Thanks to the Internet, Pittsburgh's Music History Plays On

By Behe, Rege | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 8, 2011 | Go to article overview

Thanks to the Internet, Pittsburgh's Music History Plays On


Behe, Rege, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Lance Jones has stories to tell. Paul Cramer wants to keep one of Pittsburgh's most beloved radio stations alive. And Paul Carosi burns a torch for the city's most cherished -- and, sometimes, forgotten -- music icons.

In the past year, each has launched a website devoted to some aspect -- in Carosi's case, the whole kit-and-caboodle -- of Pittsburgh music history.

Jones' site, musicasaurus.com, features recollections from his career as director of advertising for National Record Mart, the defunct Pittsburgh-based chain of record stores, and from jobs at Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheatre (now First Niagara Pavilion), first as director of marketing, then general manager. His posts include reviews of live concert DVDs, virtual mixtapes and behind-the scenes anecdotes.

"I love reliving this stuff," Jones says.

Recently, he posted stories about the first Lollapalozza Tour to play Pittsburgh in 1992 ("a complete $ucce$$") and the WDVE Friday Night Rocker of 1992 featuring Blue Oyster Cult, Jefferson Starship, Molly Hatchett and Leslie West, for which ticket sales were so low the venue cut the quality of catering services.

Another recent entry is about a poster National Record Mart commissioned in 1982 to benefit the March of Dimes. The poster featured Donnie Iris, Joe Grushecky, Norman Nardini, Pete Hewlett, Bob Corbin and Dave Hanner, Frank Czuri, Billy Price and Rick Granati of G-Force.

"When I started thinking about the guys who are represented on the poster, and look at that assemblage of talent and what they were doing at that time ... this was a musical stew and all these people were on the verge bursting out on the national scene," Jones says.

The X reborn

When WXXP-FM ended its short broadcast life in 1988, Cramer, one of the on-air talents, bought the station's music library. He's kept this trove of alternative music for the past 23 years, waiting for the right moment to resurrect what was, in its brief heyday, one of Pittsburgh's most beloved radio stations.

In January of this year, he re-launched WXXP at www.live365.com to coincide with the station's 25th anniversary. The stars of the day, R.E.M. and U2, are featured prominently, along with lesser- known bands including Pylon and Martha & the Muffins.

"The question was: Should it just be a nostalgia thing; do people just want to relive their youth?" says Cramer, who lives just outside of New York City. "But rather than be forced to listen to stuff that people might not appreciate, it just seemed like a good idea that we should continue playing current music by artists who were popular during Double-X's time. Whereas, you might have only heard the first solo album by Morrissey on Double-X, now you would hear his entire catalog mixed in, along with that of the Smiths."

The web-based station features rebroadcasts of shows from the 1980s featuring the original disc jockeys, and promotional spots recorded by musicians, including Bananarama, Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons, Andy Gill of Gang of Four, Belinda Carlisle and David Bowie. The iconic station logo -- two black side-by-side X's on a field of bright color -- is featured prominently.

"I think the impression that a new culture and a new music had really stirred up a lot of people," Cramer says. "I think we made a difference, but not necessarily in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has stayed the same through the years. But the people who listened to Double-X were definitely inspired from their listening habits. …

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