R&B and roots rock singer Frank Czuri has entertained audiences for over 45 years as a lead singer/vocalist of the Igniters, the Jaggerz, Diamond Reo, the Silencers, and Pure Gold. He has been seen by millions on the PBS American Music Series, MTV, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and in thousands of live concert and club appearances. Frank has appeared on 17 albums recorded on the Atlantic/Big Tree, CBS/Precision, Kama Sutra, Green Dolphin, and Collectables labels. His discography includes the albums “Come Again” with the Jaggerz (1975), Dirty Diamonds with Diamond Rio (1977), Rock and Roll Enforcers the Silencers (1980), Romanic with the Silencers (1982), and five CD releases with Pure Gold. He has also recorded with Norman Nardini, Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, and DT Takos on the “Just One More Time release (2011).
Born in Pittsburgh on September 8, 1948 Frankie Czuri grew up in Penn Hills. He attended St. Bart’s grade school where he met his friend and future band mate Bob “Bubs” McKeag. They began singing together in the school choir in fifth grade. Both R&B fans at age ten they were not into choral music. When the choir director said 'Anybody who doesn't really want to work hard can leave now,” they quit. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post Gaztte Czuri said “Bob and I were sitting next to each other. We looked at each other, got up and walked out." Ironically both have spent the lives working hard on music.
Czuri was swept away by R&B when he saw Bo Diddley, Little Anthony & the Imperials, the Coasters, Clyde McPhatter, and the Crests who appeared in Pittsburgh on the 1959 Biggest Show of Stars tour. He knew then that he wanted to be an R&B singer. Frank and his Penn Hills grade school friends Bob McKeag and Jeff Bobula formed a band playing late 50s and early 60's Rhythm and Blues. DJ Porky Chedwick was their source for songs. The band went through several incarnations billed as the Medallions, the Von-Ls, and the Carvells. They played parties and dances and won a talent contest at the then thriving East Hills Shopping Center.
In the summer of 1963 fourteen year old Bubs McKeg and "Little Joe" Arena started jamming together. McMcKeg and Little Joe recruited drummer Bill Flowers and bass player Joe Santivica to form the Igniters. They started out playing parties and school dances eventually landing a weekly teen dance gig at Oakmont’s Varsity House. Playing to packed houses they performed British Invasion covers tunes. Calling themselves “Inflammable Dan and the Igniters" they released in late 1953 the single "High Flyin' Wine" that was written by radio DJ Charlie Apple. With Apple's help it received local radio airplay. After a falling out with Bubs, Little Joe Arena left the band in 1965. Bubs’ replaced Little Joe with his grade school friend Frankie Czuri. Frankie became the lead singer and the band switched to a more R&B set list. Expanding from their home base at the Varsity House they became popular throughout the Tri-State area playing other teenage and adult nightclubs and fraternity parties. Upon their graduation from Penn Hills High in 1966, the Igniters signed with promoter Pat DiCesare. DiCeasare booked gigs for them throughout the region allowing them to earn a steady living.
The Vietnam draft depleted the Igniters roster when Bubs and Joe Satnivica joined the Navy. The Igniters line-up changed to Czuri, Bob Breide, Byrd Foster, Jeff Bobula, and Gary Gentile. Signing a deal with with Altantic Records in 1968 and they were forced by the label to change the 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 across the East and Midwest. They released a second Atlantic single in 1969 of two original songs “Gonna Try to Work It Out” and “So Long Mama”. Returning from the Navy Bubs rejoined the band which now consisted of Czuri, Bryd Foster, and Fred Delu Changing their name again to “The Friends” they recorded two original songs that were released on Atlantic. They continue to perform live around the Pittsburgh area until they called it quits in 1970.
Czuri was became a member of the the top-40 rock band Hollywood in the summer of 1970. The members of Hollywood were Max Kendricks on guitar, Gene Jockel bass, Marty Sadler organ, Scooter from Cannonsburg on drums and Czuri on Wurlitzer piano. Max, Marty and Frank shared the lead vocals. Frank left Hollywood when Donnie Iris asked Frank to join the Jaggerz a keyboard player/vocalist. Frank recorded two albums and several singles with the Jaggerz. The album “The Jaggerz and Wolfman” was released on Wooden Nickel Records in 1973. Czuri also appeared on the Jaggerz third album “Come Again” released in January of 1975 on Wooden Nickel Records. Czuri performed for four years with Jimmy Ross, Donnie Iris, Jim Pugliano, and Bennie Faiello at the Staircase and other popular area clubs. Jimmy Ross left the Jaggerz to join the Skyliners in 1975 and Czuri left to become a founding member of Diamond Reo.
In 1974 Frank Czuri, Bubs McKeg, Norman Nardini, and Robbie Johns got together to form the bad boy band Diamond Reo. Czuri recorded vocals and keyboards with Diamond Reo at Fox Studios in East Liberty during 1974. Working with producer Tom Cossie Diamond Reo signed a contract with the Atlantic Records subsidiary Big Tree Records. They scored a top 40 hit single with a version of the Marvin Gaye song "Ain't That Peculiar" that was released in December of 1974. Their first album “Diamond Reo” was released in 1975. They appeared on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" and went on a national tour performing with Kiss, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Frank Zappa, Kansas, Ian Hunter, Blue Oyster Cult, and Canned Heat. Adding guitarist Warren King to the band they became a more harder-edged rock band and released the "Dirty Diamonds" album in 1976 on Kama Sutra. It was acclaimed by a British fan magazine as “the best Heavy Metal LP to escape from the U.S. in years.” Diamond Rio recorded their last album "Ruff Cuts" on the Piccadilly label in 1978. Discouraged by lack of airplay and sales the group disbanded later in 1978 as punk and new wave were emerging.
In 1979 Czuri began recording demos of his original songs working again with producer Tom Cossie. Cossie now had his own label Precision Records that was affiliated with CBS Records. Warren King, Czuri’s former Diamond Reo band mate called Frank saying he had also written several songs and wanted to form a new wave band. Having just seen Joe Jackson he wanted to surf the new wave. Frank and Warren joined forces and brought in keyboard player Dennis Takos, bassist Mike Pella, and former Igniters drummer Ron "Byrd" Foster to form the Silencers. The Silencers began rehearsals in the summer. They recorded a demo tape with engineer Bob Clearmountain at Jeree's Studio in Rochester, Pa. Using the demo tape Cossie landed the Silencers a two album record distribution deal with CBS Records before they played their first gig. In December of 1979 the Silencers began recording their first album with producer Bob Clearmountain at the Power Station, Media Sound and Hendrix's studio "Electric Lady" in New York City. Before the album was released the Silencers began performing at Fat City in Swissvale. They quickly became a local sensation. With their energetic live act the Silencers took their show on the road playing showcase clubs across the country. CBS/Precision records released their debut album "Rock 'n' Roll Enforcers" in July of 1980. WDVE gave the record its launch adding several songs to their rotation play list creating the local hits: "The Peter Gunn Theme," "Modern Love," "Head On Collision" and "Shiver and Shake". With the popularity it Pittsburgh the Silencers opened for Hall and Oates at the Stanley in August of 1980. Gaining national airplay "Shiver and Shake" reached number 81 on the Billboard charts.
Billboard Magazine gave the album a great review: "The Silencers are armed with a hard hitting debut. Fronted by the aggressive vocals of Frank Czuri...the Silencers show an amazing command of rock history… This is slashing rock which goes for the jugular."
The Silencers drew national attention on August 1, 1981 when their video for the medley "Peter Gunn, Remote Control and Illegal" aired on MTV on the day that MTV made its first broadcast. It was the 40th video shown on MTV. The video was played in regular rotation on MTV and was voted the #3 most popular video in 1981. MTV has played the Silencers video on several of its anniversary shows. With the success of the video the Silencer toured the country opening for Hall and Oats, ACDC, Heart, Foreigner, and others. Interestingly Hall & Oates, dressed liked the Silencers, scored a hit with their new wave Private Eye video in 1981. CBS/Precision Records released the Silencer's last album "Romantic" in 1981 spawning the local radio hit "Side Walk Romeo". But it failed to chart nationally. Discouraged Warren King left the Silencers in 1982. The band continued playing in Pittsburgh until 1984 when Frank Czuri left.
In 1985, Frank approached the manager of Pure Gold, Henry DeLuca, asking if he could join the group. A lifelong fan and performer of vintage R&B Czuri wanted to sing with Pure Gold. The group and its fans welcomed him. Czuri performed and recorded with Pure Gold for 25 years singing lead, second tenor, and baritone. With Pure Gold Frank recorded five CDs, appeared on numerous PBS "My Music" concert series, performed at Radio City Music Hall, The Waldorf Astoria, and played for the NFL and NHL. Pure Gold accompanied the national R&B, Doo Wop, and early Rock and Roll acts that appeared on the PBS American Music concert series. They performed with Aretha Franklin, Frankie Valli, Chuck Berry, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, The Four Tops The Isley Brothers, and more. Thirty million people viewed the national PBS specials Doo Wop 50, Doo Wop 51, Rock, Rhythm & Doo Wop, Soul Spectacular, Rhythm Love & Soul, Red White & Rock, Rock & Roll 50. Pure Gold was the first non-inductee band to play at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were invited back to be the first group to perform at the Hall of Fame on New Year’s Eve.
Performing at the Syria Mosque in 1986 Pure Gold opened a show for Bo Diddley. Czuri sang a Dells song during the Pure Gold set. After the show Bo Diddley approached Czuri and told him "You were good". In an interview with the writer Julie Toye Czuri says he explained to Diddley that Pure Gold rehearsed a lot. Diddley interrupted him saying. "No, you were good". Czuri said that the compliment meant everything to him coming from the musical legend who inspired him to become a singer when he saw at age 10 at the Biggest Show of Stars.
Bubs McKeag, Czuri’s grade school friend and former band mate, asked Frank to perform at a Igniters reunion concert in 2003. Held at the Harmer House the Igniters reunion concert drew over 500 people and sparked interest in more concerts. After a third successful reunion show the Igniters decided in 2010 to reform. Czuri informed Pure Gold in 2011 that he was leaving to rejoin his first band. His former Jaggerz band mate Jimmie Ross took his spot in Pure Gold. In an interview with the Post Gazette Pure Gold manager Henry DeLuca stated "I think everyone could agree that Frank is one of the best singers around. We thank him for those years and we wish him the best."
Czuri reunited with the Igniters to go back to his blues-rock band roots. Frank joined his old friends Bob "Bubs" McKeag, Fred Delu, Bob Breide, Paul Martello and Raymond Falcsik in the 21st century version of the Igniters. They began playing regular shows throughout the Western PA, Ohio, and West Virginia area in 2010 and appeared at the 2011 Pittsburgh Blues Festival. Czuri and his grade school friend Bubs are still working hard playing the cool R&B, soul, and rocking roots music that they fell for at age 10.