“Jack’s wasn’t the most beautiful place,” said Cox. “It actually had a dirt floor, but fried chicken, good drinks and great conversation made it a notable after-hours club. Very rarely was there any hint of violence. Nothing like the horrifying stories we hear about today,” said Cox.
Ironically, Dr. Nathan Davis said he also first heard of George Benson’s talents in the early 1960s.
“We were both in Switzerland. I was doing recording sessions and he was on tour with organist McDuff. They kept saying how good he was—and he really was—and still is,” said Dr. Davis.
In the mid-1960s, Darryl Dunn founded a group called The Larells which included the sons of legendary Pittsburgh Courier photographer, Teenie Harris.
Van Harris and Lionel Harris were part of the group, which largely patterned themselves after The Temptations and Motown’s success, said Dunn, who had several relatives living in Detroit and Flint during that time and was enamored with Detroit’s economic boon period.
After graduating from Westinghouse High School in 1964, Dunn relocated to the Motor City to work in one of its many factories—hence the Tempations’ hit lyric, “Plenty of work, and the bosses are paying”—from The Tempts’ classic hit, “Since I Lost My Baby.”
While the ‘70s era remains significant to survivors of the period, says Dunn, for many musicians and performers of the same era—today, it’s almost like it never existed.
“Mainly, because people never really talk about it or speak positively about that era. You always hear about Pittsburgh’s jazz legacy, but never about the great funk, soul and R&B traditions,” said Dunn, a vocalist who also formed a popular group called 8th Wonder in 1974.
By 1976, “I saw the handwriting on the wall and started my deejay business,” said Dunn. “Less personnel meant less headaches as the industry evolved toward Disco,” he admitted. Dunn added that the following musicians are also valuable to the Burgh’s funk legacy: Larry McGee, Tim Stevens, Penny Wilson, Karl Black, Joe Lattimore, Crystal Wilson and The Levations.
After the LaRells disbanded, Boogie Dunn formed the Fabulous Precisions, another popular showband that existed from 1972 to 1974.
Dunn said his groups played various outlying venues including the Masons Lounge in New Kensington, Square Club in Braddock and the New Look Club in Hazelwood, but it was the Beaver Falls Elks where the band hit its stride, said Dunn.
Beaver Falls Elks: The place where stars were
“Most of our jobs were in the smaller towns like Beaver Falls and we also had good gigs at the Oldtimer’s Club in Youngstown, Ohio,” said Dunn.
“In the outlying areas, the patrons treated us like we were big stars. Those people appreciated the bands way more than the inner-city clientele did. And we never took that for granted.
“We practiced hard and made sure our show was tight and worthy of their price of admission. For them, it was exciting for a band to travel to their small towns,” said Dunn—adding that he’ll always be indebted to the late Leon Glover, the Beaver Falls Elks’ Exalted Ruler or General Manager, at the time.
“Mr. Glover gave us a chance, and we never disappointed him,” recalls Dunn. “He was a no-nonsense manager, but well-respected.”
Markie “AJ” Jackson concurs with Dunn’s sentiment, considering his experiences as a young band-leader/guitarist of a Beaver Falls group called Shades of Night, featuring Dicky Morris, on guitar/bass; Darrell Gibson, bass; Kevin “Maceo” Wiley, trumpet with Ronald Bryant and T.C. on drums.
“I worked with Mr. Glover on several occasions,” said Jackson. “Gloves was our guy. Mainly, because he was fair and that’s all you could ask for,” said Jackson, now a retired Army officer in Georgia.
TNT Flashers, as recalled by Rodney “Bogey” Burrows, was probably the hottest group in Western Pa. Burrows not only played with the group, but was a highly-requested drummer on the R&B scene during the ‘70s era.