R&B giant Connors brings classic sound to city

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Excited about the kickoff event launching their new business venture, Ron Atkins and Craig Dawson were pleased with the results of the recent Norman Connors concert. “It was a great performance and a unique way for us to introduce Radio Magic Pittsburgh to the region, said Dawson. More than 125 people brought in 2010 at the Four Woods Grill in Squirrel Hill to the music and creative performance of the drummer, composer, arranger and producer.

Sharing the stage with Connors, who announcer Aubrey Bruce classified as one of the top producers of the century, was singer Joe “Street” Stonestreet an original member of Blackstreet, keyboardist Noal Hydue and bassist Ronnie Wingfield. The hometown brother2brother duo, Winston (guitar) and Chaz (drums) Carter, served as backup musicians and Antoinette Manganas, also a Pittsburgh native, displayed her vocal ability. The night ended with The Tubby Daniels Band.

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WHAT A TREAT—Drummer, composer, arranger and producer Norman Connors pleases a mature audience with his musical talents.

Connors, switching from drums to vocals, performed many of his R&B and jazz hits including “The Creator” and “You Are My Starship.” He also introduced the crowd to songs from his latest CD, “Star Power.”

“Star Power,” his first release in seven years, out since early 2009, is a mix of cover and original tunes performed by topnotch artists like Bobby Lyle, Christopher Williams, Ray Parker Jr., Peabo Bryson, Michael Henderson, Marion Meadows and Norman Brown. The majority of the CD is refreshing with highlights including, “Where Do We Go From Here,” a duet by Howard Hewett and Antoinette, “The Sweetest Taboo” and “Walk on By” also featuring Antoinette.

“Antoinette is real talented,” said Connors. “She has a rich voice and she’s unique.” Connors is known for discovering and working with artists such as the late Phyllis Hyman, Jean Carn and Michael Henderson.

Back from Brazil where he was producing and working to develop good talent, Connors said he is ready to get back to doing his own thing. “I love traveling and working to promote my own music.” He said he conducts 40 to 60 shows a year.

Involved in the music industry since he was a child, he began his career as a drummer influenced by jazz artists such as Lex Humphries and the younger brother of bassist and Jazz-Messenger, Spanky De Brest. A Philadelphia native, he studied music at Temple University and the Juilliard School of Music in New York.

Connors toured with Pharoah Sanders and played on many of his albums. In 1972 he signed with Buddah’s Cobblestone label and recorded his first album as a leader, “Dance of Magic.” In 1975 his music switched to R&B and he soon began working with and featuring other artists. Throughout his career he has had more than 10 albums featuring many known musicians.

Pleased with the outcome of the concert, Dawson said the plan is for his Internet radio station, Radio Magic Pittsburgh.com to sponsor such concerts on a quarterly basis. “The response indicates that there is a need for mature adult oriented entertainment such as this.”

Radio Magic Pittsburgh.com plays R&B and classic soul for the mature adult audience and The Blaze101.com, geared toward the hip-hop audience is the brainchild of Atkins, a former WAMO Radio executive. He was program director for Sheridan Broadcasting. Other than WAMO FM and AM out of Pittsburgh, his jurisdiction included WUFO– Buffalo, WIGO–Atlanta, WATV–Birmingham and WPGR–Pittsburgh. During his 14-year tenure with Sheridan Broadcasting, Atkins held various positions including vice president of programming for American Urban Radio Networks. He said Internet stations are music-driven formats. “When people log on, they will hear their favorite music all the time.”

Dawson, president of both stations has a strong background in sales and marketing. He has been affiliated with numerous newspapers and is the mastermind behind many entertainment projects throughout the area.

Currently the goal of the two entrepreneurs is to commit the stations to creating a positive cultural and economic impact on their listeners, advertisers and the city of Pittsburgh.

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