Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lead Singer for the Vogues, Pittsburgh Pop-Rock Pioneer Died March 1, 2018

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lead Singer for the Vogues, Pittsburgh Pop-Rock Pioneer Died March 1, 2018

Article excerpt

Pittsburgh has lost another of its early pop-rock pioneers.

Bill Burkette, the baritone lead singer for the 1960s group The Vogues, died Thursday of lymphoma. He was 75.

Mr. Burkette, who grew up in Turtle Creek, initially formed the Val-Aires with his high school buddies Don Miller, Hugh Geyer and Chuck Blasko.

They cut their first record, a cover of Petula Clark's "You're the One," in 1965 at Pittsburgh's Gateway Recording Studio.

During the session, they caught the ear of Nick Cenci, who had had prior success with Lou Christie at local label Co & Ce.

He got them on KQV radio and national distribution and, renamed the Vogues, after the old Vogue Terrace Supper Club in White Oak, they saw "You're the One" leap to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. They followed that up with another No. 4 hit, "Five O'Clock World," a rocker capturing the hardworking, hard-partying spirit of their hometown.

While that was happening, it really was a 5 o'clock world for Mr. Burkette and Mr. Blasko, who were both machine operators at Westinghouse Air Brake. It wasn't until they had their third hit, "Magic Town" (No. 21) in 1966, that they left their jobs at Westinghouse and went on the road.

"The Land of Milk and Honey" went to No. 29, and then, with the Vogues picked up by Reprise Records, they went Top 10 again with "Turn Around, Look at Me" and "My Special Angel," both landing at No. 7.

Between 1967 and 1970, they appeared on "The Tonight Show," "American Bandstand," "The Red Skelton Show" and more, and toured as far as England, Australia and Singapore. In the States, they traveled in two twin-engine Cessnas, working almost 300 one-nighters in a year.

It didn't take long before the traveling took its toll on their families, so The Vogues settled back in as a local group in the '70s. Mr. Burkette, living in Murrysville, took a day job as a sales manager for a home improvement company to support his three kids, while also performing with the Vogues until 1983. Eventually, Mr. Blasko kept the group going as the lone original member.

Through the '80s and '90s, the idea of who was "the one" became confused, as there were at least three versions of The Vogues, including one based in Atlanta. …

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