Nestled in a secluded wooded cove hidden behind a railroad trestle off the Junction Stretch of Route 18 between Rochester and New Brighton is the hot spot where Beaver County residents enjoyed many days and nights of entertainment. They listened to the music of brass bands of the early 1900's, danced to the music of the big bands of the jazz era, and rocked to the music Beaver County's nationally known rock bands the Jaggerz, B.E. Taylor, the Granati Brothers and Donnie Iris in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Junction Park

In 1900 the local trolley company, the Beaver Valley Traction Company, seeking a way to increase off-hours ridership built the amusement park Junction Park. It featured 2 roller coasters, a carousel, a dark ride, a harness racetrack with grandstands, baseball fields, a dance hall, and a dinner theater. Beaver Valley families rode the trolleys to the park to enjoy summer picnics and to partake in evening dances and shows. A semi-pro league ball team, the Beaver Valley Athletics played at the ball park. The dinner theater hosted dramatic plays and vaudeville shows with comedians, dancers, jugglers, and whistlers. The dance pavilion hosted square dances, balls, and band concerts. The N.A.C. Band of Beaver Falls gave one of the first concerts in 1901.

In 1904 the park was expanded with a $15,000 toboggan slide and automatic swings. The theater ran matinee shows on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday that were free to women and children. The dance pavilion offered dances every night during the summer months. Music was provided by the Lyceum theater orchestra directed by Mr. Frank Herron.

In 1909 the Ringling Brothers Circus arrived by train in New Brighton and paraded 26 elephants and a calliope past thousands of fans down Third Avenue to Junction Park where they performed for 15,000. During prohibition in the 1920s the dance pavilion became a speakeasy purveying illegal whiskey, wine, and beer. An Olympic size swimming pool was added to the park in 1929. The amusement park rides disappeared by 1941 and the pool and the park closed in 1964, but the diner theater endured despite fires, floods, and changes in musical fashions.

Greystone Gardens

Between 1900 and 1940 Beaver County's population tripled. The steel mills of the Beaver valley were booming. Beaver County's depression era generation spent their leisure time dancing to the music of the big bands. 

In the 1930s the Junction Park dance pavilion became known as Greystone Gardens.  It's large ballroom held 400 dancers. The best known nightspot in Beaver County it was a supper club where couples dined and danced to the music of the big bands.  National and local orchestras appeared at Greystone Gardens including Gene Krupa, Lawrence Welk, CBS radio star Ace Brigode and his Virginians, the Dick Stabile Orchestra, Cic Farell, Ernie Casteel and His Music Makers, the Maxine Bufford Orchestra, the Victor Maybray Orchestra Joe Bilotto’s Band, and Andy Justine’s Orchestra. During the 1930s and the 1940s schools and social organizations held their proms and balls at Greystone.  Business boomed during World War II with bands playing every night and the club packed with soldiers home on leave. Owner Dick DeMoss remodeled the building in 1944.

On March 19, 1945 fire destroyed the original wooden Greystone Garden’s building in one hour. Flames could be seen as far away as Ambridge and Beaver Falls. The building was rebuilt and the dance bands continued to perform. Walter Mancing became the manager and owner of the club sometime in the early 1950s. In 1954 and 1955 Greystone Gardens was still featuring diner dances. Bobby Capoto’s Orchestra with singer Ginny Custer performed every Friday and Saturday night. The Ralph Miller Quintet played Greystone in 1956. In it’s advertisements Greystone Gardens proclaimed that it had “The Valley’s Finest Food”.

The Speakeasy

Sometime during the 1960’s partners Jim Grogg and Anthony Reda took over operations of the Grey Gardens, remodeled it, and renamed it the Speakeasy. They continued to book dance bands in the large ballroom. At 11:00 PM on Saturday May 13, 1968 during a strong rain storm a creek on the hillside above the club became damned by trees and rocks. A tidal wave of water came roaring down the hill into the back of the Speakeasy and out into the parking. Cars were knocked into each other by the force of the water. The Speakeasy and the parking lot were two foot deep in water and mud. But the club opened the next day for lunch.  After the flood Jim Grogg decided to move his family to Florida.

Morry's Speakeasy

In 1968 Jim Grogg gave the key to the club to Morry Martin and set up a rent arrangement. Morry renamed the club “Morry’s Speakeasy.  Morry tried his hand booking dance bands and later Go Go girls at the club in 1970.

Tragedy once again struck the Speakeasy in September of 1971. A faulty air conditioner caught fire causing an estimated $65,000 in damages. The ballroom, the kitchen, and the office were destroyed but the front bar room was undamaged. Morry was opened for business the next day. Shortly after the fire Morry bought the building and began restoring the ball room. When the ball room was completed Morry began booking bands.

Taking a chance he gave rock a try booking B.E. Taylor and the Establishment. B.E. packed the club and Morry was sold on turning the Speakeasy into a rock club. He booked bands every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. B.E. Taylor became a regular on Thursday nights, The Jaggerz with Donnie Iris and Hermie Granati also performed frequently. B.E. Taylor went on to record for MCA Records in the 1980s and scored several Billboard 100 hits.  Several Youngstown bands including LAW, the Coconuts, and Scarab appeared often Morry’s in the 1970s.

During the 1970s Beaver County was at its peak population of 208,000  The many mills of the Beaver valley were booming with good paying union jobs. Beaver County was also home of the Penn State Beaver Campus, Beaver County Community College, and Geneva College.  The Beaver County baby boom generation born in the 1950s and early 1960s was ready to party to rock and roll.  Morry's was the place to go.

Morry’s was the only real rock club between Pittsburgh and Youngstown. It was the place to hear great music, drink some Rolling Rocks, meet the girls, and dance. On weekend nights 400 people packed the club. Beaver County kids couldn’t wait to get their driver’s licenses so they could go to Morry’s. The club was a long room with a long center bar. The wide stage was at the far end of the building in front of a large dance floor. The were plenty of tables along the sides of the club with a good view of the stage. It was bigger and more open than the cramped sweaty Decade Club in Pittsburgh and there was room to dance.

Granati's Land Record Contract at Morry's

In 1975 Beaver Falls brothers Rick Granati, Joe Granati, David Granati and their cousin Tony Bonomo formed a band called Salt and Pepper. They began their career performing at Morry's Speakeasy on Thursday nights and began to build a following.  Hermie Granati, left the Jaggerz to join his siblings to form the Granati Brothers band 1976.  Taking advantage of Morry's large dance floor the Granati Brothers had the Speakeasy crowds up and dancing to the sounds of the their own original funky tunes along with funky jazz fusion classics like Low Spark of High Heeled Boys from Traffic, Birdland from Weather Report, Pick Up the Pieces by the Average White Band, Harvest for the World by the Isley Brothers, and Chameleon from Herbie Hancock.  Morry began advertising in the Pittsburgh papers. The Speakeasy was jammed packed with 400 Granati Brothers fans every Friday night. Musicians also came to Morry's to jam with the Granati's.  Herm Granati Senior manned the door collecting the three dollar cover card and greeted everyone.  Donny Iris, B.E. Taylor, bassist Skinny Bishop. singer Pete Hewlett and others frequently performed with the G-Brothers.  

The Granati's drew local celebrities and music executives to the club.  Beaver county native, Tony Dorsett, who was becoming a national football hero at Pitt was one of the G-Bros. early Morry's fans.  
John McGahan, program director of WDVE FM, was a frequent backstage visitor of the Granatis.  Bassist Ray Shulman of the band Gentle Giant turned up one night and became their manager.  Ray brought executive from four record labels,A&M, Atlantic, Private Stock and Warner Brothers to Morry's to scout the G-Brothers.  Rock Hall of Fame honoree Frank Barcalona came to Morry's to sign the Granati's to his Premiere Talent Booking agency.  The Granati's signed with A&M and released their album G-Force in 1979.  After the album release WDVE morning hosts Jimmy Roach and Steve Hansen became frequent visitors to Morry's and spread the word about the Granati's to Pittsburgh area radio listeners.  Morry's was hot.

With the attention that the Granati Brothers and B.E. Taylor brought to Morry's Pittsburgh bands made the trip to the junction to play for Beaver County rock fans. Rich Engler booked bands for Morry and brought the top Pittsburgh bands to the Speakeasy. The Iron City Houserockers, Norm Nardini and the Tigers, the Corbin Hanner Band, Airborne, Billy Price and the Keystone Rhythm band became regulars at the club. Morry used Thursday nights to give new bands a tryout. Other bands who played at Morry’s were Powers Run, Mad House, Everwind, E.Z., Rouge, Nerve, Justin Case, Automatica, the Galley, Chuck Web, Mydus, Street Talk, and Dirty Otto. Morry’s also hosted several country rock bands including the Corbin Hanner Band, the Eaton Brothers, and Tom and the Country Roundup.

Morry's also booked a few national acts.  Gerry Lewis and the Playboys appeared in September of 1978.  Gary Pucket and the Union Gap appeared.  S
everal original members of the Beatlemania cast performed a Beatles tribute show in July of 1983..

Morry sold the club in 1984 and took charge of the smaller Soupy's bar for seven years before he retired.

The Party was over in Beaver County.

In the early 1980s Beaver County suffered devastating economic losses.  One by one the mills of the Beaver Valley closed throwing thousands out of work.  Gone were the mammoth fire breathing J&L mill in Aliquippa, the B&W in Beaver Falls, American Bridge in Ambridge, and Crucible Steel in Midland.  Thousand of families moved out of Beaver County seeking work in other states.  By 2010 Beaver County lost 32,000 people.  Those who stayed behind took several low paying no benefit part time "Walmart" type jobs. The boom times of Beaver County were over.  People had less money and less time to spend on entertainment.  

Chameleon Junction

The Speakeasy changed hands three time since Morry sold it.  In the 1990s the club was renamed the Chameleon Junction. Under the ownership of Mike Lavelle, a former Morry's bouncer, Chameleon Junction showcased national blues acts from 2003 through 2005 including Tinsley Ellis, Carl Weathersby, James Solberg, Debbie Davies, Kenny Neal and Jimmy Thackery. 

Facing competition from newer clubs across the river in Bridgewater and the showcase clubs Graffiit, Club Laga, and Rosebud in Pittsburgh Chameleon Junction was unable to duplicate the success of Greystone Gardens and Morry's Speakeasy.  The club now sits empty in its secluded cove on the other side of the tracts at the junction.

Junction Park
Square Dance at Junction Park
Greystone Gardens AD May 1948
Dick Stabile
Morry Martin
B.E. Taylor Group
The Granati Brothers at Morry's Speakeasy 1977

Joey Granati at Morry's

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