Pittsburghers rocked at the Decade Lounge in Oakland for 22 years watching their favorite Pittsburgh bands and national rock acts. The Decade was the home base of Gravel The Iron City Houserockers, King Solomon, The Mystic Knights, Red Hot and Blue, Bon Ton Roulet, Billy Price and the Keystone Rhythm Band, and many more. Free to play original rock and blues the music scene flourished at the Decade. As a showcase for rising international recording acts the Decade presented memorable shows with the Police, U2, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Ramones, David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter).The Pretenders, Joe Jackson, The Romantics and the bluesman comedian Reverend Billy C. Wirtz.
Gritty Steel Town Bar
The Decade stood in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh on the corner of Atwood and Sennott streets which became known as the “Corner of Rock and Roll”. A block from busy Forbes Avenue near the University of Pittsburgh, the Decade was an oasis of live rock and blues music in the desert of Oakland’s 1970’s disco bars like Zelda's Greenhouse and Peter’s Pub. Closing out their nights of Oakland bar hopping East End Yinzers shelled out the two dollar cover charge, grabbed a Rolling Rock or Iron, and listened to a set or two of the Iron City Houserockers. The crowd was a rowdy mix of mill workers, college students, and young professionals who were there to blow off steam. Jam packed, sweaty, and loud with menacing bouncers it was a gritty steel town bar.
The Decade had two small rooms that were said to hold 400 people. The front room held a center copper topped bar. A row of stools were lined against the street side wall. There was barely enough room to walk around the bar. The bands gigged in the back room on a wide stage set along the side wall a few inches off the ground. The walls were thick grey stone and the ceiling was low. To soak up the ricocheting sounds parachutes were hung across the ceiling. If you wanted to sit at one of the few tables, you had to get there early. When national acts appeared there was barely room to move or breath.
Dom DiSilvio and his then-wife Jan Chepes purchased the restaurant, which was known as the Pizza Pub, on Attwood Street on October 22, 1973. Fond of 1950’s music Dom renamed it to “The Decade” and converted it into a 1950’s oldies music themed restaurant. It started out catering to the university lunch business and as a neighborhood bar in the evenings. On weekend Dom booked Doo Wop groups.
In an interview with the Pittsburgh Press Billy Price talked about the Decade. "I always like to pay right in front of peoples faces. There was just something that happened there that didn't happed at other places, just because it's a small, tight little room."
In the early 1900's at the corner of Atwood and Sennott stood a small hotel. The first floor bar of the hotel was the hang out of baseball hall of fame member Honus Wagner and the Pittsburgh Pirate. There they may have celebrated their 1903 World Series win. Later it became a restaurant called Atwoods Garden.
Start of the Decade
Gravel Rocks the Decade
Eventually DiSilvio saw that demand for 50’s music was in decline and started booking live rock acts. One of the first bands to become regular headliners at the Decade was the popular country rock band Gravel.that was led by Bob Corbin and Dave Hanner. Corbin and Hanner went on write several hit songs for Alabama, the Oak Ridge Boys, Don Williams, George Jones, Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers, Glen Campbell, and Hank Williams Jr.
Recording artists Diamond Reo with members Warren King, Frank Czuri, and Norman Nardini also played the Decade in 1977 and 1979. Norman started his own new wave band the Tigers. Warren and Czuri came back to the Decade in the 1980s with their band the Silencers.
Rockin the House with the Houserockers
After Gravel broke up, the Iron City Houserockers got their start at the Decade. Playing gritty heartland blue collar rock-n-roll they built up a loyal following that packed the Decade every weekend for years. It was a party every Saturday night with the Houserockers. Formed in 1976 the Houserockers signed a management/ production deal in 1977 with Cleveland International Records and released four critically acclaimed albums on MCA Records in 1979, 1980, and 1981. The house party was over when the Houserockers broke up in 1984.
The Decade also supported jazz fusion in the late 1970s. King Solomon delivered their interpretations of Weather Report, Chick Corea, Stanley Clark, Grover Washington Steely Dan, and more. The band was comprised of sax master Kenny Blake, guitarist Danny Stag, pianist Jerry Meliga, drummer HB Bennett, bassist Skinny Bishop and singer Debbie Asbury. Jerry was a veteran of the Glenn Miller band who went on to tour with Woody Herman. Danny Stag became a rock star with Kingdom Come. Kenny Blake had two top 20 solo jazz albums in 1991 and 1992. Skinny Bishop toured with Gino Vanelli and Bobby Vinton. HB Bennett recorded with Bobby McFerrin on his debut album and did duet with Bobby on the cut "All Feets Can Dance". Together the very talented members King Solomon made great music that drew many loyal fans to the Decade every week.
The Mystic Knights
In 1984 Dom DiSilvio, owner of the Decade club, asked guitarist and ex Silencer member Warren King to form an "all-star" band to bring in customers on club's slow Monday nights. Thus the Mystic Knights were formed with ex Wild Cherry guitarist Bryan Basset, Warren King, keyboard player Gil Synder from the Houserockers. and former Silencers drummer Ron 'Bryd' Foster. The Mystic Knights became a popular blues act and appeared in several Iron City Beer commercials performing their song "Spread Yourself Around." The members changed over time and the band become known as "Warren King and the Mystic Knights of the Sea." Blues vocalist Chizmo Charles and young guitarist Zack Wiesinger were part of the band. Byran went on to become a guitarist with Molley Hatchet and Fog Hat.
Many other Pittsburgh bands played at the Decade including Norm Nardini and the Tigers, the Silencers, Donnie Iris. Bon Ton Routlette, Red Hot and Blue, 8th Street Rox, the Pep Boys, Room to Move, Mike Filosemi, Torn and Frayed, Trash Vegas, Billy Price & the Keystone Rhythm Band and more.
In late 1978 concert promoter Danny Kresege convinced Dom Disilvio to make the Decade a showcase club like the Whisky-A-Go-Go in L.A. and the Agora in Cleveland. In an interview with the Post Gazette Danny Kresge said "In ohter cities, there are such clubs and the have proven quite successful. Pittsburgh needs such a club, and the Decade in Oakland is willing to help support such a concept"
Over the next five years Kresege booked a series of memorable shows that put the Decade on the national Rock and Roll map. The first national act to play the Decade was, a former member of the New York Dolls . singer David Johansen on December, 28, 1980. Johanasen. After his wild show played encore, after encore, after encore and then stood at the front of the stage and shook hands with everyone in the club.
The Ramones rumbled into town for two shows on March 6th and 7th of 1979. An up and coming three piece band called the Police who were getting airplay with their song Roxanne tore the place apart with a skillfully played energetic performance on March 20, 1979. Joe Jackson sang his “Is She Really Going Out with Him” and “Funny Papers" in April of 1979. Pat Benetar hit Pittsburgh with her best shot on November of that year. The Pretenders packed the Decade on March 19, 1980.
A group of young inexperienced Irish Rockers called U2 played the Decade on April 21, 1981. They played five songs, took a break, and repeated the same songs. As it was before they began working with producer Brian Eno, they were not the polished superstar U2 that we know today.
The Decade scored big booking a little-known guitarist out from Austin. In an interview with the Post Gazette DiSilvo said he first saw Stevie Ray Vaughan playing in a dirt-floor club in New Orleans called the Dream Palace, Booking for only $500 he brought Vaughan up North for the first time.Stevie Ray Vaughan made his first appearance in March of 1983 Stevie appeared a second time for $850 before he became a big star. After that he would stop into the Decade to jam whenever he was appearing in the Burgh.
Springsteen and Bon Jovi Jam
After performing at the Civic Arena on September 20, 1984 Bruce Springsteen came to the Decade with his friend Joe Grushecky and performed three songs with Bon Ton Roulet. John Bon Jovi did the Decade on March, 1987 playing a 50 minute set with his friend the manful handful Norman Nardini. Norman had opened for Bon Jovi at the Civic Arena earlier in the day.
Other national acts that appeared at the Decade included the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cindi Lauper, Jimmy Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Albert Collins, Koko Taylor, The Romantics, the Pixies, Johnny Thunders. Alex Chilton, and Meat Loaf.
The Tax Man
On April 1, 1986 the Decade was padlocked by the state attorney general for failure to pay state sales tax of $57,000. Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy the club re-opened that night. It was allowed to stay open while the bankruptcy was processed by the courts. The financial problems continued for a few years. DiSilvio closed the club again in August of 1988 still owning back state taxes. The club survived for another seven years.
End of the Decade
As larger showcase clubs like the Graffiti and Rosebud opened in Pittsburgh the national acts moved on. The local bands continued to appear. Wanting to spend more time with his family DiSilvio sold the Decade in 1995. After 22 years of Rock N Roll Dom wanted out.Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers played the last show at the Decade on August 21, 1995. In a proclamation signed by the mayor Aug. 21, 1995 was officially declared "The Day of the Decade". Outside people were lined in the street hoping to get in. Inside were 400 rockers fans were tightly crammed. Steve Hanson of WDVE led off the show telling the crowd "Time has been suspended, so you're only as old as when you first walked in here, which was 20 with a fake ID." Joining the Houserockers on stage were Warren King and Noman Nardini.
For the next few years it was a still a live music venue for local artists called the Next Decade. It has since been a deli, a lesbian bar, a produce store, and a bar named Cumpie’s. It is currently the Garage Door Saloon.
On the Site of the Decade -photo by Hobo Jones
Diamond Reo Reunion Decade 1995
The Decade 1986
Gravel with Corbin and Hanner
Iron City Houserockers