Terry Blinks ♦
Rev. Isaiah & Geneva Brown ♦ Gregory
Carol ♦ Joe Castro
♦ John Christensen
♦ Emilio Civita
♦ Orrin Cross
Louis Jones ♦
Theresa Jones ♦ Tim Kring
Steve Lopez ♦ Jerry
2013 Norman Abercrombie Sr. (1925-2002)
dedicated his life to his family and to music. Born in
Waskom, TX, he was involved with music at an early age,
singing gospel songs at a number of churches in the Houston
area. He and his family moved to Richmond
where he taught himself to play piano. During World War II,
he utilized his musical skills as a second source of income
for his family, but those skills may also have aided him as
he served as a blueprint reader helping construct ships for
the U.S. Navy. He also became a skilled piano tuner and
Abercrombie was employed in
the trucking business when he moved to Pittsburg in 1957 but
had to retire in 1960 because of rheumatoid arthritis.
However that did not stop his musical career, and he opened
the Abercrombie Music Studio at 660 Cumberland St. The
studio was the site of legendary jam sessions where
musicians from all over the Bay Area would come to play and
was a rehearsal space for the Abercrombie Trio that included
Norman Sr., Norman Jr. and Raymond Glasper that headlined in
clubs all over the Bay Area, particularly the Rib Pit in
Pittsburg where owner Walt Hill would join the group as a
vocalist. Though he loved making music,
Abercrombie had an even stronger passion for bringing music
to people, providing music lessons for students young and
old who had a "sincere desire" to learn music. If a child
was not interested, Abercrombie would suggest that parents
not invest in music lesson, but, if a child had interest and
the parents couldn’t afford lessons, he would provide them
for free. Later in life when he moved to Sacramento, he
continued his mission to teach children music working and
sharing music with youngsters at his daughter Patricia
Hill’s day care center.
Pittsburg native Neno Aiello
has lived in or visited all 48 states in the Continental
United States since graduating from Pittsburg High School in
A former radio broadcaster,
he got his first job in Sacramento out of high school. He
was a special assignment reporter doing news, sports and
special events, most notably interviewing models of a new
bathing suit coming from Europe to America called the
bikini. He also covered a House Un-American Activities
Committee hearing on Communists in Hollywood that included
noted actors Robert Taylor and Gary Cooper getting Cooper to
tell him that he had never met a Communist, but if he did
meet one, he knew he wouldn’t like him.
(Cooper, ironically, won an
Oscar for his role in ‘High Noon’ written by Carl Foreman, a
one-time member of the Communist Party who declined to
identify former members and was blacklisted.)
Aiello served in the Army’s
15th Infantry, stationed in Korea in 1951-52
during the Korean Conflict. Upon returning home, he left the
world of broadcasting becoming a social worker and later a
long-time professor at Gavilan College in Gilroy.
When attending elementary
school, Aiello was encouraged by a teacher to keep a diary,
writing down daily experiences and personal thoughts. Though
he jokes that his four daughters, not to mention 14
grandchildren, had trouble understanding why he would take
time to do so, it was part of his daily routine.
He had a vast collection of
diaries with stories of growing up in a typical (Italian?
Sicilian?) family in Pittsburg. As a long-time member of the
Pittsburg Historical Society, he recognized the importance
of the stories as part of the fabric of life in Pittsburg.
He was already in his 80s
when he undertook a major project, and, with the help of
editor Judith Appleby wrote and published his first book, ‘I
Never Fished With My Father.’
The book details life for a
typical Pittsburg family during the Depression. Aiello’s
father was a fisherman, but Aiello had bigger dreams.
More than a personal memoir,
the book reveals long forgotten and hidden stories about
Pittsburg and has become a popular sales item at the local
Railroad Book Depot as well as at Amazon.com. The book has
been widely praised, including a recommendation by a former
U.S. Teacher of the Year, Mary Kent.
Erik Alston was always prepared for being on the big stage,
but as a youngster growing up in Pittsburg, he imagined the
stage would be on an athletic field.
Despite suffering a badly broken knee and being told he
might never be able to walk straight when struck by an
automobile at age four, Alston became a key player at
cornerback for the 1991 Pittsburg High School football team
that defeated De La Salle for the North Coast Section
Championship. But his star shined even brighter in track
where he reached the state meet three times while running
His athletic ability led him to Diablo Valley College and
then to Howard University where he earned a degree in
marketing following the advice of his single-parent mother
who instilled in him to go for whatever he wanted in life.
Though athletics were at the forefront, the arts were also a
big part of his life, particularly music.
He began writing music in 1992, concentrating on both Hip
Hop and R&B, his music infused with a variety of musical
influences from all genres.
He became a popular performing artist and released several
independent albums. He moved to Los Angeles in 2005 to
pursue his musical career with writing, recording and live
performances. He continues the musical side of his career
and was working in a studio in early 2016 on a major
In February 2015, Alston accepted a dare and discovered
another stage on which to shine.
He was asked to do a brief “open mic” comedy set before
performing music in Los Angeles. Both Alston and the
audience enjoyed the experience, and he began to work on
developing comedic and acting skills.
Though still perfecting his craft, his comedy has struck a
nerve – or, at least the funny bone – with audiences in
Southern California, and he has become one of the area’s top
comedians at venues such as the Comedy Store, the Improv and
the Laugh Factory. He also headlined a show in San Diego.
As with his music, Alston is sparked by diverse influences
including Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Redd Foxx.
In November of 2015, he brought together a group of friends
from the Los Angeles comedy circuit to his hometown of
Pittsburg to do a comedy show at the California Theatre. He
plans to return to try to revive comedy in Pittsburg and
bring something back to the community.
Dionico “Nick” Amador began his love of music performing
duets on his tenor sax at the age of seven at El Pueblo
Elementary in Pittsburg.
Amador continued playing music throughout his years in the
music programs at Pittsburg schools and was a proud 1966
graduate of Pittsburg High School and took great pride in
representing the City of Pittsburg.
In 1960, Amador was one of the founders of one of
Pittsburg’s legendary bands, the Royal Heartbeats, who are
pictured in Dr. Ronald McDowell’s frieze, ‘A Symphony in
Art’ in the lobby of the Creative Arts Building. PEAHOF
Inductees Papa John Guerrero and John Guerrero.
The band became one of the hottest acts in Northern
California and later relocated briefly in Los Angeles where
they opened for Joe Tex in the Los Angeles Sports Arena and
signed a recording contract with Capitol Records.
Amador returned to Pittsburg where he helped form another
popular local band, the Originals.
Amador began freelancing in 1970, playing with various bands
as he expanded his repertoire to include jazz, Latin jazz
and fusion sounds.
In 1987, Amador and John Guerrero reunited, creating a
popular R&B group call Cold Soul Blues & Boogie Band. Amador
was also part of the horn section for popular Bay Area bands
Tortilla Soup and In Da House where he performed with his
brother, bassist Ramiro Amador.
A dynamic performer, Amador thrilled audiences, eliciting
excited responses when he’d play his signature song ‘Honky
Tonk.’ During his solo, he would crouch and lean back as far
as possible with his knees just off the ground, a move that
would result in loud applause.
Among the Pittsburg musicians he performed with in addition
to his brother and the Guerreros were Robert Diaz, Tommy
Nunnelly, George and Jerry Lumbre and Larry Barnett.
Terry Blinks ♦ Marian Bologna ♦ Terrence Brewer ♦ Betty Brown ♦ Rev. Isaiah & Geneva Brown ♦ Gregory Brown ♦ Sal Bruno Jill Bugni ♦ Kevin Burns ♦ Ned Canepa ♦ Faye Carol ♦ Joe Castro ♦ John Christensen ♦ Emilio Civita ♦ Orrin Cross
Louis Jones ♦ Terry Jones ♦ Theresa Jones ♦ Tim Kring ♦ Paul Kyriazi ♦ Chris Lanzafame ♦ Del Lanzafame ♦ Ronald Lawson Richard Lay ♦ Lea Sisters ♦ Mary M. Lieser ♦ Chooch Lombardo ♦ Jack London ♦ Steve Lopez ♦ Jerry LumbreSu Mac ♦ Carille Bruno-Thayer ♦ Rev. Dr. M. T. Thompson ♦ Rick Treat
Norman Abercrombie Sr. (1925-2002) dedicated his life to his family and to music. Born in Waskom, TX, he was involved with music at an early age, singing gospel songs at a number of churches in the Houston area.
He and his family moved to Richmond where he taught himself to play piano. During World War II, he utilized his musical skills as a second source of income for his family, but those skills may also have aided him as he served as a blueprint reader helping construct ships for the U.S. Navy. He also became a skilled piano tuner and technician.
Abercrombie was employed in the trucking business when he moved to Pittsburg in 1957 but had to retire in 1960 because of rheumatoid arthritis. However that did not stop his musical career, and he opened the Abercrombie Music Studio at 660 Cumberland St. The studio was the site of legendary jam sessions where musicians from all over the Bay Area would come to play and was a rehearsal space for the Abercrombie Trio that included Norman Sr., Norman Jr. and Raymond Glasper that headlined in clubs all over the Bay Area, particularly the Rib Pit in Pittsburg where owner Walt Hill would join the group as a vocalist.
Though he loved making music, Abercrombie had an even stronger passion for bringing music to people, providing music lessons for students young and old who had a "sincere desire" to learn music. If a child was not interested, Abercrombie would suggest that parents not invest in music lesson, but, if a child had interest and the parents couldn’t afford lessons, he would provide them for free. Later in life when he moved to Sacramento, he continued his mission to teach children music working and sharing music with youngsters at his daughter Patricia Hill’s day care center.
Pittsburg native Neno Aiello has lived in or visited all 48 states in the Continental United States since graduating from Pittsburg High School in 1947.
A former radio broadcaster, he got his first job in Sacramento out of high school. He was a special assignment reporter doing news, sports and special events, most notably interviewing models of a new bathing suit coming from Europe to America called the bikini. He also covered a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing on Communists in Hollywood that included noted actors Robert Taylor and Gary Cooper getting Cooper to tell him that he had never met a Communist, but if he did meet one, he knew he wouldn’t like him.
(Cooper, ironically, won an Oscar for his role in ‘High Noon’ written by Carl Foreman, a one-time member of the Communist Party who declined to identify former members and was blacklisted.)
Aiello served in the Army’s 15th Infantry, stationed in Korea in 1951-52 during the Korean Conflict. Upon returning home, he left the world of broadcasting becoming a social worker and later a long-time professor at Gavilan College in Gilroy.
When attending elementary school, Aiello was encouraged by a teacher to keep a diary, writing down daily experiences and personal thoughts. Though he jokes that his four daughters, not to mention 14 grandchildren, had trouble understanding why he would take time to do so, it was part of his daily routine.
He had a vast collection of diaries with stories of growing up in a typical (Italian? Sicilian?) family in Pittsburg. As a long-time member of the Pittsburg Historical Society, he recognized the importance of the stories as part of the fabric of life in Pittsburg.
He was already in his 80s when he undertook a major project, and, with the help of editor Judith Appleby wrote and published his first book, ‘I Never Fished With My Father.’
The book details life for a typical Pittsburg family during the Depression. Aiello’s father was a fisherman, but Aiello had bigger dreams.
More than a personal memoir, the book reveals long forgotten and hidden stories about Pittsburg and has become a popular sales item at the local Railroad Book Depot as well as at Amazon.com. The book has been widely praised, including a recommendation by a former U.S. Teacher of the Year, Mary Kent.
Erik Alston was always prepared for being on the big stage, but as a youngster growing up in Pittsburg, he imagined the stage would be on an athletic field.
Despite suffering a badly broken knee and being told he might never be able to walk straight when struck by an automobile at age four, Alston became a key player at cornerback for the 1991 Pittsburg High School football team that defeated De La Salle for the North Coast Section Championship. But his star shined even brighter in track where he reached the state meet three times while running the 400.
His athletic ability led him to Diablo Valley College and then to Howard University where he earned a degree in marketing following the advice of his single-parent mother who instilled in him to go for whatever he wanted in life.
Though athletics were at the forefront, the arts were also a big part of his life, particularly music.
He began writing music in 1992, concentrating on both Hip Hop and R&B, his music infused with a variety of musical influences from all genres.
He became a popular performing artist and released several independent albums. He moved to Los Angeles in 2005 to pursue his musical career with writing, recording and live performances. He continues the musical side of his career and was working in a studio in early 2016 on a major project.
In February 2015, Alston accepted a dare and discovered another stage on which to shine.
He was asked to do a brief “open mic” comedy set before performing music in Los Angeles. Both Alston and the audience enjoyed the experience, and he began to work on developing comedic and acting skills.
Though still perfecting his craft, his comedy has struck a nerve – or, at least the funny bone – with audiences in Southern California, and he has become one of the area’s top comedians at venues such as the Comedy Store, the Improv and the Laugh Factory. He also headlined a show in San Diego.
As with his music, Alston is sparked by diverse influences including Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Redd Foxx.
In November of 2015, he brought together a group of friends from the Los Angeles comedy circuit to his hometown of Pittsburg to do a comedy show at the California Theatre. He plans to return to try to revive comedy in Pittsburg and bring something back to the community.
Dionico “Nick” Amador began his love of music performing duets on his tenor sax at the age of seven at El Pueblo Elementary in Pittsburg.
Amador continued playing music throughout his years in the music programs at Pittsburg schools and was a proud 1966 graduate of Pittsburg High School and took great pride in representing the City of Pittsburg.
In 1960, Amador was one of the founders of one of Pittsburg’s legendary bands, the Royal Heartbeats, who are pictured in Dr. Ronald McDowell’s frieze, ‘A Symphony in Art’ in the lobby of the Creative Arts Building. PEAHOF Inductees Papa John Guerrero and John Guerrero.
The band became one of the hottest acts in Northern California and later relocated briefly in Los Angeles where they opened for Joe Tex in the Los Angeles Sports Arena and signed a recording contract with Capitol Records.
Amador returned to Pittsburg where he helped form another popular local band, the Originals.
Amador began freelancing in 1970, playing with various bands as he expanded his repertoire to include jazz, Latin jazz and fusion sounds.
In 1987, Amador and John Guerrero reunited, creating a popular R&B group call Cold Soul Blues & Boogie Band. Amador was also part of the horn section for popular Bay Area bands Tortilla Soup and In Da House where he performed with his brother, bassist Ramiro Amador.
A dynamic performer, Amador thrilled audiences, eliciting excited responses when he’d play his signature song ‘Honky Tonk.’ During his solo, he would crouch and lean back as far as possible with his knees just off the ground, a move that would result in loud applause.
Among the Pittsburg musicians he performed with in addition to his brother and the Guerreros were Robert Diaz, Tommy Nunnelly, George and Jerry Lumbre and Larry Barnett.
Music was always a part of bassist Ramiro Amador’s life growing up in Pittsburg. He and his brother Nick, a sax player, received constant encouragement at home where records and music on the radio played freely.
Amador began playing bass and guitar at age 13 and started recording with friends Rosie Gaines and Curtis Ohlson while attending Pittsburg High School. Upon graduation, Amador toured with the critically acclaimed harpist and violinist Carlos Reyes.
Amador has been the bass player for MALO for over 16 years, appearing on six of the band’s CDs while touring with it and sharing the stage with Tower of Power, War, Confunkshun, Poncho Sanchez and the Jazz Crusaders. He has also played with Pete Escovedo, Sheila E., Jorge Santana Orestes Vilato, Raul Rekow and Alfi Zappacosta.
Amador, who is a co-founder of Pittsburg’s most popular and longest-running bands, the PHDs, has performed and recorded with the Latin Christian Rock group “Bueno.” He has also performed with the band “Many Faces” with drummer Greg Enrico from Sly and the Family Stone. In the past 10 years, Amador has played bass for Lenny Williams, Vernon Black, Lee Oskar, Tierra, El Chicano, Lydia Pense, Little Joe and Pete Escovedo among others.
He has recorded two solo CDs AMADOR (In the Pocket) and AMADOR (Journey Through Pishon) and also helped produce and write the music for a CD for Suave. He also wrote songs for the motion picture “Follow Me Home.”
In 2003, Amador was selected to join the Voices of Latin Rock Project in San Francisco along with the Latin King All-Star group and Los Angeles Latin All-Star Group.
He is currently working with MALO, Point of Return, the PHDs, the Van-Des Trio and Vudu Café, a Texas-based band
Part of a musical Pittsburg family, the Anderson sisters have had an adventurous journey sharing the Word through song.
The four sisters, Stella (Rivers), Dorothy (Stanton), Lillie (Woods) and Lois (Anderson) began singing at a young age at the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church under the tutelage of Rev. Isaiah and Geneva Brown and with the encouragement of their parents, L.C. and Stella Anderson. The sisters have shared their gift in many of Pittsburg churches while growing up and have performed gospel music as headliners in the Creative Arts Building and on concert stages and churches throughout California as well as many other states.
In addition to the sisters, brothers L.C. Jr. and Don were also performers. L.C. Jr., a musician, was in a band that opened for James Brown in his historical Creative Arts Building concert, while Don, a dancer with the award-winning Pittsburg dance troupe Soul Patrol, opened for Bobby Blue Bland when he performed at the Creative Arts Building.
The sisters were moved and inspired by gospel music. The three eldest sisters, Stella, Dorothy and Lillie began in a group dubbed the A & B Sisters with Verdell and Helen Brown. They performed with such nationally known gospel groups as the Mighty Clouds of Joy and The Caravans.
Lois, also known as Laney, could hardly wait to join her sisters and became part of the group even though she had to stand on a box to reach the microphone.
The Anderson Sisters performed both traditional and contemporary gospel. Their popularity led to a recording studio. Their first album, 'Introducing the Anderson Sisters,' included 'I Know of a Place' and 'Tell It,' and became a hit.
The sisters have performed with some of the most acclaimed gospel and jazz stars, including the Dixie Hummingbirds at Stern Grove and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama. They were also nominated for the Best Female Gospel Group by the Academy of Gospel Music Awards.
The arts have always been a part of (LaMar) L.C. Anderson's life.
His sisters, the Anderson Sisters, were gospel stars who were the first group inducted by PEAHOF. They tutored him as he followed in their footsteps as a singer.
But Anderson was also a versatile musician, taught flute and violin at Central Jr. High by PEAHOF Inductee Jack French. He also learned guitar from PEAHOF Inductee Sam Wesley Sr. and later played in a band headed by PEAHOF Inductee Louis Jones.
The 1969 Pittsburg High School graduate played with several bands in high school with friends such as Richard Lay, Primo Arellano, Vertis Fuller, Barry Davis and Lawrence Busby at local gigs.
The highlight was when The Entertainers, a band he headed, opened for James Brown at the Creative Arts Building in 1967 and later opened for Jackie Wilson at the Stockton Auditorium.
Anderson remains involved in the arts as a commissioner of the Contra Costa County Arts and Culture Commission.
Dave Arms (PHS 1980) is a long-time participant in the Pittsburg arts scene. As a child and young man, much of his free time was spent on stage with Pittsburg Community Theatre as an actor and singer as well as working behind the scenes on set construction. He participated in PCT for a quarter century along with his family, including his mother, Evelyn, who was the group’s rehearsal pianist and often played for shows; his sister Pam, a talented actor, singer, choreographer; and sister-in-law, Diane Beaulieu Arms, an award-winning costume designer.
Arms won three Gypsy coats, a traditional PCT award given the outstanding cast or crew member in a production. Among his roles were Hysterium and later Miles Gloriosis in productions of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” his show-stopping over-the-top Elvis bit as the Pharaoh in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Kenickie in “Grease” and the lead in “Lend Me a Tenor.”
Arms, who played trombone in high school, was approached about joining The Floorshakers around the turn of the millennium and has also played with Jamfunkshus and also with the 14-piece Foreverland which is a tribute band for the music of Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five. In addition to playing, he transposes and arranges music for the horn sections.
Benjamin Arroyo, known as Bennie the Bluesman, has been playing the harmonica and singing the blues for more than 40 years.
One of Pittsburg’s biggest supporters of youth and sports, Arroyo, who was born in Isleton, always claims Pittsburg as his hometown while playing all over the West Coast as a guest artist with a number of bands as well as his new Blues To Go band that opened on the Pittsburg Stage at Pittsburg’s Seafood Festival and headlined at the Brentwood Blues and BBQ Festival in 2011. Arroyo has performed in a number of blues festivals in Oregon and Northern California, including Pittsburg’s first Black Diamond Blues Festival, the Red, White & Blues Festival at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton as well as Sacramento and Sonoma.He toured nine states in 2010 playing with R.L. Drew at the BB King Blues Club in Memphis and Johnny Artis in Washington DC during the tour. One of the highlights of tour was playing with Clyde Hopkins, the last living person to play with the legendary W.C. Handy. Later that year, Arroyo introduced Smokey Robinson in his concert at the Saratoga Winery.
He has shared the stage with Junior Walker and the All-Stars, Johnny Nitro, and played with stars from the Bay Area Blues Society, the Eyewitness Blues Band and Tamsen Donner Band.
Layce Baker Jr., known as the Iceman, is one of Pittsburg’s leading bluesmen.
He formed his first band at age 12 and later performed in a band with his cousin Rosie Gaines. While attending Central Jr. High School on its old School Street campus and then at Pittsburg High School, Baker performed numerous times during the lunch hour with the help of supportive teachers.
Baker and his Black Diamond Blues Band were voted the Bay Area Blues Society Blues Band of the Year in 2004. The next year he was voted Central Valley Blues Musician of the Year. He has been a featured performer over the years at the annual Sacramento Blues Society Festival. He has also played at the Monterey Blues Festival and the Portland River Festival as well as blues clubs across the United States.
He played with Carlos Santana, Huey Lewis and Elvin Bishop at the 2000 Bay Area Music Awards. He played in Europe at festivals with Jimmy McCracklin and has performed with Bobby “Blue” Bland, Little Johnny Taylor, Lowell Fulson, the Whispers and California Malibus.
An attorney by profession, but a writer in his soul, Michael Banister is a 1965 Pittsburg High School graduate. A self-described “Army brat,” Banister lived in Japan, Austria and Germany before moving to Pittsburg at age nine.
A voracious reader, his first published works, a pair of science fiction stories, were printed in the Hillview Jr. High creative writing magazine. He began writing again during his senior year at UC Berkeley when he and a group of friends started a poetry magazine called ‘The Open Cell.’ They contributed content, did the layout of the magazine and then sold it on the streets of San Francisco and Berkeley. His love of writing rekindled, Banister transferred from Cal to San Francisco State, earning a degree in creative writing while having several poems and stories published.
He served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia for two years, later publishing a memoir in 2011 of his experiences, ‘Eritrea Remembered.’ He returned to college earning a pair of Masters Degrees at University of Washington and UC Berkeley before becoming a librarian, including two years as head librarian at Robert College of Istanbul. He then earned his law degree and served 23 years in the California Attorney General’s Office, Criminal Division.
While kept busy writing briefs, he continued creative writing with poems published in several publications. He joined a writing group at the Mechanics Institute Library in San Francisco and had his novella ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ published in 2012.
Now retired as an active attorney, Banister’s first novel, ‘Stolen Identity’ was published in March 2015.
Pittsburg native James Barbagallo (born 1952) began formal training on the piano at age nine and made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony at age 16.
He was an internationally renowned pianist, winning the 1980 Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition and in 1982 earning the bronze medal at the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow where he played Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” and the Tchaikovsky Second Piano Concerto in the finals.
Known for his compelling stage presence, Barbagallo was voted Musical America “Young Artist of the Year” in 1980. He earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Julliard. He was a founding member of the Amadeus Trio.
One reviewer wrote, “In Barbagallo, one hears more than a pianist. One heard a musician.” Another lauded his “unusual sensitivity.” The New York Times proclaimed Barbagallo “among the most gifted of our younger American pianists.”
Barbagallo died Feb. 26, 1996, after suffering a heart attack in his San Leandro home on the day he was to make his final recording of the Bach-Silotin piano transcriptions.
Larry Barnett developed as one of Pittsburg's top guitarists during the late 1950s, playing with a variety of bands that continues today as he appears with Natural Blend, a band started more than 40 years ago by John Guerrero and Robert Diaz.
Barnett, who attended Pittsburg schools, graduating from Pittsburg High School in 1962, began playing when he was 13. Joining a band that included Danny Lewis and Paul Davi, the group eventually played at Ann's Club on Second Street in Pittsburg and a pizza parlor in Antioch.
The core group of the band eventually got a regular gig at the Driftwood Bar and Restaurant at the Pittsburg Marina and changed its name to the Driftwoods.
While playing at Fatt's in Concord, the band was introduced to Red McQuoid, who owned a club in Lake Tahoe, and had the band play there for regular engagements. Joining Barnett, who played lead guitar, were PEAHOF inductee Tommy Nunnelly on trumpet and vocals, Nick Amador on sax and Albert Lea as the lead vocalist. The band caught the attention of a USO representative who offered to arrange a Far East tour, but not all band members were able to accept the offer.
Barnett took a break from playing but was later introduced to Joe Tapia by John Guerrero. They talked, and Barnett's musical passion was sparked so they formed a band called Cold Soul that would eventually headline a show at the Concord Pavilion. They played at the Pittsburg Seafood Festival, Pittsburg Blues Festival and were a popular attraction for a decade at the 50s Bash at Bethel Island.
After meeting his wife, Sherry, the couple moved to Kauai for 12 1/2 years before returning to East County.
Barnett reached out to his old friend Guerrero upon his return and joined Natural Blend, playing all over and "having a blast."
San Francisco native Bob Castell-Blanch was a consummate musician.
He loved playing guitar and spent countless hours both as a youngster and later as an adult professional, practicing and refining and expanding his skills. His dedication led him to feel comfortable playing any style from R&B to rock to jazz.
Castell-Blanch became part of the Pittsburg music scene when introduced to PEAHOF inductee drummer Leo Vigil. The two developed a strong musical bond, and Vigil introduced him the Pittsburg’s legendary PHDs in the early 1980s. Castell-Blanch was a perfect fit for the PHDs with his ability to play so many types of music.
He was a key member of the band, which was always featured at Pittsburg Car Shows as well as the Seafood Festival as well as numerous other gigs. He handled many of the band’s bookings as well as powering the Pittsburg sound with his guitar.
Pittsburg native Terry Blinks grew up in church.
The son of Ester Anita Hill and John Arthur Blinks, his ear for music was developed at an early age by his mother who played both piano and organ. He was raised by his grandmother Wealthy Hill, who was a devoted Church Mother. With the support of his mother and grandmother, he began playing piano for church services at age six.
Mother Beatrice Duffy, an accomplished pianist, was impressed by the young pianist and began to teach and mentor him. By the age of 11, he started playing for church services at the Christ Is The Answer COGIC with the full support of Pastor Eugene Reynolds. During 10 years of service there, Blinks began playing for funerals, weddings and other events.
As his musical talents grew, the 1987 Pittsburg High graduate began to share his vocal talents as well, performing with a number of groups and choirs around the state.
He has performed with PEAHOF Inductees, the Anderson Sisters, Barbara Jean Davis and Zilfert Johnson as well as Emmitt Powell and the Gospel Elites, United Voices of Faith Phase 2, the Duffy Sisters, the Just Jesus Choir, Just Praise Gospel Singers, Lisa Hart, Geneva Reed and Stephanie Thompson.
He also performed at the California Theatre stepping in to play a pivotal acting and singing role for writer-producer Dennis Rowe in the gospel musical 'Don't Mess With God...He'll Wash Your Feet' when the original actor bowed out two weeks before the scheduled run.
He conducts and mentors local vocal groups and is always on call to share his gifts with families at funerals.
A 1964 Pittsburg High School graduate, Marian Bologna has turned a passion for art into an exciting and thriving second career.
A first-generation American of 100 percent Sicilian descent Marian was born to Giuseppe and Rosalie (Seeno) Bologna in San Francisco and moved to Pittsburg at age 10 in 1956.
She worked in the corporate world in San Francisco as a regulatory analyst in the public utilities business sector while raising three children.
Her first formal training in art was in acrylic painting under the tutelage of Patricia Burke in the late 1980s, but it wasn’t until she retired and moved to Murphys in the Sierra foothills that her artistic career truly began.
She was introduced to local artist Vienna Watkins and took watercolor lessons from her. The medium suited her personally and unleashed her longstanding love of art.
Known to her fans in the art world as Marianna Bologna, her style is unique, yet simple and is filled with a variety of influences.
She is most noted for her paintings of Kokopelli, a mythic, sacred figure for ancient Pueblo Indians in the American Southwest whose images on pottery and in petroglyphs painted and carved on rock walls date back 1,300 years. She uses a Southwestern style to capture the whimsical nature of the flute-playing god of spring and fertility.
She is also known for her botanical still lifes that show a strong Asian influence.
In addition to her watercolors, which are shown worldwide, she makes jewelry, creates textile/fiber art pieces and has sculpted clay pieces.
She also owns a fine art gallery in Murphys, called Art On Main, where she displays the works of many local Sierra artists.
Since graduating from Pittsburg High School in 1993, guitarist Terrence Brewer has made his mark as one of the Bay Area's best and busiest jazz musicians.
But being busy is nothing new for Brewer, who was drum major for the Pride of Pittsburg Marching Show Band and appeared in a number of dramatic productions in the Creative Arts Building during his high school years.
Brewer is in demand to perform with other artists such as Diana Krall, Pete Escovedo, Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers, Melba Moore, Dave Ellis and Mary Wilson of the Supremes among the many stars that he has played with. In addition, he has his own bands that have performed in over 2,000 shows in the Bay Area and across the United States over the past decade, including both the Oakland and San Francisco Yoshi's, SFJAZZ Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival as well as festivals all over the country. He has also started his own record label, Strong Brew Music. His 2009 Wes Montgomery tribute album, Groovin' Wes, reached No. 1 on several regional charts and was No. 9 on the National Jazz Radio Chart. A more recent album, "Setting the Standard," released in 2011 reached No. 13 on the national chart.
He has studied with Charlie Hunter, Duck Baker, Tom Patitucci, Mark Levine and others and donates time teaching youngsters at middle schools and high schools as well as masters classes at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, SFJAZZ, the Jazz School and the Lafayette Summer Music Workshop. He has served as an artist in residence at Los Medanos College, Chabot College and Santa Rosa Jr. College.
Brewer has been named the S.F. Weekly Jazz Artist of the Year, the Oakland Chamber of Commerce Artist of the Year and won the Bay Area Blues Society's Best Jazz Group Award.
There is probably no one in Pittsburg who has spent more time and done more things in the Creative Arts Building than Betty Brown, who has been involved in more than 100 plays as a director, producer or actor.
Since arriving in Pittsburg in 1960, she has been – and remains – a teacher and counselor, first at Central Jr. High and also at Pittsburg High School and Adult Education. She has touched the lives of hundreds of girls and boys, men and women, sharing her love of the theatre and inspiring them to share her vision and enjoyment of theatre.
In the 1970s, she was one of the founders of Pittsburg Community Theatre, one of Contra Costa County’s oldest theatrical companies. She remains the group’s guiding light and most passionate supporter today.
She has been the recipient of a Shellie Award, Contra Costa County’s equivalent of a Broadway Tony Award, and is prouder still of the numerous Shellies that have been awarded to PCT.
PCT always includes a children’s play during its season series and puts on special productions for PUSD students. Under Betty’s leadership, the company has thrilled and entertained thousands of people over the years, including many seniors who attend performances free or at greatly reduced rates.
Rev. Isaiah Brown and his wife, Geneva, arrived in Pittsburg in 1944 when Rev. Brown’s brother invited him to join him here and work for Columbia Steel. The Browns arrived from Las Vegas and within six months, Geneva became the youngest employee at the mill while her husband accepted a call from St. Mark’s Church on School Street. Rev. Brown served at St. Marks and Mt. Zion for the next 18 years.
Rev. Brown had a wonderful singing voice as did his wife and they got great joy out of singing praise to God and sharing His word through song. Rev. Brown had many connections with gospel singers and was the first to bring nationally known gospel groups to Pittsburg. After Rev. Brown passed away, Mrs. Brown carried on the tradition of bringing top gospel groups to Pittsburg. Rev. Brown created his own nationally known group called the Flying Eagles and Mrs. Brown toured with her own gospel group, Trumpets of Joy.
They created a 130-voice gospel choir in their church and mentored and started the Anderson Sisters, one of whom, Dorothy Stanton, went on to win six Gospel Academy awards. Their gospel choir would join with choirs from other churches on the third Sunday of each month, going from church to church singing. Mrs. Brown continued singing at St. Mark's until her death in 2013.'
When your mother (PEAHOF Inductee Betty Brown) creates a theatre group, it’s no surprise when a son is pressed into service.
However it took no arm twisting to get Gregory Brown to become an active member of the Pittsburg Community Theatre troupe.
Inheriting his mother’s love of the theatre, Brown has appeared in over 50 theatrical productions throughout the Bay Area, although PCT remains the home base for the versatile actor who is at home in dramas, comedies and musicals.
Brown shares his talent and joy of performing with audiences and is also able to share his skills with his fellow actors by working with them, setting them up to bring productions to life and make them sparkle.
He is respected by his peers and has been awarded the PCT Gypsy Coat awarded to the outstanding production member by the director as the person who put the most effort and time into the production four times (and counting) through 2016, the second highest total in PCT history behind the five won by PEAHOF Inductee David Ward.
The original gypsy coat was Fagin’s coat from the 1977 production of ‘Oliver,’ and Brown was the second recipient for his work in ‘Play It Again Sam’ that year. Ironically, Brown later won a Gypsy Coat for ‘Oliver’ when PCT revived it more than 20 years later, and his mother won the Gypsy Coat for PCT’s second production of ‘Play It Again Sam.’
In addition to the Gypsy Coat, Brown has earned several Shellie nominations, Contra Costa County’s equivalent of Broadway’s Tony Awards.
In 2015, Brown and Brian Villanueva realized a long-time dream doing the two-man show ‘Greater Tuna’ in which they combined to play 20 characters in the comedy about the third smallest city in Texas. They even took ‘Greater Tuna’ on the road to Martinez, marking the first time a PCT show ran in a city outside Pittsburg.
In addition to his theatrical work, Brown is a professor at Los Medanos College teaching a variety of writing, literature and critical thinking courses.
Sal Bruno, a Pittsburg native and 1970 Pittsburg High graduate, has been playing in Pittsburg-based bands, sharing his talent and love of music since the 1960s.
Best known for his work as a keyboard and “safe sax” player with the popular group Vocal-ease and the Boogie Men, he has played with a variety of Pittsburg based bands, including the Pittsburg City Band and the Pittsburg Community Jazz Band.
In high school, he represented the city and Pittsburg High School with The Dynamics in “Battle of the Bands” competitions. Other band members were Ned Canepa, who plays in the Boogie Men with him, Danny Gutierrez, Jim Mariner, Rick Cardinale and Bob Belleci.
He has played in a number of bands, including Cross Section, Los Diablos del Ritmo, Whitewater, Flashback and Sound Advice. Recently, in addition to playing with Vocal-ease, he has been in the band Old School.
A versatile musician, he is equally adept at playing American standards, music from the 1940s and Big Band Era to rock, blues, jazz and contemporary sounds.
Because of his versatility and talent both on keyboards and sax, Bruno was called on to sit in with many bands, willingly sharing his talents with any group in need, seamlessly fitting in because of his adaptability.
But his musical contributions to Pittsburg extended beyond performing with local bands. In addition to his work with popular bands, he has been the conductor for the Church of the Good Shepherd Choir for 47 years.
His willingness to share with others serves as a prime example of the how Pittsburg artists give willingly to provide positive contributions to the community.
Jill Bugni grew up in Pittsburg, graduating from Pittsburg High School in 1964. Her parents were active in the community and involved in the arts, instilling their love of creating art in her.
While in high school, she studied art and was encouraged by her teacher Jess Leber. She presented a design that was chosen as the logo for the Pittsburg Historical Society, illustrated a cover of a history of Pittsburg written by Sue Boysen in 1964 with a drawing of old-time fishing boats and did a rendering for the police department’s shooting range. She created logos for several local businesses and painted downtown store windows for the Christmas holidays. When she graduated, she was named the Bank of America winner for art.
Majoring in art in college, she graduated from San Jose State and then began a teaching career in the Central Valley community of Corcoran teaching art at both the junior high and high school levels where she introduced students to the full spectrum of art mediums.
In addition to her teaching, she continued her own artistic career winning awards for her paintings. Upon her retirement from teaching, she expanded her creative efforts into custom jewelry design using both precious and semi-precious stones that are featured in fine jewelry stores throughout the state.
Kevin Burns, a native of South San Francisco and 40-year East County resident is the most highly honored actor in the 40-year history of Pittsburg Community Theatre.
Burns made his debut with the local theatrical company as Bert Healy in the 1994 production of 'Annie' after being encouraged to audition by Pam Arms. He is a versatile performer who has appeared in over 35 dramatic and comedic productions as well as musicals for PCT and has acted in other East County companies as well. He has received eight Shellie Award acting nominations and won three awards in Contra Costa County's version of Broadway's Tony Awards.
Burns has three times won Shellies in the Best Supporting Actor category. He won for his portrayal of Colonel Gillweather in the 1998 PCT production of 'The Boyfriend,' for his role as Lord Brockhurst in PCT's 2002 production of 'Something's Afoot,' and for his characterization of Max Prince in PCT's 2013 production of 'Laughter on the 23rd Floor.'
He is also a three-time winner of PCT's coveted Gypsy Coat awarded to the person who put in the most effort into the production by the show's director, winning in 1998 for 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,' in 2012 for 'Laughter on the 23rd Floor,' and 2013 for 'The Odd Couple.'
In 2019, he portrayed King Arthur in 'Spamalot' and also made his second appearance in 'Noises Off.' In 'Noises Off,' a play within a play, he portrayed Selsdon Mowbray, an older actor quite adept at hiding bottles of the liquid refreshments he thoroughly enjoys on stage and also a burglar in the play within a play. He played Timothy Allgood, assistant stage manager and understudy, in PCT's 1996 version.
In addition to his time on stage, the retired AAA insurance agent has also coached youth baseball and basketball teams both in Pittsburg and Antioch.
Lifelong Pittsburg resident Ned Canepa has always wanted to play music.
The 1969 Pittsburg High School graduate loved hearing older relatives play music and always wanted to join them. Growing up when all of Pittsburg’s elementary schools had bands, Canepa joined the band as a fourth grader at Primary School and began playing trumpet under the tutelage of PEAHOF Inductee Clarence Fornwald. He continued playing trumpet in the Central Jr. High band and also became a member of the Pittsburg Municipal Band under director Delfo Lanzafame, another PEAHOF Inductee.
In junior high he also became interested in the bass guitar and taught himself to play. He became the bass player for several small garage bands, playing for school programs and community events.
At Pittsburg High School, Canepa grew to love playing a variety of music in the concert band, marching band and jazz band. His love and interest in music led him to create several local bands, including a pep band for the Pittsburg Mallards Pop Warner football team as well as a group called the Dynamics that included PEAHOF inductee and long-time friend Sal Bruno. The Dynamics played at school functions and also competed throughout the Bay Area in Battle of the Bands competitions, frequently finishing in the Top Three while winning some.
He attended Cal State Hayward and expanded his knowledge with courses in music theory, music literature and music appreciation.
After college, he organized the Cross Section Band, an eclectic musical group, that was much in demand all over the Bay Area.
He is perhaps best known as a founding member of the popular Vocal-ease and the Boogie Men, one of the Bay Area’s most popular party bands for over 30 years with its trio of female singers and music from the 1940s to today’s sound.
As with many musicians, Canepa was always willing to share his talents, tutoring young musicians in both trumpet and bass. Since his retirement from the steel mill, he has developed a music appreciation class for young elementary students providing them to touch and feel different instruments.
He has long played bass for local churches and was also sought after to perform in church concerts all over the Bay Area. He was also trained in live sound reinforcement and provided his services for churches and also in training young sound engineers.
With his community spirit, he organized a reunion band to play for the first 60s Decade PHS Reunion and performed in the Italian Classics Night in July 2017 to help raise funds for the Isola delle Femmine Society at the California Theatre.
A native of Meridian, MS, Faye Carol sang in a gospel choir at a school where her grandmother taught. Faye moved to Pittsburg at age 10, beginning formal musical training in junior high school.
She gained experience in school choirs and church groups where she honed her craft with gospel and R&B stylings. Martha Young later took the young Faye under her wing and introduced her both to jazz and also to her soul mate, mentor, musical director and manager, James Gamble, a musician and music historian, who taught at the University of California.
Faye toured nationally with the gospel group, The Angelaires and began her professional solo career in the soul genre with her background in gospel, R&B and jazz. With the disco era of the 70’s, Faye expanded her repertoire to include both pop songs and the Great American Songbook as she became a popular Bay Area cabaret performer known for her unique approach and individual style while still respecting the traditional style and artistry of performers such as Judy Garland.
She appeared with Marvin Gaye when he toured and appeared with artists such as Ray Charles, Pharoah Sanders and Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vincent. Winner of multiple awards as a performer, Faye was one of the vocalists to perform at Nelson Mandela’s visit to Oakland.
She has also played and recorded with her daughter, pianist Kito Gamble. She also performs with Marcus Shelby Jr., and provided the musical voice of Harriet Tubman in Shelby’s jazz suite at the Harriet Tubman Museum in Maryland.
In addition to her singing career, Faye is a respected educator and mentor of young singers through her School Of The Getdown.
Joe Castro (1927-2009) was a well-known bebop jazz pianist, who moved to Pittsburg from Arizona when he was seven and graduated from Pittsburg High School in 1945.
He began playing professionally at age 15 and won critical endorsements from nationally known jazz writer and critic Leonard Feather who lauded his "assertively swinging" style. Long-time friend Dave Brubeck, who grew up in Concord, said Castro was "an extremely talented individual, a fine musician, an excellent pianist and a tasteful performer."
Castro formed his first trio that played all over the West Coast and Hawaii while attending San Jose State and later moved to New York when the trio headlined at top clubs such as Birdland, Basin Street, the Embers and Hickory House and toured Europe. In 1958, Castro returned to the West Coast joining the Teddy Edwards Quartet and also recording with his own group on the Atlantic label. He also was the pianist for jazz singers Anita O’Day and June Christy and served as musical director for Tony Martin.
Long-time friend and jazz enthusiast Doris Duke, Castro and Duke Ellington combined to create their own jazz label, Clover Records, and music publishing company, Jo-Do.
Castro moved to Las Vegas in the 1970s and served as an arranger for Joe Williams, Count Basie and Al Hibbler and also served as the musical director and conductor for the Tropicana Hotel’s Folies Bergere for over 20 years.
Although he was born in Chico, raised and attended school in El Cerrito and has played trumpet for both the Diablo Symphony and Contra Costa Symphony John Christensen's musical roots are deeply planted in the Pittsburg musical tradition.
He has played everything from classical to modern contemporary jazz during more than 40 years as a professional musician as well as mentoring young trumpet students on a regular basis and playing for an eclectic mix of Bay Area bands. He has recorded, played with and opened for some of the music industry's biggest names.
For five decades, he has played in Pittsburg-based bands as well as many musicians who have been inducted into the Pittsburg Entertainment & Arts Hall of Fame. His introduction to Pittsburg came after meeting PEAHOF Inductee bassist Curtis Ohlson while attending Diablo Valley College as a freshman. They played in the DVC Big Band with Antioch's Mick Mestek, the future Tower of Power drummer. Ohlson would bring Christensen, whom he nicknamed "Bebop John" to the New Mecca Cafe where he introduced him to Pittsburg musicians, leading to multiple appearances at the Pittsburg Seafood Festival, Pittsburg Car Shows and the Pittsburg Blues Festival.
In 1977, Christensen joined a band called 'Free Coupons' that included PEAHOF Inductee Ramiro Amador and Loggie Williams. He also joined with PEAHOF Inductee John Guerrero, Mundi and Hector Orozco, Monty Bobo and Cheo Concepcion to form the Latin-flavored 'Sexteto Diablo' that year. He also joined a San Francisco fusion band called 'Lifeline' with Ohlson. They later recorded an album at Fantasy records, including a track called 'Comets and Evil Ones' in which Christensen and Kenny G were featured soloists.
In the 1980's, he was a founding member of 'The Latin Connection Band' with PEAHOF Inductees Amador, Guerrero and Tommy Minnelli along with Mundi Orozco and Arthur Addison, who had toured with Ray Charles. The group later evolved into Pittsburgh's popular 'PHDs.' He was also part of the 'Robert Diaz Band' with Diaz, a PEAHOF Inductee, and later 'Cold Soul' that included PEAHOF Inductees Larry Barnett, Pete Riso, Nick Amado, Guerrero and Diaz.
He also performed with PEAHOF Inductees Nicky DePaola and Dan Daniels as part of the Nicky D & the Pittsburg Extreme All-Stars.
In 2019, he still is a featured member of 'Natural Blend,' which includes Guerrero and Diaz, and he frequently sits in with the PHDs as well as PEAHOF Inductee Jesse DeTorres' 'J.D. & Company.'
A native of Italy, Emilio Civita emigrated to the United States after graduating from the Conservatory of Naples and took up residence in New York.
In 1916, the Pittsburg Municipal Band sought him out to become its new director replacing the former director, and he came to Pittsburg by train where he was greeted by band members at the old Southern Pacific station. Coming from the colder climes of New York, he departed the train wearing a long black overcoat and scarf with shoulder-length hair.
Slight of stature, the bespectacled Civita immediately charmed the band members with his warm and friendly manner. He was dedicated to music and willingly shared his knowledge with all. In addition to upgrading the musicianship of band members, Civita was known for hisshowmanship that made the band a popular unit not only for numerous city functions but also one that traveled all over Northern California and the Central Valley performing in parades and special music festivals, including religious festivals. After appearing at the Monterey Peninsula Centennial Festival, Civita and the Pittsburg band caught the attention of CBS, which sent representatives to record the band for on-air use for the network.
Civita left Pittsburg briefly in the late 1920s, returning shortly thereafter with his new bride and moving into an apartment on 8th Street that included a rehearsal/recording studio and was the site of many music lessons given by the professor and his wife. Civita remained in Pittsburg until his death in 1966.
Immediately upon his arrival at Pittsburg High School, Orrin Cross made an immediate impact on students at Pittsburg High School creating a sense of pride and professionalism in the band room and in the Creative Arts Building theaters.
Under his leadership, the PHS band grew and flourished, reaching levels of musicianship and showmanship unmatched by any other Bay Area high school. Under Cross’ direction, the PHS Marching Show Band truly became the Pride of Pittsburg, culminating in its selection to appear in the 2009 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade under the direction of one of his former students, Jenny Martinez.
The list of musicians who flourished under Orrin is endless, and two PHS band directors since his retirement, Rob Dehlinger and Jenny Martinez, are both former students.
Though best known for his work as the band director, Cross was also involved in all aspects of theatrical arts at Pittsburg High School, beginning with his staging of the musical “Hair” in 1974 which sold out the Big Theatre in the Creative Arts Building. In addition to his work as a director, Cross also taught stagecraft classes with several of his students moving on to related careers in theatre and the movie industry.
Tanicia Shamay Currie, known ‘Shamay Speaks,’ has used her ability to organize and her passion to empower others through hosting annual events.
Born and raised in Pittsburg, Currie grew up in a challenging environment, surrounded by people suffering from drug addiction and her personal health issues that have included four heart surgeries. She became the first member of her family to earn a college degree, receiving a BS in Criminal Justice from California State University-Sacramento in 2008.
In 2009 as an offshoot of her spoken word performances, Currie created Cause’ N A Stir Entertainment which combined hosting a variety of concerts and fashion shows with community activities such as toy drives.
She later became a driving force with 9Quota Awards with founder Pierre Reed and Shaun Smith serving as artist relations manager and organizer for the group’s annual awards ceremony for artists in the 925 area code held at the California Theatre in Pittsburg.
She published her first book, ‘Deep Within I Knew He Wasn’t for Me’ in October 2015. She has also been a featured author/contributor to two empowerment books, ‘Igniting the Vision’ and ‘Stand Up Be Heard.’ From 2015 through January 2018, she has created and published 4 book compilations. Her latest published book ‘Meeting in the Middle’ released Jan. 13, 2018. She is passionate about assisting others with sharing their stories. Since 2016, she has assisted 29 people with becoming published authors. She is currently working on her own solo book, ‘Why Me, but Why Not Me,’ also scheduled for release in 2018.
In addition to her work as a substitute in the Pittsburg Unified School District, Currie serves as the CEO of Branches of Community Service, a philanthropic nonprofit she runs with her grandmother Betty Conner and their team, providing help for those in need with back pack drives, toy drives and community fundraising events. She also produces monthly empowerment videos for YouTube and her social media platform.
Music has always been a special place in Ann Custer’s life, taking her on many pleasurable journeys.
Since arriving in Pittsburg in 1961 and joining Community Presbyterian Church, Custer has been involved in the church’s musical program as a choir member, organist and, in 1980, officially becoming the church’s Minister of Music for 32 years, coordinating music to tie in with ministers’ sermons as well as directing the choir and adding to the church’s musical library.
Even after stepping down as Minister of Music, Custer continued to make music as a member of the Chancel Choir and the New Way choral ensemble and as the church’s organist again.
Within the church, she oversaw the installation of the first pipe organ to be used by an East County church, helped to create a hand bell choir with the purchase of hand bells and also led a children’s choir.
Custer has shared her gift of music in the community as well as a teacher in the Pittsburg Unified School District. She taught home economics and music in her first teaching job in Oregon. In Pittsburg, first at a co-op nursery school and later as a kindergarten teacher, she brought music to students, introducing them to a variety of types of music and giving them hands-on training with instruments.
She also worked with senior citizens as well, directing the ‘Singing Seniors’ chorale group for 20 years after reti8ring from teaching. She also served as an accompanist, playing duets with Evelyn Arms for various Pittsburg Community Theatre musicals.
She attended a variety of workshops every summer, refining her directing skills and learning new innovations in musical styles.
Virtuoso musician Dan Daniels has earned the ultimate respect of his musical peers who have dubbed him ‘The Maestro’ for his ability to playing full melody and bass lines simultaneously on the keyboard.
A keyboard player extraordinaire, Daniels has played with the likes of Lou Rawls; Tower of Power; Earth, Wind and Fire; the Whispers, Little Milton, Carlos Reyes, Solomon Burke, the Dick Bright Orchestra, Mike Bloomfield and the New Temptations since beginning his musical journey as a keyboard artist at age 16 when he accompanied Stevie Wonder at a youth talent contest.
He was named the Northern California Blues Society’s 2006 Keyboard Artist of the Year.
Daniels is also an accomplished songwriter and arranger. His Pure Honey Band is known for the smooth stylings he creates for it.
Daniels’ deepest musical roots are planted in Pittsburg where he was nurtured by the likes of Walt Hill and Norman Abercrombie Sr. and the Santoso family, who ran the Liberty Hotel. He is a regular at Pittsburg Seafood Festivals and the First Sunday Jazz Shows originated by Hill at the Liberty Hotel that still continue at the Pittsburg Yacht Club. He has performed at E.J. Phair, New York Landing and also PEAHOF’s Second Sunday Jam sessions. Pittsburg singer and PEAHOF Inductee Nicky DePaola is one of Daniels’ biggest fans and supporters as the two team for many of DePaola’s musical engagements.
Daniels has performed at many Northern California wineries as well as clubs throughout the Bay Area and Wine Country. He has been a guest performer on KPFA Radio and on the Johnny Otis Show. He has also toured Europe. His generosity has drawn him to perform at many nonprofit events such as Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation shows, Make-A-Wish events and to serve as technical adviser for actor Jeff Bridges’ charitable event for children. Daniels serves as a mentor, consultant and instructor for many young artists.
Barbara Jean Davis was one of Pittsburg’s most beloved gospel voices.
Recognizing her gift from God at age five, she began singing and performed her first song, “I Am Willing, I Am Willing To Wait.”
Davis was trained in voice and piano by Hattie Griffin and was one of the youngest performers in the Trumpets of Joy Jr., an offshoot of an early Pittsburg gospel group, the Trumpets of Joy.
At age 11, Davis sang with the Pittsburg Community Choir and was on their 1967 album “What a Fellowship,” as the lead singer on the title song. By age 15, she was the Director of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Jr. Choir, working closely with her uncle and aunt, Rev. Isaiah and Geneva Brown, both of whom have been inducted into the Pittsburg Entertainment & Arts Hall of Fame.
Davis appeared with the Edwin Hawkins Singers on their Grammy Award-winning recording, “Oh Happy Day.” She was a lead singer on “When He Comes” recorded by the Gospel Workshop of America while working with the legendary James Cleveland and Isaac Douglas, “I’m So Glad Jesus Lifted Me” and “I Can Do All Things Through Christ” with the Voices of Christ and Helen Stephens and “Standing in the Need” with Tyson’s World Class Gospel Jubilee.
She used her gift of singing, ministering through song on various tours with top gospel groups such as Emmit Powell & the Gospel Elites. It was said that “She sang ‘til heaven got the news.”
She hosted and instructed many gospel workshops with her longtime colleague and mentor Zilfert Johnson. She was also Minister of Music at St. Mark at Bethel Baptist Church where she took her greatest delight in developing young people’s voices, cultivating them and offering professional training before her death in March 2014.John D’Agostino
A native of Philadelphia, Abbie Day was known professionally to his fans as the ‘Duke of Earl.’
Day, who moved to Pittsburg as a 10-year-old in 1979, was influenced by a wide variety of musical styles as he learned to play guitar.
With a variety of influences including Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye, Day created a unique style called turf music that he brought to the rap scene.
He recorded a hit self-titled rap album, ‘The Duke of Earl,’ in 1989 the year he graduated from Pittsburg High School. He loved showcasing his talent at a variety of Bay Area venues including the Creative Arts Building.
He also was heavily involved in the recording process and reached out to youth by inviting them to his recording studio where he would teach them the art of recording and let them record their own music.
Day’s spirit of community transcended his music. He was active in the Souljahs movement in Pittsburg before his untimely death on Feb. 16, 2017, tuning the group’s musical instruments for its weekly church services, conducting Bible study groups, helping in fundraising activities to support those in need, providing food for the hungry and freely sharing his time and talent to bring friendship and attention to residents of Diamond Ridge in Pittsburg.
Rob Dehlinger has spent a large percentage of his life inside the Creative Arts Building. Both as a student at Pittsburg High School (class of 1992), and as the Pittsburg High School Director of Bands (2000-2006), he’s rehearsed, performed, and worked many hours at the historic location.
Dehlinger grew up in Pittsburg after moving from New York City as a child. After graduating from PHS, Rob studied music at Los Medanos College and then went on to earn his Masters Degree in Jazz Performance from the prestigious New England Conservatory in Boston, MA. While on the East Coast, he performed in many shows as a trumpeter, making his living as a performer for the first time. In the summer of 2000, he moved back to the West Coast and took over for his mentor Orrin C. Cross III as the band director at Pittsburg High School, giving him an opportunity to give back to his community.
In 2006, Dehlinger retired from full-time teaching and resumed his performance career as a trumpet player and backup singer with the popular swing band Stompy Jones. Since then he has performed over 200 shows a year playing regularly at venues like Disneyland’s Carnation Plaza and the famous Top of the Mark in San Francisco. He has toured Europe, Australia, and many other locations.
Dehlinger has composed film scores for Inverse Square Films and Creative Light Pictures. A much sought-after horn player in the Bay Area, he has made many recordings at high quality studios such as George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound.
Dehlinger still resides in Pittsburg, and, despite frequent traveling, he continues to give back to the community by teaching part time at LMC.
Nicky DePaola (PHS 1981) is one of the Bay Area’s most popular performers. A crooner in the style of his idol Frank Sinatra, he is a versatile singer who has performed more than 4,000 shows across the country since beginning his professional career. He was voted Reno’s best lounge act of 2001, and his hit single "Pillow Talk" made Billboard’s adult contemporary Top 100 in 2000. His CD "This Game of Love" also hit the charts.
In addition to performing, DePaola, who has recorded six CDs and is also a popular DJ, is a songwriter who performs his own original numbers with sidemen such as Dan Daniels and John Seppela and his new band, Nicky D and the All-Stars.
A star sprinter at Pittsburg High School with a 9.55 best in the 100, DePaola was a headliner at two shows, CABFEST and The Crooners, in support of the restoration of the Creative Arts Building. He also performs the National Anthem every year for the Oakland Athletics.
Frank DeRosa’s masterpieces are not hung on the walls of museums and galleries
The Pittsburg native’s masterpieces can been seen on the road and at car shows all across the country and in Europe. DeRosa, who was born in Pittsburg in 1927, was one of America’s pre-eminent car customizers whose imagination and vision landed him in 11 different Halls of Fame and on the pages of 138 magazines.
His vision and imagination turned everyday cars from Detroit’s production lines into custom classics.
DeRosa and friendly rival George Barris were the Kings of the Kustomizers with DeRosa known as the King of Mercs for his customizing of many Mercurys, including a purple 1951 Mercury called ‘King of Mercs’ that provided him with a nickname of his own. The customized 1951 Mercury had the heaviest chop (lowered rear end) ever produced.
DeRosa bought his first car at age 15 and learned the basics of auto repair and body works at Bob Dughi’s repair shop. He quit school to join the Navy during World War II where he learned the basics of welding and fabrication that he perfected as he customized cars.
One of his first customizing jobs was to remove the top half of the steering wheel while mounting knobs on either side of the customized wheel to make it like the steering wheel of an airplane.
He opened his shop on Harbor Street in 1949, and the shop remains open today as Pittsburg’s oldest body shop now run by his son, also named Frank and also a car customizer.
Frank, father and son, were featured in Discovery Channel show ‘Monster Garage’ building a 1951 Cadillac the “old-school” way.
While many of Northern California’s top customizers, including Barris, headed south to Los Angeles, DeRosa was content to stay in his hometown creating innovative masterpieces that included cars with refrigerators and televisions.
When people hailed Barris’ creation of the Batmobile for the ‘Batman’ TV series, DeRosa answered with a car he jokingly called ‘Vendetta’ privately because of the friendly rivalry with Barris. It was known to the public as the Sharkmobile or Landshark.
Originally a 1960 Cadillac El Dorado convertible, it was widened and lengthened to 20 feet, 7 inches as DeRosa used parts such as ’56 Packard taillights, ’53 DeSoto grille, ’63 Thunderbird interior, Lincoln fender sections, handmade gullwing-style doors, six-foot fender skirts over the rear wheels to resemble shark fins as well as a set of “shark gills,” topping it all with a padded vinyl roof.
It was hand-done by DeRosa as were all his creations using lead, sheetmetal and sweat, and then he applied a multi-colored flame scalloped lacquer paint job.
Though raised in West Pittsburg and a graduate of Pacifica High School, where he won the music award for his senior class, Jesse DeTorres has always considered Pittsburg his home. He was a choir member and soloist at both Good Shepherd and St. Peter Martyr.
He began his singing career at age nine with his older brother and cousin in a group called "The 3 J’s." He also performed in the Diablo Valley College Traveling Assembly music program that toured Contra Costa high schools as the lead singer for the "Dynamic Four." He joined the Pittsburg band the "Ray-vens" to represented Pittsburg in Battle of the Band competitions all over the state.
DeTorres has performed all over the West Coast and Hawaii as well as on cruise ships and has recently added banjo playing to his musical repertoire. He has done music jingles for Taco Bell, Mexicana Airlines and Birkenstock Shoes as well as performing the National Anthem for Bay Area professional teams and at other events. He has performed with the likes of Sergio Franchi, Pete Barbudi, Dick Contino, Bobbie Freeman, Joe Tex, Huey Lewis, Red Buttons, Lenny Williams, The Four Aces, Frankie Lane, Bobby Rydell, Jerry Vale and Danny Glover.
DeTorres and his show band JD and Company regularly perform in Pittsburg at Car Shows and Seafood Festival as well as black-tie events all over Northern California. He is also a featured performer at First Sunday jazz nights at the Pittsburg Yacht Club.
Robert Diaz has been playing Rock ‘N Roll in bands for seven decades since starting with his first band, The Vandells, in 1954.
The long-time Pittsburg resident later formed a band called The Heartbeats with Blues Hall of Fame, Richard Goldie. The band eventually became The Royal Heartbeats with Papa John Guerrero, John Guerrero, Jerry Lumbre, Nick Amador, Jesse Mora and later Tommy Nunnelly. The Royal Heartbeats moved to the Los Angeles area in the mid-1960s, recording and playing in a variety of venues. They even opened for Joe Tex at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
In 1971, Diaz joined Little Joe & La Familia, writing and recording such songs as “Con Esta Flores” and “Ambicion” with the band. Both songs were included on the album “Manana.”
Flores founded the band Grupo Tejano in Southern California before returning to Pittsburg in 1984.
Upon his return, he joined long-time friend John Guerrero in the band Cold Soul. They also created the band Natural Blend that remains active today.
Diaz continues to write songs and performs all over the Bay Area with different bands.Lou DiMaggio
Lou DiMaggio, a 1949 PHS grad and cousin of baseball great Joe DiMaggio, filled some equally big shoes in the music world when he followed Dick Contino as the accordionist for the Horace Heidt Orchestra, one of America’s most popular bands in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The accordion is part of the Italian heritage, and, as a youngster, DiMaggio’s parents insisted he take lessons from Emilio Civita. His mother was a stern taskmaster, listening to him practice and making him correct mistakes immediately. Though he loved sports, DiMaggio also loved music and continued mastering the accordion, eventually taking lessons from Angelo Cagnazzo, who numbered Contino among his pupils.
DiMaggio, who played drums in the Pittsburg High School band, played accordion for relatives, at weddings and school dances and got stage experience with the Eastwood Vaudeville Unit as did another Pittsburg resident, Bob Grabeau. He also participated in talent contests, including the Horace Heidt Youth Opportunity Program, winning the local contest in Pittsburg by defeating a trumpet player from Martinez and Helen Martini, a singer from Pittsburg. He was then flown to Trenton, NJ, to participate in Heidt’s national radio program that ran on Sunday nights and had knocked Jack Benny out of the No. 1 spot in the ratings.
DiMaggio kept winning and toured with the Heidt band during the contest.
Heidt dubbed DiMaggio "the Yankee Clipper of the Accordion" and had him perform in a baseball uniform until DiMaggio convinced Heidt to let him dress more in the style of traditional Italian accordion players.
While in the U.S. Army, DiMaggio performed in special services. After his discharge, he toured with his own band and was a frequent performer at Lake Tahoe and in Las Vegas. He played numerous USO shows with Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans, Edgar Bergen and Roberta Lynn among others.
Lifelong Pittsburg resident Tony Enea was a talented musician who played trumpet so well that he was a regular member of the Pittsburg Municipal band at age nine.
While trumpet may have been his best instrument, Enea is best remembered in Pittsburg as one of the organists at the California Theatre, which was built by his uncles, Salvatore and Sylvester Enea.
Intrigued by the large organ in the California Theater, Enea convinced one of the theater’s organists, Wilbur McCall to train him. After studying with McCall, Enea studied at the Organ School in San Francisco where one-hour lessons in the early 1920s cost an unheard of $12. He would frequently be driven to San Francisco by his uncles and then would practice on the California Theater organ when they returned to Pittsburg.
He was soon hired as the theater’s fourth organist. Organists would receive musical cue sheets from motion picture studios. Some music was written but organists would often have to improvise providing different types of music to fit different scenes.
The advent of “talkies” with “The Jazz Singer” (released in October 1927) eliminated the need for theater organists, although Enea, who had also learned to play piano, kept his job at the California Theater, which was a stop for many vaudeville stars, including Edgar Bergen, Dick Powell (who got his start as a song-and-dance man), movie star Ray “Crash” Corrigan and even his cousin, baseball star Joe DiMaggio. Sophie Tucker tried to persuade Enea to tour with her as her pianist because he was known for tone as well as his technique. He was an early accompanist for Pittsburg singer Bob Grabeau, who began his career as a wedding singer.
Enea, who remained active in the Pittsburg Municipal Band also played piano for stage bands but rarely played for dance bands.
He played organ for many years both at St. Peter Martyr and later Church of the Good Shepherd and gave lessons in both piano and organ.
Born in Pittsburg on July 13, 1935, before moving to Oakland at age eight, Pete Escovedo is a top Latin jazz percussionist and composer, who always introduces himself at concerts as being from Pittsburg.
He and his brother Coke formed the Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz Sextet in 1960 and played major clubs such as the Matador, Jazz Workshop, The Tropics and Basin St. West. He remains an internationally known headliner today.
In 1972, he joined Carlos Santana’s band, touring with Santana for three years and playing on the albums "Moonflower," "Oneness" and "Inner Secrets." He and Coke then started a band called Azteca.
He has performed and toured with many great and respected artists, such as Herbie Hancock, Mongo Santamaria, Bobby McFerrin, Cal Tjader, Woody Herman, Stephen Stills, Billy Cobham, Anita Baker, George Duke, Boz Scaggs, Andy Narell, Al Jarreau, Ray Obiedo, Dionne Warwick, Marlena Shaw, Barry White, Angela Bofill, Arturo Sandoval, Poncho Sanchez, Chick Corea, Dave Valentine, Najee, Gerald Albright, Prince, and Tito Puente. Three of his children, Sheila E, Juan and Peter Michael, are nationally known musicians.
In addition to being a top-flight musician, Escovedo is also a nationally renowned painter.
Josie Vera Esposito
Pittsburg native Josie Vera Esposito has loved music all her life beginning as a chorus member under the direction of PEAHOF Inductee Jack French at Highlands Elementary School.
She began piano lessons at age 10 and was introduced to the trumpet at age 11 and Hillview Jr. High School. Her fondest musical memories are playing the trumpet as part of the Pittsburg High School Marching Show Band and jazz bands, studying under PEAHOF Inductee Orrin Cross III. After her graduation from PHS in 1987, she continued playing trumpet and piano in the Jazz Ensemble at Los Medanos College as a student of John Maltester and Joan Cifarelli.
She collaborated with Andrea Castro Sutherland as a songwriter creating the duo 'Craft & Creation' from 1986-95, recording several original pieces. She continues performing as a singer with the Good Shepherd Choir.
Music remains her passion, and she stays active as the popular DJ Phinalove for BegaPhina Entertainment with husband, percussionist Lou Esposito II.
In recent years, she has expanded her talents as producer of musical revues at Steeltown Coffee & Tea and the California Theatre, recruiting talent for shows such as 'Italian Classics' and the revived 'Torch Singers.'
She served as the musical director for Poison Apple Productions' 'Willy Wonka Jr.' and 'Peter Pan Jr.' and continues there as the company's theatrical vocal coach. In 2014, she began teaching piano and voice at the Pittsburg Performance Arts Academy.
In 2017, she was co-musical director for the Pittsburg Community Theatre production of 'Hairspray,' earning a nomination for a Shellie Award along with Karen Backcomb and G.A. Klein and has served as sound designer for other PCT musicals.
While attending Pittsburg High School, Chester Farrow was known for his baseball prowess, making the first-team all-league team all three years he played.
He attended San Francisco State, where he also played baseball, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electronics. After working briefly as a city planner, Farrow took a job at Monte Vista High School in Danville where he became a mentor as much as a teacher.
Though he never sang or performed, Farrow inspired students in the technical arts so vital to the presentation of concerts, shows, recording and media. He even briefly managed a country rock band.
Under Farrow’s leadership and supervision, students built a sound system for the Monte Vista football field and the school gymnasium that could be used both for public address and for events.
With a top-flight sound system in place, Farrow offered students opportunities to perform using quality equipment. The concerts that Farrow and his students produced grew in scoop so that that eventually top Bay Area bands, such as Huey Lewis and the News, came to Monte Vista to perform.
Even after Farrow retired from teaching in 1999, he continued his annual Rock and Roll Recital to showcase talented young musicians. The event grew in popularity and was held at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek for a number of years. The 16th annual Recital in 2014 was held at the Village Theatre in Danville.
In addition to helping young musicians, Farrow has helped over 100 former students get jobs in radio, television and related industries as well as jobs with concert promoters where they put their technical training to use aiding artists and audiences to enjoy quality entertainment.
A 1968 graduate of Pittsburg High School, Sharonmarie Fisher was a widely acclaimed singer, musician and writer.
She sang with the Dynamics, which won a Pittsburg Battle of the Bands, the Entertainers, who placed second in a Northern California Battle of the Bands and Haywire while in Pittsburg. She began her singing career when she won a local contest at age 10. She performed throughout Northern and Southern California during a long career that ended tragically in a single-car accident on May 24, 2014, as she was heading to a performance. She shared the stage notably with the likes of James Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Robbie Krieger, Delbert McClinton and Albert Collins.
With the help of old friend Ned Canepa, she organized a group of Pitt High musicians from the 1960s to do a set at the 60’s Decade Reunion in downtown Pittsburg.
Fisher, who sang at the Grand Ole Opry, may have been known best for her country songs, but she was also at home singing rock, soul, blues, gospel and folk music. She called her style “Adult Contemporary with influences of Rhythm & Blues, Soul, Country, Folk and Gospel music.”
Shortly before her death, she received the Legendary Female Rock and Soul Vocalist Award at the Yuba Sutter Butte’s Music Award Ceremony. She won the 1996 American Eagle Award as “Instrumentalist of the Year” from the Country Music Association of America.
She also won a number of awards from the California Country Music Association Music, winning keyboard player of the year for three consecutive years and Album of the Year, “Send Down an Angel,” which she recorded with her son, Phillip John Maldonado. The album included the song “It Feels Good to Feel Good,” which was selected as Song of the Year.
Fisher was infected with HIV in the mid-1980s by her partner who had not told her he was HIV positive, but she battled the disease and became a leading spokesperson and one of the nation’s top fundraisers while doing benefit concerts for children stricken with AIDS as well as other worthy community causes.
In addition to her benefit work, she also served as a mentor for youngsters and other musicians.
A versatile musician, who once wrote and taught Richard Nixon a song he played on the piano at a Bohemian Grove retreat, Clarence Fornwald moved to Pittsburg in 1931 and created the Pittsburg High School band. He taught at Pittsburg High School and oversaw the Pittsburg Unified School District music program, working with students of all grade and musical levels.
He could play any instrument, learning them so he could properly teach his students. He attended San Jose State but once took a semester off to travel the world as a musician on a cruise ship and later headed a four-piece band that sailed on various cruises during the summers of 1929-32. He played in a number of local bands and created Pittsburg’s community orchestra and was the house violinist as well as arranger and concert master for 17 years in the Harrah’s Tahoe/Reno orchestra following his retirement from the PUSD in 1965.
He helped oversee many of the early events held at the Creative Arts Building as one of the founders of the Contra Costa Concert Guild and coordinated the sellout opening night that featured performances by over 500 PUSD student musicians. He later organized and directed another sellout performance featuring PUSD staff members in a variety showcase.
He arranged all the music for his PHS band and created the tradition of the band traveling to various competitions and parades. He also composed marches and the Pittsburg High School hymn. He was always encouraging to his students to continue making music even after graduation.
Pittsburg native Ted Franse never set out to be a screenwriter and movie producer, but his first major project, 'Under the Palm Tree,' is set for distribution in 2019.
Franse attended Highlands Elementary, Hillview Jr. High and Pittsburg High until the family moved to Lodi in the middle of his sophomore year. He enjoyed music, learning to play reed instruments at Hillview and was part of Pittsburg High's marching, stage, concert and jazz bands under the direction of PEAHOF Inductee Orrin Cross. He was also a record setting cross country and distance runner.
A graduate of Cal State-Sacramento, he became a financial advisor and began a radio career as a financial advisor that was heard in both the Sacramento and San Francisco markets. His work in radio would pay off later when he got the idea for a movie he would call 'Under the Palm Tree' after transplanting 15-ton palm trees in a major landscaping project at his new home.
What started as almost a joke proposition of "who would ever think to look for a dead body under a palm tree" was the genesis of what became a movie script. After being prodded by friends, Franse finished a synopsis of his idea in 2016, and set about contacting a number of producers and directors in Hollywood with little success.
A long-time acquaintance from his radio productions knew of his movie idea got him an invitation to appear on a radio show that was promoting a film festival. At the broadcast, he was introduced to Bryan C. Martin, who ran Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival, and Matt Silver. The trio created a script, and Martin directed the movie that includes Franse's son Steele and 13-year soulmate Stacey Brigham in the cast.
The movie had a "Critics Viewing" at the Guide Theatre in Sacramento in October 2018 with another scheduled in 2019 at the legendary Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Franse, who has become known as the 'Palm Tree Guy' in Hollywood already has plans for two sequels. He also created a production company, appropriately named 'Under the Palm Tree Productions.'
Jack French was a long-time vocal music instructor in the Pittsburg Unified School District.
In addition to teaching, French was a featured performer as a baritone in musicals at Fresno State College where he earned lifetime teaching credentials in music and drama. Upon his arrival in Pittsburg, he was featured in leading roles in musicals such as “Gypsy,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “South Pacific,” “Flower Drum Song,” and “Promises, Promises” for Contra Costa Musical Theatre, Diablo Light Opera Company and Los Medanos College.
His initial assignment for PUSD was teaching vocal music at Pittsburg High School and Central Jr. High School.
He and Orrin Cross produced two shows a year at Pittsburg High School, including “Hair” in 1974 in the groundbreaking musical’s first performance by a high school production company.
In the late 1970s, French moved to the elementary level and continued to produce district-wide musicals with fourth and fifth graders as he served as a music specialist at every elementary school in the district. His crowning achievement was a production of “Kids for America,” featuring over 500 students that was performed in the Creative Arts Building.
In addition to teaching in the Pittsburg Unified School District, he also taught drama classes at Los Medanos College.
Growing up in Pittsburg as the youngest of 10 children, Rosie Gaines has always been involved with music. She got her start with a family band called Unity that featured her on organ with brother Carl on bass, cousin Layce Baker on guitar, sister Mal on drums and sister-in-law Dianne as one of the vocalists.
She played in various bands and when doing the demo of a song for the Pointer Sisters, Prince came into the studio, heard her and asked her to join his band, The New Power Generation. She was a vocalist and keyboard player featured on his albums Graffiti Bridge and Diamonds and Pearls. Even after embarking on a solo career, she has continued to work periodically with Prince.
She recorded for the Motown label and is a composer and producer on her own Dredlix Records label. She lives in Pittsburg and tours in Europe.
One of Pittsburg’s top entertainers is Gerald Glasper, a Pittsburg native and 1979 PHS graduate, is a multi-talented singer and dancer.
He has been the lead singer for various bands and currently heads up Project 4, one of Northern California’s most popular blues, funk and R&B bands.
A talented vocalist, Glasper is also well known for his spot-on impersonations of Michael Jackson, Rick James, James Brown and Prince.
Glasper first found himself in the spotlight as a dancer. At age five, he and his brother, Paul Rosie Jr., would dress like twins and performed for friends and family. When the brothers were home together they would get out pots, pans and brooms and would use them to mimic instruments as they would perform concerts with old 45s and albums playing to provide the music. James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, even Tom Jones, Elvis and Jose Feliciano served as inspirations.
In 1976, Glasper watched a dance troupe called the Lockers on television and formed his own troupe called the Jr. Lockers with Brigette Cleveland, Earl Fears, Linda Lewis and Kevin Moffet. The group participated in competitions around the Bay Area and won the Sun Valley Talent Show in 1978. When the group broke up after high school, Glasper continued as a solo act. Glasper, who was the first African American starting quarterback at Pittsburg High School, incorporated his athletic skills into his dance routines.
In 2004, Glasper began singing karaoke when several band leaders heard him and encouraged him to begin performing. Mundi Orozco and Ramiro Amador had him appear with the PHDs, and Jesse DeTorres gave him chances to sing and do some of his impersonations with his band JD & Company. DeTorres took Glasper to gigs all over the Bay Area as well as Las Vegas and Reno as Glasper polished his vocal and dancing skills.
He took over as lead singer for the Floorshakers before starting his own band, Project 4, in 2008 in order to bring some of the characters he created such as Michael Jackson, Rick James and James Brown to the stage. In 2015, he was nominated as the "Entertainer of the Year" by the Northern California Entertainers Music Awards.
Raymond Glasper was born in Waterproof, LA., a small Mississippi River Delta town in 1932, but the family moved to Pittsburg while he was still a child.
Growing up in the Columbia Park Housing Projects, Ray was always interested in and involved in music. While his six brothers and one sister would play outside, he was inside teaching himself to play an old tenor saxophone he found. He also taught himself to play clarinet, practicing from early morning until late at night, keeping his siblings awake.
He attended Pittsburg High School and was taught to play piano and flute by PEAHOF Hall of Famer Clarence Fornwald, who inspired and supported his musical dreams.
After graduation, he joined the military, serving with distinction during the Korean Conflict. He returned home to Pittsburg following his discharge and pursued his musical career.
Jazz was his love, and he lived and breathed jazz every day. But he was versatile and had the chops to play in bands for both Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.
He created a popular jazz band that was in high demand in Pittsburg and throughout the Bay Area, playing locally in many of Pittsburg’s popular night spots, including the Colony Club, Paloma Club, Lavetta Club, the Grapevine and the Rib Pit. He also appeared at Pittsburg’s Seafood Festival. Members of his band included PEAHOF Hall of Famer Norman Abercrombie, E.J. Rice, Jerry Oakley, Hillary Dancy and Bernie McAfee.
In addition to Pittsburg clubs, he headlined in San Francisco at Bimbo’s 365 Club and Bop City as well as in Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and El Cerrito as well as Diablo Valley College.
Glasper was as well known for tutoring and mentoring Pittsburg youngsters, particularly at Hillview Jr. High and Pittsburg High School. Upon his death in 2002, his instruments were donated to Hillview’s music program.
Bob Grabeau (1928-2008) was a silky-smooth singer, who was used by a who’s-who of the music industry’s top lyricists, composers, conductors and arrangers to sing their songs. His voice and phrasings were sought-after as he made more than 5,000 demonstration records to sell songs to the likes of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.
Bennett agreed to record "The Shadow of Your Smile" after hearing Grabeau’s recording and told him, "I recorded it after listening to your demo every day for eight to 10 weeks. I hope I did it as well as you did it."
Grabeau, a 1946 PHS grad who later married his high school sweetheart, Marge, a former Miss Contra Costa County, began performing professionally as a teenager in local stage shows and radio programs on KGO and KFRC as well as appearing as a guest on other shows.
He was signed by Capitol Records in 1948 after being "discovered" by Paul Weston. Within six months, he was hired as the featured male vocalist for the Jan Garber Orchestra and recorded hits such as "You’re Breaking My Heart" and "Jealous Heart." "Jealous Heart" was included in the Reader’s Digest CD "Big Band Memories."
Grabeau also recorded eight big band songs for the Time-Life series of swing era songs that has sold over one million copies and, ironically, was chosen over Ray Eberle, one of his favorite singers, to sing several Eberle hits on the CD.
He was also used on recordings by Disneyland Records, subbing for star Tommy Sands on the "Babes in Toyland" album that received a Grammy nomination in 1961. The following year he sang the love song "Bella Notte" on a new recording of "Lady and the Tramp."
He was featured on a number of television shows and was a vocal coach for many young television and movie stars.
John grew up surrounded with music. His dad, Papa John, a 2013 PEAHOF inductee, played the trumpet with several orchestras, including The Pittsburg Municipal Band. His mom, Liz, had a beautiful voice and they performed at parties all over the Bay Area.
John picked up his dad’s trumpet and eventually took lessons from Emilio Civitas. He played trumpet under the fine direction of Clarence Fornwald and Mr. Dore when he switched to French horn and received a Blue Ribbon at the Spring Festival. He played in the Pittsburg High School Orchestra and marching band. He eventually started singing and playing Bass Guitar joining the Royal Heartbeats with his Dad, brothers and Robert Diaz. This was in the early 1960’s. He was doing gigs at Eddies Place, next door to the Mecca, at age 15.
They appeared with Jimmy McCracklin at the Cotton Club in old downtown Pittsburg. Eventually the whole band moved to the Los Angeles area where Papa John had to undergo his dialysis treatments as no machines were available in Northern California. They played for numerous gigs in L.A. and opened for Joe Tex at the L.A. Sports Arena. He eventually joined Brown Soul, a band lead by his brother-in- law, Robert Diaz, (another Pittsburg musician), playing Latin Music all over Southern California.
In 1971 he moved back to Pittsburg and joined a band with Mundi Orozco called the Midnight Devils and eventually became known as the Latin Connection. After many years a band was formed with local Pittsburg High School graduates that later became known as “Sexteto Diablo” when he started playing the 12 string guitar and background singing on all their original songs. They appeared with Los Lobos, Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades, Willie Colon, Fania Allstars and Tito Puente. Some of the most memorable gigs were playing for Ceasar Chavez rally and the Greek Theater in Berkeley, Calif., where over 30,000 people cheered and supported this original Salsa Band.
After over 10 years, everyone went their separate ways and John started the Cold Soul Band along with Larry Barnett. They played for the first eight Sea Food Festivals, 50’s Bash in Bethel Island, Rivertown Jamboree; also performed with Sly and the Family Stone, Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, Confunction and at numerous local fund raisers; many of which included Fund Raiser for Baby Jessica, singing for the elderly in convalescent homes. Manianitas for friends and family, and the fund raiser for the Creative Arts Building and performing at clubs all over the Bay Area, including Lake Tahoe and Reno where they appeared at the Peppermill. They have played for weddings of generations of local families; including parents, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
After the passing of the lead singer and departure of Larry Barnett (who moved to Hawaii), he joined a band now called Natural Blend. The members include Robert Diaz, Larry Barnett and John Christensen, former members of Sexteto Diablo and Cold Soul. After being diagnosed with Parkinson Disease and successfully undergoing Deep Brain Stimulation Surgeries in October 2009 he continues to perform with Natural Blend.
Papa John Guerrero initially was a member of the world famous Santa Fe Indian Band out of Winslow, AZ. They performed for President Eisenhower’s inauguration as well as many national parades and events. He also played in a trio called "Los Tres Malias" with Pepe Villareno, a nationally recognized music professor at San Diego State University.
While living in Pittsburg, he played trumpet with many large orchestras including Felix Urbina’s. He also played with a local group which included Sal Duarte, Tony Gomez and Jess Melgoza. He directed the Royal Heartbeats for many years and played for numerous public and private events.
Well-known and respected by co-workers at the U.S. Postal Service, he was involved in a number of organizations ranging from MAPA (Mexican American Political Association), Moose and Knights of Columbus. He was active in youth and community projects and made everlasting contributions to the Pittsburg cultural scene with his mentorship of young musicians such as Tom Nunnelly, Nick Amador, Jerry Lumbre, John Guerrero, Jr., Robert Diaz, Ron Coniglio and Ray Stem.
After experiencing renal failure he relocated to Los Angeles to undergo dialysis treatment. The Royal Heartbeats soon followed him to L.A. and signed on with Capital Records and were managed by "Spanky" from The Little Rascals who booked them for an event at Jimmy Stewart’s home. They also opened for Joe Tex at the L.A. Sports Arena. Papa John and the Royal Heartbeats performed on numerous occasions at the Creative Arts Building including Sept. 16, 1966, along with Little Dion and Archie Moore. The picture from the poster for that event is featured in Dr. Ronald McDowell’s frieze in the Creative Arts Building lobby.
Pittsburg native Luis Gutierrez was a child of the Great Depression who overcame adversity to become one of the Bay Area’s foremost artists as well as a mentor to numerous younger artists.
Born in 1933, Gutierrez was only five when his father died. He, his two brothers and mother worked hard to make ends meet. Gutierrez contributed to the family by selling newspapers and shining shoes for the soldiers who were stationed at Camp Stoneman.
He attended Pittsburg High School, where he was a starter on the basketball team. Gutierrez loved art and was encouraged by Clariesse Bois to pursue his artistic dreams. He was awarded the prestigious Bank of America merit award when he graduated in 1952.
He made what he considers a life-changing decision to attend the county’s new junior college, now called Diablo Valley College, where he was inspired both academically and artistically. From there, he went to San Jose State where he earned his B.A. and then began studies for his Masters.
But he was already an artist of note with a growing fan base, including Miss Evadne Wenker and Dr. David Harris, who convinced him to continue his studies at the Insituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. His new patrons created a benefit which also helped him financially while attending the school.
Upon graduation, Gutierrez returned home to Pittsburg, rented a house that he turned into a studio and began painting. Influenced by Picasso and Matisse as well as abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem deKooning, he created works drawing upon multiple artistic methods.
While in Pittsburg, he was substitute teacher at Pittsburg schools where he met and mentored Pittsburg artist Victor Bagno. He later moved to the South Bay where he made Los Gatos his home while serving as an art instructor at San Jose City College until his retirement in 1995.
His works have been displayed at the DeYoung Museum, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Jose Museum of Art, Oakland Museum, Triton Museum, Mexican Museum in San Francisco and the Instituto Allende Museum in Mexico as well as numerous university galleries, including Saint Mary’s College in the fall of 2015.
He is the winner of the James D. Phelan Award, the Ford Foundation Purchase Award and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant.
Silvester Henderson, a full-time professor of Choral Activities and Emeritus Chair of the Music Department at Los Medanos College, is a nationally recognized educator, musician and conductor, most prominently know for his gospel works.
Henderson, who has a Master of Arts degree from San Francisco State, oversees the LMC College Chorus, Chamber Chorale and Gospel Choir in addition to teaching a variety of courses. He also developed a ‘Gospel Piano Curriculum,’ which is the only collegiate academic course of its type in California. He has also taught at UC-Berkeley. He has served as the Academic Senate President at LMC and in 2016 was voted/appointed the President of the Faculty Senate Coordinating Council for the Contra Costa Community College District.
He was the original director in the internationally acclaimed Young Inspiration Gospel Choir from 1998-2005 and still travels and performs with his professional ensemble, SCH & Friends. He has served as Minister of Music for Palma Ceia Baptist Church in Hayward for over 35 years. He is an accomplished pianist who won the piano competition at the Gospel Music Workshop of America which was founded by Rev. James Cleveland, and is a five-time honoree as Outstanding Pianist of the Year at the Bay Area Gospel Academy Awards and has won numerous state and national honors for his work as an educator in gospel music. He has
He is known for his gospel concerts and multicultural music festivals in Pittsburg’s Creative Arts Building and also in the city of Martinez while using gospel music as a tool encouraging communities to come together. He has been honored by both cities, each of which designated the first Saturday in May as “Gospel Celebration Day.”
He has performed with celebrity gospel, jazz, rhythm and blues and Broadway stars including Richard Smallwood, Rev. Daryl Coley, Walter Hawkins and the Love Center Choir, Kurt Carr, Quincey Fielding, Ron Kenoly Sr., V. Michael McKay, Helen Stephens and the Lighthouse Singers, Micah Stampley, Jon Gibson, Billy Porter, James Iglehart, Vesta, Howard Hewett, Kenny Lattimore, Gerald Albright, LaToya London, Chris Walker, Kathy Taylor Brown and Kevin Levar.
Although he was known more in the jazz world than as a mainstream musician, pianist and composer Andrew Hill left a legacy of outstanding jazz recordings on the famed Blue Note record label during the 1960s.
Hill lived in Pittsburg in the 1980s. By then he was a bit removed from the world of jazz having spent time teaching in California and then as an associate professor at Portland State University where he established a Summer Jazz Intensive program. The popular educator conducted workshops at universities such as Harvard, the University of Michigan, the University of Toronto, Wesleyan University and Bennington College.
While in Pittsburg, he tried to create a community arts project for music in the historic downtown area. He also began to perform again, appearing weekly at the Las Palmas Restaurant on Railroad Ave.
Hill, who listed Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell and Art Tatum as his major influences, was a protégé at age 13 of the legendary jazz pianist Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines in his native Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago Experimental School and also studied with German composer Paul Hindemith. As a teenager, he played with jazz legends Charlie Parker and Miles Davis and was later the accompanist for Dinah Washington.
His album, ‘Dusk,’ was selected as the best album of 2001 by Down Beat Magazine as was his ‘Time Lines’ in 2006. He died of lung cancer in 2007 at age 75. Jazz critic John Fordham called Hill “a uniquely gifted composer, pianist and educator.”
Walt Hill began singing as a youngster in a choir in his father’s church. He also alto sax in order to be in bands with whom he could also sing. Once he became known as a singer, he retired his sax.
Growing up in Seattle, Hill was closely associated with Quincy Jones and Ray Charles. He played and sang with Bumps Blackwell. Jay McShan asked Hill to go on the road with him. Hill so impressed Mercer Ellington with his stylings that Ellington offered to arrange a vocal audition for him with his father, Duke Ellington.
Hill moved to Pittsburg in March 1983 and opened the Rib Pit Restaurant in July. There he served great barbeque and jazz featuring the Norm Abercrombie Trio as the house band in which he was the lead vocalist. As the restaurant became known for its musical program, musicians came from around the Bay Area to sit in. Among them were Danny Daniels, Ranzell Merritt, C.L. Jones and Barbara Hunter. Pittsburg residents such as Leola Jiles, Raymond Glasper and Jerry Oakes, were regulars. At the first Seafood Festival, Walt introduced music to the festival by featuring the Rib Pit’s house band at the northeast corner of 6th and Railroad.
Born in Ferriday, LA, into a musical family that hosted a gospel radio show, Leola Jiles was raised in Pittsburg where she still resides. She began singing in her church choir as a teenager and graduated from Pittsburg High School in 1956.
A graduate of the University of California, she was the lead singer of the Apollas and also performed with the University of California Jazz Band on its European tour and with such jazz and blues giants as B.B. King, Dizzy Gillespie and Woody Herman. She co-starred with Dizzy Gillespie and performed the title song for the movie "Winter in Lisbon" and also performed with jazz and blues giants such as B.B. King and Woody Herman.
In February 2012, the entire catalog of recordings by the Apollas was released in a special boxed-set.
She has been the opening act for stars such as Barbra Streisand, Lou Rawls, Billy Eckstine and Frankie Lane and co-starred with Sammy Cahn in the United States and England in his show, "Sammy Cahn: Words and Music."
She was voted Entertainer of the Year and Jazz & Blues Vocalist of the Year by the San Francisco Cabaret Association and was later selected Outstanding Female Vocalist of the Year. She appeared at the San Francisco Opera’s annual gala, Fol De Sol, with Placido Domingo.
She is also an accomplished actress, playing Mary Magdalene in a touring company of "Jesus Christ Superstar" as Ted Neely and Carl Anderson reprised their roles from the movie. She won the Drama-Logue Critics Award for best actress for her portrayal of Katherine in "Generation." She was nominated as outstanding actress for her role as Sister Margaret in "The Amen Corner" by the Bay Area Critics Circle.
Zilfert Johnson’s musical path was set when he was in kindergarten and he served as director of “The Rhythm Band” for his class’ Christmas Party.
Johnson has continued as a founder and director of musical groups for all his life, working with church choirs and gospel groups since his teenage years.
Attending elementary school in Pittsburg in the 1950s, Johnson took advantage of the district-wide music program and began playing clarinet at age nine. He continued with the clarinet until reaching high school when he became a member of the Pittsburg High School chorus as a sophomore.
He joined the First Baptist Church Youth Choir at age 13, later taking over as the group’s director after Ozeal Warren retired from that position. Before he graduated from Pittsburg High School in 1963, Johnson led the Pioneers of Faith as well as serving as the pianist and organ player for the Wilson Spiritual Singers, the Churches of God in Christ District Youth Choir as well as playing for First Baptist Church, Mt. Zion Spiritual Temple and St. Mark Baptist Church. He also was a member of the American Singers Association, Local 13.
Following a two-year tour of duty in the armed forces, Johnson returned to Pittsburg and resumed his career of bringing music to churches and the community. He again played at both First Baptist and St. Mark and organized the First Baptist Inspirational Choir. He later united with Solomon Temple, working with that church’s Youth, Mass and Gospel Choirs.
In 1969, he helped Douglas Lawson form the Pittsburg Community Choir, which recorded an album in the Creative Arts Building and later toured the country several times under Johnson’s direction. He also formed the Zilfert Johnson Singers in 1972 and later organized groups such as Zilfert Johnson and the Angelic Inspirations, the United Voices of Faith and later United Voices of Faith Phase II and the Pittsburg Component of the Northern California Gospel Music Workshop of America after earlier serving as the GMWA’s Men’s Auxiliary President.
Continuing to serve his country working for the Veterans Administration after serving his country in active military duty, Johnson also created the Veterans Administration Gospel Choir while continuing his work with several Pittsburg churches.
Born in Warren, AR, raised in Vallejo and a resident of Pittsburg for the past 50 years, Louis Jones has played with some of the most famous and influential musicians in the world starting at age 12 when he performed with Pearl Bailey. He played on Jimmy McCracklin’s recording, “The Lightning Flashing” and was a studio musician for Berry Gordy on the soundtrack for the movie “The Five Heart Beats.” He’s played with Count Basie, James Brown, Etta James, Bobby Blue Bland, Billy Preston, MC Hammer, the Tower of Power horn section and jammed with Jimi Hendrix when Hendrix would make unannounced appearances at Bay Area clubs.
He played all the clubs in Pittsburg, often appearing with Norman Abercrombie Sr. and Raymond Glasper, and with his own trio on a dance boat that would cruise the Delta. He has played festivals all over the state as well as clubs around the Bay Area. One of the West Coast’s top blues guitarists, he is a member of the Bay Area Blues Society Hall of Fame.
But for all the top-flight performers he’s played with and the number of venues he’s played in, Jones is most beloved for both his charity work and his mentorship of young musicians. He helped raise $50,000 for victims of childhood cancer at a St. Helena hospital. He regularly plays events to help battered women and also the “Toys for Tots” program. When the PHS senior class of 1973 had no funds for its Senior Ball, Jones brought his band to play for free.
His mentorship of young musicians is where he shines the most. He and his uncle, Piney Clark, better known as Guitar Slim, helped Michael Cooper and Con Funk Shun get started. He also mentored Rosie Gaines at her parents’ request. Jones, who had received guidance and training from Raymond Glasper at clubs when he first arrived in Pittsburg, has conducted formal and informal classes for youngsters ever since, often inviting them into his home to help them learn to play guitar and then giving them guitars of their own.
Terry Jones always had a special feeling for music. He always loved music and listening to his father’s bands perform and rehearse.
At age five, he could be found in his grandmother’s backyard where he would take pots from her kitchen and use sticks that he found to explore the different sounds he could produce. His grandmother predicted he would become a drummer. His first drum set, a Donnie and Marie Osmond toy drum set, lasted only two weeks because he was already so far advanced so his parents, Louis and Theresa Jones, bought him a professional set of drums.
Louis, one of Northern California’s legendary blues men who had played in Count Basie’s band and toured with Pearl Bailey, taught his son the fundamentals of music with different chords and counts. Terry took what his dad offered him and worked hard, experimenting and expanding on that advice.
At Hillview Jr. High, Terry began his formal music study while playing the trumpet. He not only learned to read music but he also began writing music. At Pittsburg High School, he was a member of the school’s award-winning Marching Show Band and also performed with the nationally acclaimed Blue Devils drum and bugle corps in Concord, traveling all over the nation with the unit.
He attended Diablo Valley College and later was a member of the Cal State Hayward band. While at Cal State, he was asked to join with the U.S. Army Band is a special performance aboard a retired aircraft carrier in San Francisco.
Terry played for a number of renowned gospel singers but was happiest when playing with his father in one of his three bands, a family unit, the Black Diamond Band and Louis Jones & the Cavaliers.
He and his parents were prominent in the West Coast blues scene playing in festivals all over the state, including Pittsburg’s Black Diamond Blues Festival. He was also featured with the Cavaliers in the Creative Arts Building in the 50th Anniversary Concert and later in a special Red Cross benefit for Haitian relief efforts, Still Singing for Haiti. He and his father are both members of the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame.
Long before she took center stage beside her husband, blues guitarist and PEAHOF Inductee Louis Jones, Theresa Jones was in the spotlight.
Jones, who grew up in Pittsburg and was a 1964 Pittsburg High School graduate, was known for the costumes she designed and created for local singers, including the star gospel group (and PEAHOF Inductees) the Anderson sisters. With an eye for fashion coupled with good taste, Jones created costuming that added to the impact of the performances by the Andersons, who became a nationally know act.
She also designed and created costuming for other groups, including for husband's band, Louis Jones and the Cavaliers.
With her strong, vibrant voice, Jones soon began performing with her husband and son, Terry, as a self-taught keyboard player, adding new vocal dimensions to the group.
In addition her contributions as a costumer and a musician, Jones has been a proponent of the blues, supporting and promoting acts all over the Bay Area and Northern California. She was always first in line to volunteer to do whatever was needed to ensure success for local performances.
She is a founding member of the Pittsburg Entertainment & Arts Hall of Fame, serving on the organization’s board of directors as well as the chair of its Induction Committee.
Richard Timothy “Tim” Kring spent his formative years in Pittsburg when his father, Ray, served as track and cross country coach at Pittsburg High School.
An Emmy Award nominee in 2007 as the producer of the television series ‘Heroes.’ Kring got his start in Hollywood as a screenwriter writing for the hit TV show ‘Knight Rider.’ Earlier had had been co-writer for an episode of ‘Misfits of Science.’
One of his first early projects was as a screenwriter with Jeph Loeb on ‘Teen Wolf Too.’ The pair teamed up again on Kring’s television series ‘Heroes.’
Kring also co-wrote ‘Shift: A Novel (Gates of Orpheus Trilogy)' with Dale Peck.
Kring has a long list of television credits. He was a produced for ‘Chicago Hope’ (1996-97), creator of the series ‘Strange World’ (1999- 2002), co-executive producer of ‘Providence’ (1999-2001), creator/executive producer ‘Crossing Jordan’ (2001-2007), creator/executive producer ‘Heroes’ (2006-2010) and creator/executive producer ‘Touch’ (2012-13).
Paul Kyriazi grew up in Pittsburg dreaming of becoming a movie director from age eight after seeing an episode of ‘Disneyland’ entitled ‘The Making of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ on television.
As a teenager he began filming action shorts using his father’s 8mm camera and received a used Bolex camera from his father at age 18.
He won the Berkeley Film Festival with a 30-minute action movie entitled ‘Trapped.’
Kyriazi was interested in karate, and his sensei introduced to classic Japanese samurai movies. He began creating martial arts movies using many of the film techniques of Japanese directors and placed third in the Berkeley Film Festival with a 20-minute karate story the year after winning with ‘Trapped.’
After graduation from San Francisco State with a BA in film, he joined the Air Force and was assigned to filming NASA space launches. While on leave from the Air Force, he self-financed and filmed his first feature, ‘Drawn Swords’ in black and white but was unable to sell the movie.
Upon his return to San Francisco, he met Ron Marchini, a karate tournament fighter, and re-edited Marchini’s movie ‘Murder in the Orient,’ which had been filmed in the Philippines. He then was hired by Marchini to write and direct ‘Death Machines,’ which was picked up by Crown International Pictures and opened in 50 theatres in Southern California.
Still dreaming of producing his own movie, Kyriazi directed a sequence for ‘Sesame Street.’
He later raised money to produce and direct ‘Weapons of Death,’ which opened all over the country and broke a house record in one New York theater. ‘Ninja Busters,’ ‘One Way Out’ and ‘Omega Cop’ soon followed along with a travelogue, ‘Thailand Adventure’ as a change of pace.
More recently, Kyriazi has been involved in producing audio books, including his own novel ‘Rock Star Rising,’ ‘McKnight’s Memory’ and ‘The King, McQueen, and the Love Machine.'
Chris Lanzafame has followed in his father Delfo’s footsteps both businesswise as the owner of Lanzafame Furniture and musically playing multiple instruments, including clarinet and saxophone.
Chris attended the University of California, playing in the marching band and also serving as the drum major in 1975-76. In 1976, the Cal band was chosen to represent the state in national bicentennial celebrations, and Chris helped organize and lead a nationwide tour for the 129-member unity that included 26 performances in states such as Tennessee, Vermont, Maine and Ohio as well as marching in the official bicentennial parade in Washington DC.
Chris and his sons, Christopher Jr. (piano), Jeffrey (percussion) and Robert (bass, banjo and accordion) have their own combo and have provided music for Pittsburg Community Theatre musicals.
Chris plays in a band with long-time friend and member of the Pittsburg Entertainment & Arts Hall of Fame Chooch Lombardo. He also plays in the Los Medanos College Orchestra and the Pittsburg Community Band.
Pittsburg native Del Lanzafame’s involvement with music was a lifelong passion.
He began studying violin as a youngster and later studied the clarinet. He well-versed in music and solfege (the technique of sight-singing each note of the scale) by the time he attended high school at the San Rafael Military Academy where he was nicknamed “the mad violinist” and served as the band’s drum major.
He graduated from the University of California in 1939 and was a member of the marching band.
In World War II, the army assigned him to Oregon State to study Spanish and where he played clarinet in the Army band there. He was later transferred to Camp Stoneman in his hometown where he played in various bands that performed at bases throughout California.
After the war, he started his own dance orchestra, which was one of the most popular in Pittsburg and East County. In addition to playing with his band, he played violin for the Contra Costa Orchestra and was a member of the Pittsburg Municipal Band under the legendary Emilio Civita (2013 PEAHOF Inductee), which played not only at local events but also at festivals in Monterey and Los Banos. He later formed a small combo with accordion player Jim Riso, giving Jim’s son, Peter, his first chance to play drums professionally.
Lanzafame was also an active member of the Contra Costa Concert Guild, which brought a number of nationally known acts, including Louis Armstrong and the San Francisco Symphony.
As live music gave way to DJs at weddings and other events, Lanzafame continued playing viola professionally with the Vallejo Symphony and also as a student with the Los Medanos (College) Chamber Orchestra. He also played in the pit orchestra for local musicals.
He received a grant from the Musician’s Union Performance Trust Fund to bring professional musicians to Pittsburg elementary schools each year to encourage students to study music. Musicians would demonstrate their instruments individually after the performance and answer questions.
Lanzafame’s love of music is carried on by son, Chris, who currently plays in several bands, and daughter, Andrea. Both Chris and Andrea played in the Pittsburg Municipal Band. All five of his grandchildren as well as his son, Chris, attended Cal and played in the marching band. Chris and his sons still play at community theatrical events
Singing is a way of life for Ronald Lawson, a 1957 Pittsburg High School graduate.
“I’ve loved to do it all my life, and music has been good to me,” he said.
Lawson and his friends Ollie McClay (a 2013 PEAHOF inductee) and Charles Jackson began singing on street corners as kids, practicing harmonies, learning their craft. They were joined briefly by Alfred Trapps, who was with them when they appeared in a talent show in Oakland and won it.
Popular Bay Area disc jockey Don Barksdale was impressed and invited the group to sing on his radio show.
When Trapps left the group, Lawson suggested a talented high school student he knew from church be added to the group. He talked with her parents, and Alice Jean Wilton (a 2013 PEAHOF inductee) joined the group. “She was just the thing” the group needed said Lawson, and Barksdale agreed, giving the group the song ‘One Hundred Years From Today’ to record.
After the group re-arranged and rehearsed the song, they cut a demo that turned into a local hit for the group Barksdale called The Mondellos. The group, played nightclubs around the Bay Area, Vallejo and Stockton and played the Filmore Auditorium in San Francisco. They opened for Little Richard in Stockton, but a tragic accident on their way home left one member of the group dead. Robert Fields later joined the group, which disbanded following a local television appearance because of a dispute with Barksdale.
Lawson continued singing, fronting a popular band that headlined throughout Northern California and Reno.
Because of his deeply rooted faith, Lawson has also been involved with gospel music, joining the Pittsburg Men’s Choir that joined with the Northern California Men’s Choir directed by Zelfert Johnson, which performed in the Bay Area and Los Angeles where the Choir joined with the Southern California Men’s Choir under the direction of the legendary James Cleveland. He was also the inspirational leader of the Just Praise Gospel Singers and sang in his Stewart Memorial church choir until his death.
Richard Lay was a key member of a number of Pittsburg bands
during the 1960s and ‘70s.
Inspired by their parents (Deacon Jesse Lea and Deaconess Hazel Lee), the Lea sisters Doris Lea-Rossignon, Marva Lea-Stephens, Beverly Lea-Lockett, Phyllis Lea-Harrold and Cathy Lea-Palmer and Doris’ daughter, Vivian Rossignon began sharing their vocal talents at an early age at First Baptist Church.
Their parents sang in various quartets and other singing groups infusing their daughters with a love of music. The sisters began singing traditional gospel songs at church and became members of the First Baptist Inspirational Choir and later part of the Pittsburg Community Choir under the leadership of PEAHOF Inductee Zelford Johnson and Douglas Lawson. The Pittsburg Community Choir made a recording of gospel music at the Creative Arts Building on the Pittsburg High School campus.
Phyllis and Cathy were also mentored in music at Central Jr. High School and Pittsburg High School by PEAHOF Inductee Jack French. His influence led Phyllis to share her knowledge of three-part harmony with their niece, Vivian Rossignon, who replaced her mother, Doris, as the group became a trio for which it was best known.
The sisters, who have performed together for more than 50 years, made their first public appearance at their uncle’s church in Redding in 1966. They have worshipped God through song at numerous Northern California venues and a number of different states and continue to sing at First Baptist Church in 2018.
The sisters branched out in the early 1970s as Phyllis founded the All Kin Band, which became a popular group playing at a wide variety of Bay Area venues. Doris, the eldest sister, became manager of the band.
The band headlined at the California State Fair and played at a variety of events from Bay cruises to fashion shows to private parties. The band opened in San Francisco for Johnnie Taylor and was featured at a presidential campaign rally for Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress and to run for President in 1972.
Phyllis played bass, Cathy drums and Vivian keyboard. There were joined by Peter (Ray) Rossignon lead guitar, Debra Stephens flute and Albert Lea, Gregory Rossignon and Brenda Stephens on vocals.
The group also provided back-up vocals at several San Francisco recording studios but declined a recording contract because at heart the members preferred to continue primarily in the gospel tradition of their own churches.
Mary M. Lieser
Mary Lieser interest in art and drawing began at an early age, and she has been an award-winning artist since sixth grade in Keterling, Ohio, when she won an award for her perspective drawing of the Parthenon.
Before moving to Pittsburg in 1984 with her husband Francis Palermo, Lieser majored in Fine Art at Southern Illinois University working in graphite, oils and ceramics. While in college, she took advantage of a program that allowed her to study in Europe.
Upon graduation, she relocated to Hawaii where she was involved in art conservation and restoration and also served as an instructor in drawing and painting at Fort Shafter in Oahu. She did gold leafing for both the Iolani Palace on Oahu and Hulihee Palace on the Big Island of Hawaii as well as work on the Lawrence Rockefeller collection of Oceanic and Pacific Art at the Mauna Key Hotel. She also met fellow artist and future husband, Francis Palermo, there.
The two had exhibits in various galleries in Oahu and participated in juried shows, including the prestigious Statewide Artists of Hawaii Show.
Lieser won awards for her stained glass pieces, which reflect her love of line and detail, and was honored by the National Society for Arts & Letters for her drawings.
Lieser, a journeyman carpenter who recently retired, is a member of Carpenters Local 152 in Martinez, and was the District Coordinator of the Carpenter Training Committee for Northern California where over 1,600 apprentice carpenters are trained each year in Pleasanton, has remained active in the arts.
Lieser, who works primarily in drawing, but also does oil, watercolor and plein-air painting, and her husband are perhaps best known for their colorful Seafood Festival commemorative prints, producing prints for 22 of the first 25 events. Her work has been featured at many PACO (Pittsburg Arts Collaborative) shows. In 2017, they produced a special stained glass project that is part of Pittsburg’s City Hall.
Frank ("Chooch") Lombardo, PHS Class of 1948, has played in bands and in Bay Area clubs for eight decades starting in 1940 when he began playing in the Pittsburg Municipal Band at age 10 with his father under the direction of Emilio Civita.
His father played piano, trumpet and alto horn and taught his son to play trumpet beginning when he was eight years old. When he got home from work, he would call his son in from playing and taught him, using the solfege system (using do-re-me, instead of the letter names of notes – A, B, C, D, E, F, G) that was used by Civita, who also gave the youngster lessons.
Civita was so impressed by the young Lombardo that he would feature him as a soloist during the band’s monthly concerts in the City Park gazebo. By age 16, Lombardo was playing three times a week with the Rory Battaglia Band in the Rose Room in Oakland, a "Dime-A-Dance" spot where Lombardo learned a lot about playing in bands. Lombardo also played at local weddings, anniversaries and other parties.
In 1947, he played in the newly created Jolly Roger Dance Band, a band of PHS students formed by Clarence Fornwald. He also played in Fornwald’s own dance band with Ed Marchoke at the Los Medanos Hotel. He continued to play in the Pittsburg Municipal Band as well as the Camp Stoneman Band, where he played for Bob Hope and Jerry Colona as well as Red Skelton when they visited troops stationed there on their way to Korea. He played in all of Pittsburg’s clubs as well as clubs in Antioch, Martinez and Oakland, playing for Frankie Avalon, when he appeared in Antioch in 1959, and also Fabian and the Ray Anthony Band. He’s played cruises, has entertained patients in hospitals for many years and has appeared in the Sacramento Jazz Festival. He also served as a mentor to many young Pittsburg musicians, including Mundi Orozco, Pete Riso and Frank Mercurio. In 2012, he still fronts his newest band, Four Hits & A Miss.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Jack London was one of the most widely read writers in America with his reporting, short stories and novels.
Born in San Francisco, London was an adventurer, who traveled to Alaska during the Gold Rush there in the 1890s. He loved the water, sailing to Hawaii and Japan, and his first successful story was published as a 17-year-old in 1893 when he won a contest with his harrowing tale of survival when caught up in a typhoon.
His first boat was a sloop he purchased from an oyster pirate named Frank French, and London used the boat for oyster pirating himself. He was later a member of the California Fish Patrol on the Carquinez Straits, based primarily in Benicia, but he also spent time in Pittsburg while with the Fish Patrol. His book, ‘Tales of the Fish Patrol’ refers to his time on the river.
His novel ‘Valley of the Moon’ contains a detailed description of Pittsburg when it was known as Black Diamond with references to New York Cutoff (Slough), Collinsville and Mt. Diablo.
London enjoyed Pittsburg’s nightlife, with the Bay View Saloon, owned by Dave Gatto, a favorite haunt. He also stayed in Pittsburg while local boat builder Mastrushicu (Frank) Seeno built one of his boats.
London’s best-known books and stories were realistic adventure stories with nature playing a major role as in his most popular work, ‘Call of the Wild.’ Having worked at a number of hardscrabble jobs, London had great sympathy for the working man and wrote books promoting his socialist beliefs.
In 1904, William Randolph Hearst sent him to Japan to report on the Russo-Japanese War for his newspapers. Included in the coverage were the earliest reports on surfing and Hawaii to be published in the United States.
London, who died at age 40 in 1916, had a collection of 15,000 books.Steve Lopez
Pittsburg native and Pittsburg High graduate Steve Lopez is a respected author and the lead columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Los Angeles Times.
As a reporter and columnist, he has been on the staff at Time Inc., writing for Time, Life, Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated.
A graduate of San Jose State, which gave him an honorary doctorate in 2011, he began his career with the Oakland Tribune before moving to the San Jose Mercury News and then to Philadelphia in the mid-1980s before joining Time, Inc., for four years. He joined the Los Angeles Times in 2001.
At the Times, Lopez wrote a series of human-interest columns about his unlikely relationship with schizophrenic cellist Nathaniel Anthony Ayers which led to his non-fiction book, ‘The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship and the Redemptive Power of Music.’ The book was turned into the movie ‘The Soloist,’ starring Robert Downey Jr. as Lopez and Jamie Foxx as Ayers.
Lopez has written three novels, ‘Third and Indiana.’ ‘The Sunday Macaroni Club,’ and ‘In the Clear’ as well as a collection of his columns from the Philadelphia Inquirer titled ‘Land of Giants.’
Lopez has been nominated for journalism’s top award, the Pulitzer Prize, and received the President’s Award from the Los Angeles Press Club at the 50th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards.
When talking of the roots of Pittsburg music during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Gerardo Padilla Lumbre, better known as Jerry, was one of prime contributors.
Music was his life, and he was a "go-to" guy who was the glue in many bands as he played keyboards, saxophone, guitar and bass. He was also featured as a vocalist. Friends often referred to the Pittsburg High School graduate as “Mr. Music.”
One of his first bands was the Royal Heartbeats, which started in Pittsburg under the leadership of PEAHOF Hall of Famer Papa John Guerrero. He remained with the band when it located in Southern California, playing throughout the Southern California region and even in Las Vegas.
He played with people such as John Guerrero, Robert Diaz, Nick Amador, Pete Riso, Ed Trinidad, Mundi Orozco and Jesse DeTorres and Raymond Glasper.
He was versatile and comfortable whether playing R&B, soul, rock, country and western, Latin-flavored rock, salsa or standards.
Among the bands he played with in addition to the Royal Heartbeats were the OGBs, the Mellow Moods, TBR, and the Red Vests.
A musical technician, Jerry loved to rehearse and jam with his friends. Those rehearsals and jams were instrumental in the success of his bands.
Performing in theatre was always a pleasant avocation for Lisa Luttinger, a talented and versatile actress for Pittsburg Community Theatre able to perform drama, comedy and musical roles.
Luttinger’s versatility has led her to a variety of roles with Bay Area theatrical companies, including the Bay Area Black Repertory Theatre, Diablo Valley College, various community theatres and even the San Francisco Opera. It has also generated her appearance in a variety of commercial and industrial films.
Luttinger’s first appearance with PCT came in 2010 when she played multiple roles in Gaslight Girl and won the organization’s coveted gypsy coat, being singled out as the cast member who put the most time and effort into the production. She also won the gypsy coat after starring in ‘6 Rms Riv Vu.’
In addition to performing, she has worked as a choreographer on several PCT youth productions.
She was nominated for a Shellie, Contra Costa County’s version of Broadway’s Tony Awards, as lead actress for her portrayal of Jeanette in the 2011 PCT production of the ‘Quality of Life,’ after earlier earning a similar nomination for her portrayal of Meg in the Vagabond Players’ production of ‘Leading Ladies.’ She also has multiple nominations for choreography.
She represented PCT on a Pittsburg Unified School District committee that explored changing the name of the Creative Arts Building before ultimately deciding to retain the historic name.
John Maltester has touched the lives of musicians throughout California and all over the West Coast and Hawaii as a music instructor for over half a century.
For 37 years, he served as Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Los Medanos College where he mentored and inspired PEAHOF Inductees such as Terrence Brewer and Curtis Ohlson, while attracting outstanding musicians from all over Contra Costa County and the Bay Area to LMC’s Pittsburg campus. He has also served as St. Mary’s College’s director of Instrumental Music since 2006.
Maltester, who earned both his Bachelors and Masters of Arts degrees from Cal State-Hayward, is an accomplished trombonist who has led a diversified assortment of bands, orchestras, jazz bands and chamber ensembles, including the Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra and the Diablo Wind Symphony. His LMC Jazz Ensemble received ‘superior’ ratings for 26 straight years at the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Jazz Festival and toured Hawaii, Europe, Australia, Jamaica, China and throughout the Western United States.
He was selected as the 1989-90 Educator of Year at Los Medanos College as well as the President’s Award for Lifetime Contribution to Education at LMC (1999). He was named the California Music Educator Association Bay Area Section’s “Outstanding Music Educator” award in 2007-8 and received the group’s “Lifetime Achievement in Music Education” award in 2013. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Parent Teacher Association, won the Contra Costa County Regional Arts Council award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts (1999), the Generations in Jazz Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2008) and was elected to the California Alliance of Jazz Hall of Fame (2010).
He has been active in leadership roles in organizations such as Contra Costa Arts Council, CMEA, International Association of Jazz Educators, Music Association of California Community Colleges, College Band Directors National Association, as well as serving as Executive Director of the Pacific Basin Band Festival in Hawaii.
He remains active as a rehearsal techniques clinician, adjudicator, guest conductor and lecturer throughout the Western United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, and Australia.
Founded by Ollie "Yul" (nicknamed because he shaved his head like movie star Yul Brynner) McClay, Ron Lawson and Charles Jackson, the Mondellos were one of the first groups to sign and record on the Rhythm Records label created by Bay Area basketball great and later popular Bay Area disc jockey Don Barksdale.
McClay, Lawson and Jackson began singing together in Pittsburg like many doo-wop groups around the country. The Mondellos, who were still nameless and performed as "a local group" was formally started in 1957. McClay and Jackson were attending East Contra Costa Junior College (now known as Diablo Valley College) and added a college classmate, Gary Williams.
At Lawson’s suggestion, the group listened to a 15-year-old high school girl named Alice Jean Wilton, who blew the group away with her singing and piano-playing ability, and was immediately asked to join the group.
Ernie Petrucci, a drummer from Lafayette rounded out the group.
Enjoying success at clubs and school dances, the group auditioned for Music City Records in San Francisco but was not signed. McClay’s girlfriend’s father knew Barksdale and arranged an impromptu audition for the group.
Barksdale liked their sound, took them to his studio and recorded an old song "One Hundred Years From Today," originally recorded a decade earlier by the Jones Brothers. The flip side of the record was "Come Back Home." Barksdale gave the group its name, The Mondellos.
Barksdale brought in Peewee Kingsley to front the band, and the record was released in May of 1957 with the group listed as Alice Jean and the Mondellos.
The record received some air play, and the group, minus Petrucci, began to get billings on the R & B circuit. A near-tragic traffic accident that nearly cost Williams his life and left McClay badly injured forced the group to disband for a while, but when it got back together, it returned to Barksdale’s studio and recorded "Never Leave Me Alone" and "Over the Rainbow," which was released as a single listing the band as Ollie "Yul" McClay and the Mondellos.
A third recording soon followed with Wilton again featured as the lead singer.
The group also did some backup work for Little Willie Littlefield, Bob Jeffries and Jackie Gotroe.
McClay remains active playing jazz in top Northwest clubs in Washington and Oregon.
A Pittsburg native, who attended El Pueblo, Central Jr. High and Pittsburg High School (1970), Ronald McDowell is an internationally recognized artist.
He is a versatile artist, using a variety of mediums, and is a noted sculpture as well.
He is perhaps best known for his work with Michael Jackson on Thriller, but he has also created the portraits for all the inductees in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and created a number of statues of the Civil Rights movement in Alabama and Georgia. He is also known for his murals and will create a 90-foot frieze to highlight Pittsburg’s cultural history.
His works hang in many galleries and have been commissioned by numerous cities and public and private clients, but he still returns to Pittsburg and gives freely of his time working with students at local schools, sharing his vision and his gift while encouraging youngsters to be creative.
Music and art have been passions of Salvatore Mercurio since his elementary school days.
He attended Pittsburg schools, Village Elementary, Pittsburg Jr. High School and Pittsburg High School, graduating in 1961. He participated in school bands playing trumpet, drums, clarinet and tenor saxophone. He would later learn to play flute, violin and piano.
He joined with his cousins, Peter Riso, Frank Mercurio and Nick Culcasi to form a popular dance band, the Four C’s (for cousins) in the early 1960s. The group even cut a 45 rpm record. As the group matured, it began playing contemporary jazz.
Mercurio attended Diablo Valley College, earning his AA degree in art with a minor in music in 1967. He was first tenor sax in the DVC Jazz Band. While at DVC, he wrote a soundtrack for a short film. He later created his own band, the Salvatore Mercurio Trio. He also organized an experimental trio in which he played violin, backed by acoustic bass and drums playing at Bay Area venues, including the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco.
Mercurio, who attended the Academy of Art in San Francisco after graduating from DVC, used his art background to become a graphic designer and later became the Art/Creative Director for a design studio.
But he was involved in a wide variety of art and has had his works featured in PACO Art Shows at Pittsburg’s Impulse Gallery and at Valley Art Gallery in Walnut Creek and the Lynn House Gallery and Delta Art Association in Antioch.
Art and music remain major parts of Mercurio’s life even in retirement, playing for the Los Medanos College Concert Band while creating art works in a variety of mediums.
Edmundo ( Mundi) Orozco has played a prominent role in the arts in Pittsburg. He was raised in Pittsburg in Columbia Park and first began performing in 1959 in ballet folklorico with Carmen Gonzales and later with Rosadelia Torres until his Senior year when he graduated from Pittsburg High School in 1971. He began playing the trumpet in the 4th grade and was first chair playing trumpet at Hillview Jr. High and also at Pittsburg High where he was also the Drum Major for the Marching Band. In the 10th grade in played in several bands and later the popular Midnight Devils with long- time friend and PEAHOF Inductee John Guerrero Jr. Orozco enjoyed performing Mexican music and began to sing and play Conga and Bongo drums and played most weekends. During his Senior year at PHS he earned a scholarship at Berkeley School of Music where he was first chair playing the trumpet. As time went by Mundi loved the Latin influence in music and began to specialize in Afro-Cuban music and formed Sexteto Diablo along with Cheo Concepcion, John Guerrero, Monte Bobo, John Christensen and brother Hector in 1978. The group performed at the Greek Theater for over 30,000 fans along with Tito Puente, Willie Colon, Oscar De Leon, Celia Cruz and many more. He is well known in the area for his original songs Mamacita and Finally. He later played with Little Bruce and the Billionares and then began the PHD’s, in the late 1980’s. Some of the members are inductees Ramiro Amador, Leo Vigil, Rick Treat and the late BobCastle Blanc They continue to perform for special events in Pittsburg, including the reopening of the California Theatre, in 2016. Mundi continues to encourage the youth of Pittsburg to pursue and share their musical talents. Mundi graduated from UC Berkeley where he earned a teaching credential in Special Education. He taught school in Castro Valley and Pittsburg Adult Ed. He recently retired from Contra Costa County Mental Health as a Mental Health Specialist II. He was also a member of City Of Pittsburg Liesure Services Commision for 14 years and 8 years as President of the Pittsburg Blues Festival. He continues to play Taps for the local American Legion for services for Veterans.
Known as “Mr. Pittsburg” for his generosity as well as owning the city’s most popular restaurant, the New Mecca Café, Guillermo Muniz is also known for his love of music and poetry.
A native of Mexico where he was a star cyclist, Muniz enjoys singing and performing.
He has sung the national anthem before both A’s and Giants’ games as well as numerous local sporting events. He is also called upon to sing at funerals for his heartfelt rendition of “Ave Maria” and other songs.
He has performed at a number of concerts, frequently being called to the stage to join musicians. He loves to sing classics from the Great American Songbook but also proudly sings songs such as “De Colores” from his native Mexico.
He is also an inspirational speaker bringing a positive message, particularly with youngsters. He frequently shares his own poems both during concerts and speeches.
In addition to performing, Muniz is a true patron of the arts. He commissioned noted artist Joe Acosta to create a frieze celebrating Hispanic culture for his New Mecca Café. He is also known for constantly supplying bands and performers with tasty food from his restaurant. He supplied food for the green room where artists prepared during the CAB Concerts series at the Creative Arts Building where his picture is included among Pittsburg’s cultural legends in Dr. Ronald McDowell’s frieze entitled “A Symphony in Art.”
Tommy Nunnelly (PHS Class of 1967) is one of the Bay Area’s top blues performers and always says after introducing himself at shows, “I’m from Pittsburg, CA.”
Nunnelly was a talented musician and trumpeter beginning in elementary school. He played trumpet for the PHS band.
As a 12-year-old, he was featured on television in Las Vegas.
He was hooked by R&B in 1964 and has performed the blues since then.
He was a member of some of Pittsburg’s top bands in the 1960s – the Enchanters, Royal Heartbeats and the Originals. He was the original vocalist for Pittsburg’s popular band the PHDs as well as a number of Bay Area bands. He also performed with Rosie Gaines and Curtis Ohlson.
He was named the Bay Area Blues Society’s Vocalist of the Year in 2008 and is a featured performer at blues festivals throughout the Bay Area and Monterey.
He is currently a member of the GTS Band, Bay Area Blues Society Caravan of All-Stars and the Latin Soul Project.
Curtis Ohlson (PHS 1975) got the music bug at age five watching a neighborhood band practicing in a garage and was quick to sign up for band at his first opportunity at Highlands Elementary School where he was tested and found to have perfect pitch.
At Highlands, Hillview, Pittsburg High and Los Medanos College, he learned a variety of instruments while studying bass on his own. Following the advice of teachers such as Orrin Cross and John Maltester, Ohlson immersed himself in music and practiced sight reading, which paid off when he auditioned for Ray Charles, with whom he toured for seven years. He also toured with Buddy Rich.
He has played with artists such as Branford Marsalis, Sheila E., George Dyke, Bob Weir, Pebo Bryson, Pete Escovedo, Booker T. Jones and many others. He has also worked on motion picture soundtrack recordings for Elmer Bernstein, Alan Silvestri and the Skywalker Symphony. He has appeared on over 50 albums, including his own.
He is also a highly respected producer and composer.
Although Dwight Owens was better known for his football prowess before graduating from Pittsburg High School in 1966, music has always been a big part of his life.
Growing up across the street from the First Baptist Church, Owens attended services every Sunday and quickly gravitated to singing in the choir.
He played saxophone in junior high but never really thought of music as a career choice because playing sports was his primary extracurricular outlet.
After graduating from PHS where he played on Pittsburg’s last undefeated team, he played at Diablo Valley College helping the team to one of its best seasons ever, finishing second behind the O..J. Simpson-led City College of San Francisco. He continued playing football at San Francisco State where his singing earned him an invitation to join Ladies Choice, which became one of the Bay Area’s most popular singing groups.
When the legendary Marvin Gaye began his first tour in four years at the Oakland Coliseum on Jan. 4, 1974, singer Wally Cox recommended Ladies Choice to Gaye as background vocalists. The group auditioned over the telephone, and Gaye promptly signed them.
Owens can be heard on the double platinum album ‘Marvin Gaye Live’ that was recorded at the concert. He continued as a backup singer, touring with Gaye until Ladies Choice disbanded in 1979. He later auditioned for both the Temptations and the O’Jays.
A natural singer with no formal training, Owens honed his skills during extended 17-hour rehearsals and working closely with Gaye during tours.
His daughter, Monet, who frequently attended the rehearsals with her father, also became a singer.
Francis Palermo, a native of Haverhill, MA, has been an artist since childhood.
He grew up in Southern California and was able to attend classes at the Art Center of Design while a student at Culver City High School. He also studied photography and printmaking at Santa Monica College.
Palermo moved to Hawaii as a young man where he won many awards at local shows.
Palermo twice had pieces selected for the State Wide Artists of Hawaii Show and won the prestigious Kirin juried competition with a six-sided painting. He also won awards for his stained glass pieces and was featured along with his wife, Mary Lieser, at different galleries in Oahu.
Since moving to Pittsburg in 1984, Palmero has shared his talents in a variety of community and commercial projects, including graphics, photography, mural and sign design and painting. His murals are feature at the Pittsburg Historical Museum, the Art Shack on Marina Blvd. and Heritage Park on Fourth Street. He also created the ‘Twelve Days of the Holiday Season’ displayed annually in downtown Pittsburg. He has also taught art classes through Pittsburg’s Adult Education program and the Pittsburg Arts Collaborative.
He and his wife designed and printed commemorative posters for 22 of the first 25 Pittsburg Seafood Festivals.
In 2001, he was one of only seven American artists selected for the 14th International Poster Salon.
Palmero created posters and billboards for a number of Pittsburg Creative Arts Building Corporation events, including the Marcus Shelby Port Chicago and Harriet Tubman concerts, which are still hung in several public locations. Other pieces of his work are parts of both public and private collections.
In 2017, he and his wife were commissioned to create a stained glass project to adorn Pittsburg’s City Hall.
Pittsburg native Chito Perez (1927-2000) learned to play alto sax while attending Pittsburg schools before graduating from Pittsburg High School in 1945.
He joined the Felix Urbina Band in 1948 while working for Columbia Steel. He loved music and formed his own band two years later. The band was modeled on Urbina’s, and the two often used the same musicians when the other band wasn’t playing.
As times changed, Perez scaled back with a traveling five-to-six piece band that appeared throughout Northern California. He also created a trio that played in clubs that catered to the Latino community and at special family events.
Perez continued playing into the 1980s. He moved to Antioch after graduating from Pittsburg High, and his family still lives there.
A life-long resident of Pittsburg, Bill Plummer can truly be called the Voice of Pittsburg.
The 1958 Pittsburg High School graduate was a disc jockey for the old KKIS radio station based in Pittsburg, served as public address announcer for the legendary Pittsburg Mallards as well as Pittsburg High School's football and basketball teams and also announced the names of the graduates for 32 years as they received their Pittsburg High School diplomas.
Plummer began his announcing career in high school, announcing Pirate basketball games. He played football at PHS and acted in a number of plays. While attending Diablo Valley College, he also began to announce softball games at City Park as well as the Mallards and PHS junior varsity football games.
Plummer began his radio career as an engineer at the KKIS transmitter site in Collinsville in 1960, continuing there part time as he earned his BA degree at the University of Pacific in speech with emphasis on broadcasting and drama. After receiving his degree, he returned home and became the morning drive-time DJ for KKIS with a "middle-of-the-road" music format.
He helped the station evolve in more contemporary musical programming as the station played the "Top 33 on 99."
Plummer continued working at KKIS while working toward his teaching credential at Cal State-Hayward, and continued there primarily on weekends and during summers after joining the Pittsburg High School faculty as a speech and drama teacher in September of 1964. During his time as a drama teacher, he and Jack French produced the high school's first full-scale musical, 'Guys and Dolls,' which Plummer directed. In addition to speech and drama, Plummer was involved in administration work and teaching English.
Plummer continued with KKIS doing a Sunday morning show and also some afternoon-drive shows until retiring from radio in 1982.
In 1978, he became the "Voice of the Pirates," announcing Pittsburg varsity football in addition to basketball. When he retired in 1999, he had done over 250 football games and 500 basketball games.
Ralph Ramirez, who studied under PHS Inductees Clarence Fornwald and Emilio Civita, was a well-regarded saxophonist, who originally started by playing the flute.
Ramirez played in the Pittsburg High School Band under Fornwald and the Pittsburg Municipal Band under Civita.
He was also a member of PEAHOF Inductee Felix Urbina’s big band, Pittsburg’s first Latin-flavored band, as well as PEAHOF Inductee Chito Perez’s band. He was constantly on call to sit in with a variety of local bands.
He loved helping others, working as an insurance salesman. But his love of others and community didn’t stop there. He was appointed to a Pittsburg citizens’ group that developed a plan to bring power plants to Pittsburg and was also a long-time member of the City of Pittsburg Planning Commission offering vision to the development of the city. He also served in leadership roles wherever he went from his high school class reunions to civic organizations.
The arts always remained important to him, and he and his wife, Gloria, were supporters of the arts, whether with Pittsburg Community Theatre, the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek or a theatre in Oakland as well as other local theatrical organizations. His first love always remained music, attending concerts and supporting a number of special Bay Area musicians who became life-long friends.
Through his support of the arts, Ramirez became one of the founding members of the Pittsburg Entertainment & Arts Hall of Fame as an original board member and later as the organization’s second President. He was the organization’s major fundraiser and, along with Theresa Jones, the chair of PEAHOF’s Induction Committee, was a spokesperson and proponent for many of early Pittsburg artists who have been inducted into the Pittsburg Entertainment & Arts Hall of Fame.
One of Pittsburg’s most popular musicians in the 1940s and 1950s, James Riso was an accordionist who played with a number of local bands.
He was a regular at Camp Stoneman playing for service men preparing for embarkation during World War II and the Korean Conflict.
He was regularly featured at the El Rio Club in Antioch and was in great demand as a musician at weddings throughout East County.
As his son, Peter, progressed in his musical career, James served as a mentor and manager for his son’s first band, the Four C’s.
Lifelong Pittsburg resident Peter Riso was a child prodigy, learning to play drums at the age of five and appearing on the Lawrence Welk Show when he was eight.
Riso comes from a musical family. His father, James, was a well-known musician in the area and was a mentor to his son.
Riso was a member of Pittsburg’s legendary undefeated-untied-unscored on Pop Warner national champion Mallards in 1963, but music was the passion he pursued in high school and his entire life.
He started as part of a band called the “4 C’s,” – the ‘C’ standing for cousins – with Frank Mercurio, Sal Mercurio and Nick Culcasi. The group was mentored and managed by Pete’s father.
A San Jose State fine arts graduate, Riso began playing with Coke Escovedo, another Pittsburg native, in a band that included Sheila E. on percussion. Riso also played with Coke’s brother, Pete. While playing in Coke Escovedo’s band, Riso was introduced to legendary jazz vibraphonist Cal Tjader and joined his band along with Poncho Sanchez and his cousin, keyboard player Frank Mercurio.
Tjader’s band played all over the United States as well as Japan and South America, and Riso performed with the likes of Rosemary Clooney, Art Pepper, Clark Terry, Mongo Santamaria, Claire Fischer, Alex Acuna and Eddie Duran while with Tjader. He has also played with Rita Moreno, John Handy, Ray Barretto, Willie Bobo and Ray Obiedo among dozens of other topflight musicians.
His recording credits include sessions with Coke Escovedo, Tjader, Pepper, Fischer and Scotty Wright.
Ralph Ruiz is living proof that childhood passions can last a lifetime.
As a 6-year-old growing up in Pittsburg, Ruiz begged his parents to by him a red Mickey Mouse guitar and convinced them. He loved playing his guitar, and his parents would have him pantomime singing 'Whole Lotta Shakin Going On' when friends and family would visit. Ruiz considered himself Elvis, not realizing he was doing a Jerry Lee Lewis song.
He was hooked, and his love of music grew, getting his first real guitar when he was 11 and forming a rock band at St. Peter Martyr School when he was 12. He transferred to Central Jr. High and also got a keyboard, becoming a self-taught keyboard player while forming another band and also playing with PEAHOF Inductee Sam Wesley Jr.
Before graduating from Pittsburg High School in 1970, his musical career took another turn when he was approached by a band to play bass with them. The group played Tejano, oldies and R&B, and, although Ruiz didn't even own a bass and had to play using only the top four strings on his guitar, eventually purchasing his first bass after getting a job with the band. This was the start of a popular band, 'The O.B.Gs,' that included PEAHOF Inductees Jesse DeTorres and Jerry Lumbre and played a variety of events around Pittsburg and Contra Costa County.
He, DeTorres and PEAHOF Inductee Larry Barnett later formed a rock/funk band called 'Friends and Neighbors' that wound up as the house band at a Concord biker bar where their rendition of 'Honky Tonk Woman' always knocked the patrons dead.
Ruiz attended City College of San Francisco with plans to transfer to UC Berkeley when he was asked to play bass for Solar, a Latin jazz/rock band that played all original music as Latin music exploded throughout the Bay Area, sparked by Santana.
Ruiz settled back down in Pittsburg in 1974 working for Chevron, in sales and ultimately the federal government and did little musically aside from getting together with friends on occasion. In 2015, old friend Leo Polvorosa asked if he was interested in playing again, and he joined him to play at Pittsburg Car Show.
In 2017, a country band called '19 Hands Horse' asked him join and, inspired by a new genre of music, he began to play regularly again, even recording with the group with an album that will come out in 2019.
In 2018, he joined friends Primo Arrellano, Benny Sanchez and Ray McCullah to form the 'Black Diamond Rhythm Band' in honor of their Pittsburg roots also while juggling participation in a jazz band called 'JuSusan & Co.'
Pittsburg native Gloria Enea Salas has been singing for eight decades starting as an 8-year-old in the George Eastwood Vaudeville Troupe that included other talented Pittsburg residents including PEAHOF Hall of Famers Bob Grabeau and Lou DiMaggio.
She toured Nevada with the troupe at age nine which included travel in old-fashioned covered wagons to reach some of the smaller outposts where it performed.
She performed at Camp Stoneman and remembers soldiers tossing coins onto the stage in appreciation for her performances. She was known as ’the little songstress of the Pittsburg USO,’ often performing with the Tankovich Sisters, local girls who had a tap dancing act.
When she attended Pittsburg High School, she was a pupil of vocal music teacher Phil Jones, who taught her techniques she still uses in 2015 to sing a wide range of music. He taught her to sing both opera and jazz. During summers she attended music camps at College (now University) of Pacific in Stockton, studying under Kurt Herbert Adler of the San Francisco Opera and Hollywood movie composer and arranger Jester Hairston. She won the Bank of America Award for Music when she graduated from Pittsburg High School in 1956.
She sang with the Monterey Choral Society now known as the Bach Society. She has performed in clubs and still enjoys sharing her gift of singing at hospitals, retirement homes and charity events. She was chosen to sing the National Anthem for a national bocce competition at the Peppermill in Reno.She also recently returned to the stage to sing and dance in musicals, including ‘Guys & Dolls’ and ‘Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ with Brentwood Musical Theater.
It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock-and-roll, but Pittsburg High grad John J. Siino III has made the journey an exciting one.
Siino comes from a musical family and made his first public musical appearance in high school when he auditioned for the musical ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ and won the lead role. He was also active in Pittsburg Community Theatre productions, including ‘The King and I.’
He became a member of “Nightshift,” a popular Top 40’s band, in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s where he found out he not only had natural ability as a crooner but also loved being a crooner. In his soul, Rock-and-Roll was a still a passion, and despite his crooning , he had a unique blend of Pittsburg soul and metal in his voice. But his rock-and-roll days were still in the future.
From 2000-2002, he returned to the stage performing as Nunzio, Tony’s father, in the off-Broadway smash ‘Tony and Tina’s Wedding’ which enjoyed an extended run in a San Francisco cabaret.
In 2003, Siino joined lead guitarist Doug Mascardo as the vocalist and one of the founding members of the popular East County band “The Floorshakers.” The 10-pience band combined funk, soul and rock-and-roll, creating a high-powered sound that included a full horn section. The band could mix songs by Tower of Power, Journey, Green Day, Blink 182 and Earth Wind and Fire in eclectic sets that made it one of the East Bay’s top party bands that retains its popularity more than a decade later.
After getting married, Siino moved to San Mateo and had to drop out of the Floorshakers, but he answered an open-call ad and auditioned to be the lead singer for Evolution, a Journey tribute band.
Just as he had in high school, Siino came out of the audition with the job as Evolution’s lead vocalist. The band included two other members with Pittsburg ties, keyboard player Jess Reyes, a Siino bandmate from the Nightshift days, and bassist Myron Edwins.
Evolution was voted the Bay Area’s top tribute band two years running by listeners of KFOX, one of the Bay Area’s leading FM rock stations.
The band has played numerous Bay Area venues from the Creative Arts Building to the Little Fox on the Peninsula where original Journey member Gregg Rolie joined them on stage to play with them. They have also been featured at the Alameda County Fair.
You can take the man out of Pittsburg but not Pittsburg out of the man. John's favorite memories and experiences will always be the 40+ performances on the Creative Arts Building stage both musically and theatrically.
Like a comet flashing through the sky, four Pittsburg teenagers known as Soul Patrol lit the imaginations of fellow Pittsburg students with their dance routines that redefined the style of dancing and making it part of the 1970's artistic culture.
Willie Moffett Jr., Don Anderson, and Perry Williams (1977 PHS graduates) and George Boobie Parker (1979 PHS grad), who were later joined by Jeffery Miles (PHS 1978) when Williams moved to Los Angeles after his graduation, joined together following a dream to represent Pittsburg in talent shows throughout the Bay Area and state.
The dancers refined their act after joining together in 1973 performing at local venues such as the Del Monte Center (city gym), Pittsburg Boys Club and in the Creative Arts Building. Their creative and unique style led to winning a county-wide talent show at the Creative Arts Building.
They represented Pittsburg in a variety of dance competitions in Northern California meeting and competing with dance troupes such as Berkeley's Soul Protrons, Oakland's Argonauts, Richmond's Boogaloos and San Francisco's Mad Hatters. In 1975, Soul Patrol became the first African-American group to perform at Ygnacio Valley High School.
Soul Patrol ultimately represented Pittsburg in a nationwide celebration of dance at Edward Vincent Jr. Park in Inglewood that attracted over 200 dance groups and drill teams.
The group was featured as an opening act for Bobby Blue Bland, in costumes designed by PEAHOF Inductee Dr. Ronald McDowell, as well as Stevie Wonder and Frankie Beverly and Maze when those headliners performed at the Creative Arts Building.
One of the Anderson sisters who were introduced to gospel by Rev. Isaiah and Geneva Brown, Dorothy Stanton is affectionately known as the Bay Area’s "Queen of Gospel."
Her influence in the gospel field has far transcended her singing. Working at KDIA and other Bay Area stations, she has spread the gospel sound throughout the Bay Area and is a six-time recipient of the Announcer of the Year Award given by the Gospel Academy. She was the first and remains the only Black female member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. She is a member of the Bay Area Black Journalists Association and the Bay Area Black Media Coalition, National Association of Religious Broadcasters, Gospel Music Workshop of America and the Gospel Music Association.
She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the National Black Women’s Ministries of America and the Woman of Faith Distinguished Service Award from the Baptist Ministers Union as well as many state and local awards for contributions to various projects.
A Pittsburg native, John Lopez, attended Pittsburg High (1978 graduate), where he also starred in football, and Los Medanos College before graduating from Saint Mary’s College.
He began his comedy career in 1984 and, in 1992, he was the San Francisco International Comedy Competition (which Robin Williams didn’t win). He was the morning show host on "Live 105" FM and also "The Show" on KRON/Bay Area. The morning show was selected as San Francisco’s top local radio show in the S.F. Weekly annual readers’ poll and by the S.F. Publicity Club. The Chronicle called it San Francisco’s "best morning chatter show."
Considered one of the Bay Area’s top comedians for his thought-provoking, as well as funny, insights, he has performed all over the United States. Stories of growing up in Pittsburg have been part of his act for some time. He made his professional name Johnny Steele because of the Pittsburg’s steel heritage.
He, Will Durst and Larry "Bubbles" Brown are featured in the award-winning documentary '3 Still Standing,' looking at their comedy careers since the 1980s.
His brother, Steve, is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated lead columnist for the Los Angeles Times and also the author of "The Soloist."
A native of Arkansas, who currently makes her home in Bay Point, Sumac is the daughter of legendary blues man Craig Horton. She began singing at an early age and has become adept at blues, R&B, jazz and gospel.
She has opened for performers such as Millie Jackson and Bobby Rush and sang with Ray Charles when he was given the key to the city in Richmond. She was also a featured vocalist, singing "Lets Hear It for the Raiders" in an event celebrating the team's return to Oakland.
She has appeared nationally, appearing in clubs, casinos and festivals, is popular in the UK as well as the Caribbean in Jamaica and also Cozumel, Mexico. With her Soul Heaven Band, she reached the semifinals in the International Battle of the Blues Challenge in Memphis while representing the Sacramento Blues Society. She has appeared on the President's Stage the past two years at the Monterey Blues Festival.
She has hosted and promoted her own Annual Blues Benefit and Festival in her hometown of Bigelow, AK, since 2009.
Carille Bruno-Thayer is a well-travelled performer who is Pittsburg through and through.
She grew up in Pittsburg and has been involved in the performing arts at all levels virtually all of her life.
She started singing in the Good Shepherd Music Ministry under the direction of her father, Sal, in 1989. She continued singing and played flute and keyboards in both the Hillview Jr. High and Pittsburg High School bands. She also sang in the Hillview and PHS choirs.
She received an AA degree in music at Los Medanos College and a BA in vocal performance from Cal State Hayward.
She toured France as a member of the Bay Area Chamber Choir in 2006 and has performed in concert with the Good Shepherd Music Ministry where she is currently a choir conductor.
She served as the vocal director for the Pittsburg High School production of ‘Pippin’ in 2010 and has been Pittsburg Community Theatre’s Musical Director for ‘South Pacific’ in 2014, which earned her a Shelley nomination, and ‘Into the Woods’ in 2015.
Inducted 2018Rev. Dr. M.T. Thompson has always had a calling as well as a special gift.
As a boy in Fort Worth, Texas, Thompson’s gift of singing attracted attention early, and he toured as a member of adult gospel groups, including the Spiritual Five and the Southern Travelers. His singing led him to Los Angeles where he sang as second lead for Wings of Faith and also with the original Chamber Brothers, whose younger brothers later formed a rock group of the same name and had the hit “Time Has Come Today.”
With a physical stature as strong as his voice, Thompson, called “Big Mac” by friends, also engaged in professional wrestling under the name Rick Waldo. But just as strong as his physical stature and voice was his calling to the Lord.
In 1957, Thompson and his young family were headed to preach and wrestle in Sacramento when they stopped to preach in Port Chicago. His wife was about to give birth to the family’s second daughter. Doctors suggested the family remain in Port Chicago, which it did as the family settled in and Thompson began his career as a pastor.
Later in 1957, he was called to be the pastor at Solomon Temple Baptist Church, which was located in West Pittsburg at the time. Under Thompson’s leadership, the church moved to 428 Cutter Street in Pittsburg and grew to the point where it purchased property on California Street and erected the church where it is still located.
Thompson and PEAHOF Inductee Rev. Isaiah Brown teamed together with the creation of the Flying Eagles, a gospel group that brought attention to Pittsburg, serving as a magnet attracting nationally known groups to come to Pittsburg to share their gifts. In addition to the Flying Eagles, Thompson also sang with the Combs Singers and the Key Notes locally. The two created a special Second Sunday program of fellowship and singing bringing their congregations closer together as each church would host on alternate months.
His pastorate at Solomon Temple led him to the Berkeley Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, which he served for 42 years and also began a recording career with songs such as “Home Going,” “Precious Lord” and “Yes, Jesus Loves Me.”
He continues his 63 years of serving the Lord in 2018 preaching in Brentwood, where he currently resides, and has recently recorded a new album, “Ask God” with his group Vision and the Voices of Mount Zion Choir.
In addition to his singing and spiritual leadership, Thompson has served as the second Special Appointed Deputy of Contra Costa County and was the first African American to serve on the Commission of Contra Costa Housing Authority when appointed by Supervisor Ed Linscheid in 1962.
Originally from Minneapolis, Rick Treat is a long-time Pittsburg resident and musician.
Treat studied with world-renowned Latin jazz pianist Manfredo Fest and also studied at Los Medanos College after moving to Pittsburg in the late 1980’s.
The keyboard player is particularly well known locally, but he toured with the legendary Latin rock band Malo. He has performed from coast to coast in the U.S. as well as touring overseas.
Treat is best known for his work with Pittsburg’s popular Latin R&B band the PHD’s. He has played in Pittsburg’s Car Shows since they started and has performed at 27 straight Seafood Festivals (as of 2016).
Treat also played with PEAHOF Hall of Famer Jesse DeTorres in DeTorres’ popular party band J.D. & Company for seven years and currently plays with PEAHOF inductee Peter Riso and Ramiro Amador in a Latin-jazz quartet.
He is also a member of the Golden State Warriors house band and plays with San Francisco’s favorite dance band Pride & Joy. He has also played with Jon Otis & the Bluebeats and Point of Return
Felix Urbina (1928-2001) created the first Latin big band in Contra Costa County. A bass player born in Mexico, he migrated to Pittsburg with his family as a child.
His mother sent him to Mexico to study music, and he dreamed of creating a big band similar to the many popular American bands but playing Latin Music. He organized the band in 1948 while working at Columbia Steel. He recruited his friend, Chito Perez, and used both adult musicians as well as players from Pittsburg High School.
With a large Mexican-American population as well as migrant workers in the Bracero Program, a Latin-flavored band was badly needed to provide people with music with Mexican and Latin roots.
Urbina and his band were in constant demand locally and were also hired by MAPA (Mexican American Political Association) to perform before packed venues at Latino functions throughout Northern California from Sacramento to Merced and Chico-Yuba City to Santa Rosa.
The band also appeared regularly on live television shows during the 1950s and 60s. During the 60s, Urbina had to downsize his band, but it remained a popular attraction throughout Northern California as well as at family events such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and quincineras. Urbina’s brother, Jess, an original member of the band, is still alive, living in Danville.
A Pittsburg native, the largely self-taught Leo Vigil has become one of the West Coast’s most accomplished and versatile drummers.
Growing up in a home where music was constantly played, Vigil showed his flair for drumming early after receiving a small plastic drum set for this third birthday. His two older sisters studied piano while Vigil first music lessons came on the accordion at age six. With the support of his parents, sisters and Aunt Lillian, who purchased some of his earliest drum sets.
He attended James Brown’s legendary concert at the Creative Arts Building as a youngster and said, “This would change the way I listen and play music and perform on stage forever.” By age 11, he began jamming with local musicians and started playing professionally two years later. He made his first club appearance in San Francisco at age 14.
As a senior in high school, his first full-time band was a country band with a 60-year-old bass player who taught him the dynamics of various drumming styles and how to lay down the proper groove for a band. He later joined “Crash Landing,” a rock band that opened for several name performers and was a staple at San Francisco clubs. Vigil began writing and arranging music for the band with guitarist Nick Carasis.
In 1980, he made the commitment to become a full-time musician and began playing studio sessions as well as performing in clubs and touring. During the decade, he formed the Leo Vigil Jazz Trio and his fusion band, the Leo Vigil Band, while also playing with the PHDs, Carlos Reyes and Powertrip.
In addition to playing drums, Vigil is the Chief Creative Officer for Alleon Music composing and producing music for jingles, commercials, video animation and film scores. The company also has its own record label.
This bio is unedited by demand of Vocal-Ease, which said, “You do not have permission to publish anything other than the exact bio originally submitted to you.”
The three women of Vocal-ease -- Julie DiMaggio Enea, Betsy Kohler, and Carol Zbacnik -- met 41 years ago through the Good Shepherd Folk Choir, directed by the late PEAHOF Inductee Sal Bruno. Singing and arranging many church songs in three-part harmony to suit their voices cemented what would become a lifelong friendship and sisterhood in music. All three were mentored and encouraged in live performance by band leader and choir alumnus George Lumbre, who during the 1960s and ’70s had a series of popular bands that played at private events throughout the Bay Area. Each performed with Lumbre for many years in bands “The Brothers Plus” and “Listen”.
The women clicked as a trio, later becoming Vocal-Ease, singing at weddings, funerals and other events. In 1988 the girls were encouraged by Bruno to learn a few Andrews Sisters songs for a Camp Stoneman Reunion USO show. The success of that performance led the women to expand those few songs into a large repertoire of 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s music with the help of many talented musicians that they have worked with over several decades, including Pittsburg musicians, Ned Canepa, Jim Matejcek, Jimmy Riso, Lou Esposito, Larry Widener, Brian Leber, and PEAHOF Inductees Pete Riso and and Sal Bruno. Their band currently performs hits by the Beatles, Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, The Supremes and The Temptations, mixing big band songs, swing and boogie woogie with classical rock and soul, doo-wop and Motown.
The women have performed close to home in East Contra Costa County, and as far away as San Francisco and Monterey. They wowed Golden State Warriors fans many times over with their classic rendition of the National Anthem. They’ve performed in sweltering heat, rain, wind and snow, at fancy hotels, in parks, event halls and family homes. In May 2008, Vocal-ease and The Boogie Men released a CD of ‘40s music entitled “Side by Side” to commemorate 20 years together; and in June 2013, they released a second CD of ‘50s/’60s tunes entitled “Life is Good”, commemorating 25 years together and honoring the memory of former guitarist Jim Matejcek.
The three women are East Contra Costa natives: Carol and Julie from Pittsburg and Betsy from Antioch. With the Good Shepherd Choir, Lumbre, their trio, and with The Boogie Men, they have been a fixture on the Pittsburg music scene for nearly four decades, reviving an era of music that is seldom heard in modern live performance. In addition to stage and studio vocal performance, all three women performed in live theater, and high school and college choirs under the tutelage of PEAHOF Inductees Orrin Cross and Jack French; and also John Maltester, among others. The trio also had, in 1996, the rare privilege of recording and performing live at the Concord Pavilion with world renown jazz pianist Gene Harris and his daughter, vocalist Nikki Harris.
Anyone who has performed with an ensemble for any amount of time will agree that it really is blood, sweat and tears that bind the members together. Julie, Betsy and Carol continue to enjoy harmonizing together and performing with The Boogie Men. However, they feel their purest sound is when the three of them are singing together “unplugged”, when they can profoundly hear and fully appreciate the unique blend of the three voices.
versatile artist Cortez Walker was born in Home, LA,
where he attended segregated schools before moving to
California, first to Los Angeles in 1950 and then to
Pittsburg two years later.
Although he loved art, he had received no formal
instruction until enrolling in his first art class as a
sophomore at Pittsburg High School. Art has been a
vocation for him ever since.
graduation, he joined the Navy where creating signage
graphics, doing decal designs and reproductions and
compiling photographs were part of his duties. Upon his
discharge, he worked as a technical illustrator for
Aero-Jet General and then as a graphics designer for EG&G,
Inc., a contractor for the Department of Energy. While
working, he attended Diablo Valley College and later
John F. Kennedy University where he received a BA degree
in fine arts.
uses a mixed media of pastels, ink, acrylic paint,
pencil and his signature paper collage. He uses vivid
colors to infuse his subjects with action and detail,
provoking happy smiles from viewers.
art, which has graced the cover of TV Guide, covers
diverse themes of the African-American culture, women,
children, religious subjects, cartoons and nature and
are frequently featured on greeting cards.
locally as a historian, Walker is also a proponent of
bringing the arts to youth, mentoring them not only
through art but also through building self-esteem,
social and cultural awareness and health.
The versatile artist Cortez Walker was born in Home, LA, where he attended segregated schools before moving to California, first to Los Angeles in 1950 and then to Pittsburg two years later.
Although he loved art, he had received no formal instruction until enrolling in his first art class as a sophomore at Pittsburg High School. Art has been a vocation for him ever since.
Upon graduation, he joined the Navy where creating signage graphics, doing decal designs and reproductions and compiling photographs were part of his duties. Upon his discharge, he worked as a technical illustrator for Aero-Jet General and then as a graphics designer for EG&G, Inc., a contractor for the Department of Energy. While working, he attended Diablo Valley College and later John F. Kennedy University where he received a BA degree in fine arts.
He uses a mixed media of pastels, ink, acrylic paint, pencil and his signature paper collage. He uses vivid colors to infuse his subjects with action and detail, provoking happy smiles from viewers.
His art, which has graced the cover of TV Guide, covers diverse themes of the African-American culture, women, children, religious subjects, cartoons and nature and are frequently featured on greeting cards.
Known locally as a historian, Walker is also a proponent of bringing the arts to youth, mentoring them not only through art but also through building self-esteem, social and cultural awareness and health.
theatre have always been a big part of David Ward’s life
as has the Creative Arts Building.
family moved to Pittsburg when he was seven, and when he
was in fifth grade at Heights Elementary School, he had
the leading role in the school’s production of ‘The
Shoemaker and the Elves.’
learned to play clarinet in elementary school, appeared
in the newly constructed Creative Arts Building in 1959
as the building was officially opened with a
district-wide music festival featuring bands and choirs
from all district schools ranging from elementary to
junior high to high school.
played in both the Pittsburg High marching band and
concert band and later sang in the concert choir at both
Diablo Valley College and UC Davis while earning degrees
at both schools. He also resumed his theatrical career
at DVC, appearing in ‘The Boys From Syracuse.’
taught drama and math during a 34-year teaching career
at Hillview Jr. High School, which he attended. He also
served as the choir director of Pittsburg United
Methodist Church for 29 years after Jack French stepped
down. He was privileged to sing in Carnegie Hall with a
joint choir from around the United States.
moving to Pittsburg in 2010, Aubrey "Chuck" Wallace has
shared his blues stylings with appreciative audiences in
Pittsburg and throughout the Bay Area.
A native of Arkansas, Wallace began his
singing career in church as a six-year-old with his
sister, Willie Ann Wallace.
He started his professional career
joining with Walter Jefferson. The band gained regional
recognition in Arkansas as the Walter Jefferson Blue
Band featuring Chuck Wallace.
After four years fronting for Jefferson's
band, Wallace moved to St. Louis and teamed up with
Roosevelt Matthews. They were signed by Ruby Records,
and their first single, 'The Bear,' made the Top Ten in
R&B charts. The duo had several other hits, notably 'I
Need Your Love, Powerful Love.'
In 1980, the duo switched to Twinight
Records and immediately released a hit single, 'Hard
Shortly before moving to Pittsburg,
Wallace rejoined Ruby Records and cut the hit single
'The Way I Feel.'
Wallace has appeared with a number of top
acts over the years, including Smokey Robinson, Tyrone
Davis, Johnny Taylor, Luther Ingram, Shirley Brown,
Vernon Garrett and many more.
Wallace has performed at the old Liberty
Hotel in Pittsburg and has been featured at PEAHOF
Second Sunday Jam Sessions and at the 2015 Seafood
Festival. He's also appeared at Biscuits and Blues in
He currently performs with his band,
Chuck Wallace and Friends,, and with bands featuring
Bobby Webb, Margie Turner and others.
Ozeal (Edwards) Warren has lived a full life with varied
occupations, but music has always played a major role.
She was born into a musical family in McKamie, Arkansas,
in 1922, to George and Zenobia Edwards. Her mother was
often referred to as the second Marian Anderson. Her
father had a powerful bass voice and could hold a not as
if a choir of 20 all by himself.
Ozeal inherited a pump organ from an aunt at age seven
and taught herself how to play. By age nine, she was
playing for the Sunday School at the Friendship Baptist
Church and was playing for the Senior Choir by the time
she was 12. It was also at that time when her father
purchased a piano for her by trading 87 gallons of sugar
cane syrup for it.
She and her husband, Sylvester Warren Sr., settled in
Pittsburg in 1944 after he completed his service in the
They joined First Baptist Church in June of 1944 and she
celebrated her 72nd year of membership in
In September 1944, she began to play for the Young Adult
Choir. She took over direction of the Senior Choir in
1946 and was soon appointed as the church’s Minister of
Music, holding the position until her retirement in
Her day job was being a crane operator at the steel
mill, but she loved doing hair for her sisters and
friends and attended school earning a cosmetology
license in 1957 and continued doing hair until retiring
at age 84 in 2006. She was also active in the community,
serving on the board of both the NAACP and BPA (Black
Political Association) as well as other community boards
But music was her true love and passion. After playing
for First Baptist, she would play a newly founded St.
Mark Baptist Church which met in the First Baptist
Social Hall. She would also play for other churches,
including Solomon Temple and Mt. Zion, lovingly donating
She organized and conducted the joint Easter cantata,
‘Old Ship of Zion’ for the combined churches of the
community as well as various other programs.
She always opened her home to help musicians to rehearse
solos for special occasions or to provide advice and
support or simply accompany them and arrange music for
She has traveled nationwide and even been to Cuba
supporting pastors and fellow musicians while winning a
number of awards for her achievements in the music
Sam Wesley Jr., known professionally as Sam-One, the Bad
Boy of the Blues, is the son of PEAHOF inductee Sam
A versatile guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, arranger
and producer, Wesley has been nominated as the Male
Blues Artist of the Year at the first two Northern
California Entertainers Music Awards in 2016 and 2017.
Wesley began playing guitar at age eight. His style is
unique as he continues to perfect and refine his
signature blues licks that have made him a popular
attraction at clubs all over Northern California.
Wesley was rewarded after producing his first CD with
his song ‘Let’s Make Love Tonight’ reaching No. 1 for
four weeks on Blues Critic Radio. The song also hit the
Top 20 for 2010 recordings on the Southern Soul RnB
Songs list. Two other songs from the album also hit the
Top Ten on regional charts, ‘Why You Want to Hate On Me’
and ‘’Don’t Leave.’ The title track from the CD, ‘You
Ain’t Right,’ also received considerable air play.
Music and theatre have always been a big part of David Ward’s life as has the Creative Arts Building.
Ward’s family moved to Pittsburg when he was seven, and when he was in fifth grade at Heights Elementary School, he had the leading role in the school’s production of ‘The Shoemaker and the Elves.’
Ward, who learned to play clarinet in elementary school, appeared in the newly constructed Creative Arts Building in 1959 as the building was officially opened with a district-wide music festival featuring bands and choirs from all district schools ranging from elementary to junior high to high school.
Ward played in both the Pittsburg High marching band and concert band and later sang in the concert choir at both Diablo Valley College and UC Davis while earning degrees at both schools. He also resumed his theatrical career at DVC, appearing in ‘The Boys From Syracuse.’
Ward taught drama and math during a 34-year teaching career at Hillview Jr. High School, which he attended. He also served as the choir director of Pittsburg United Methodist Church for 29 years after Jack French stepped down. He was privileged to sing in Carnegie Hall with a joint choir from around the United States.
Since moving to Pittsburg in 2010, Aubrey "Chuck" Wallace has shared his blues stylings with appreciative audiences in Pittsburg and throughout the Bay Area.
A native of Arkansas, Wallace began his singing career in church as a six-year-old with his sister, Willie Ann Wallace.
He started his professional career joining with Walter Jefferson. The band gained regional recognition in Arkansas as the Walter Jefferson Blue Band featuring Chuck Wallace.
After four years fronting for Jefferson's band, Wallace moved to St. Louis and teamed up with Roosevelt Matthews. They were signed by Ruby Records, and their first single, 'The Bear,' made the Top Ten in R&B charts. The duo had several other hits, notably 'I Need Your Love, Powerful Love.'
In 1980, the duo switched to Twinight Records and immediately released a hit single, 'Hard Times.'
Shortly before moving to Pittsburg, Wallace rejoined Ruby Records and cut the hit single 'The Way I Feel.'
Wallace has appeared with a number of top acts over the years, including Smokey Robinson, Tyrone Davis, Johnny Taylor, Luther Ingram, Shirley Brown, Vernon Garrett and many more.
Wallace has performed at the old Liberty Hotel in Pittsburg and has been featured at PEAHOF Second Sunday Jam Sessions and at the 2015 Seafood Festival. He's also appeared at Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco.
He currently performs with his band, Chuck Wallace and Friends,, and with bands featuring Bobby Webb, Margie Turner and others.
Ozeal (Edwards) Warren has lived a full life with varied occupations, but music has always played a major role.
She was born into a musical family in McKamie, Arkansas, in 1922, to George and Zenobia Edwards. Her mother was often referred to as the second Marian Anderson. Her father had a powerful bass voice and could hold a not as if a choir of 20 all by himself.
Ozeal inherited a pump organ from an aunt at age seven and taught herself how to play. By age nine, she was playing for the Sunday School at the Friendship Baptist Church and was playing for the Senior Choir by the time she was 12. It was also at that time when her father purchased a piano for her by trading 87 gallons of sugar cane syrup for it.
She and her husband, Sylvester Warren Sr., settled in Pittsburg in 1944 after he completed his service in the U.S. Army.
They joined First Baptist Church in June of 1944 and she celebrated her 72nd year of membership in 2016.
In September 1944, she began to play for the Young Adult Choir. She took over direction of the Senior Choir in 1946 and was soon appointed as the church’s Minister of Music, holding the position until her retirement in 1998.
Her day job was being a crane operator at the steel mill, but she loved doing hair for her sisters and friends and attended school earning a cosmetology license in 1957 and continued doing hair until retiring at age 84 in 2006. She was also active in the community, serving on the board of both the NAACP and BPA (Black Political Association) as well as other community boards
But music was her true love and passion. After playing for First Baptist, she would play a newly founded St. Mark Baptist Church which met in the First Baptist Social Hall. She would also play for other churches, including Solomon Temple and Mt. Zion, lovingly donating her time.
She organized and conducted the joint Easter cantata, ‘Old Ship of Zion’ for the combined churches of the community as well as various other programs.
She always opened her home to help musicians to rehearse solos for special occasions or to provide advice and support or simply accompany them and arrange music for them.
She has traveled nationwide and even been to Cuba supporting pastors and fellow musicians while winning a number of awards for her achievements in the music industry.
Sam Wesley Jr., known professionally as Sam-One, the Bad Boy of the Blues, is the son of PEAHOF inductee Sam Wesley Sr.
A versatile guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, arranger and producer, Wesley has been nominated as the Male Blues Artist of the Year at the first two Northern California Entertainers Music Awards in 2016 and 2017.
Wesley began playing guitar at age eight. His style is unique as he continues to perfect and refine his signature blues licks that have made him a popular attraction at clubs all over Northern California.
Wesley was rewarded after producing his first CD with his song ‘Let’s Make Love Tonight’ reaching No. 1 for four weeks on Blues Critic Radio. The song also hit the Top 20 for 2010 recordings on the Southern Soul RnB Songs list. Two other songs from the album also hit the Top Ten on regional charts, ‘Why You Want to Hate On Me’ and ‘’Don’t Leave.’ The title track from the CD, ‘You Ain’t Right,’ also received considerable air play.
Born in Mississippi, Sam Wesley was steeped in the blues tradition although he didn’t begin seriously playing until moving to Richmond in 1952.
His musical career got a real kick start when he moved to Pittsburg shortly after coming to California. He joined a band that included Raymond Glasper that played all over Northern California from the San Francisco Peninsula area to Roseville. The band originally played blues but expanded to the new form of rock-and-roll while using its blues roots. The band was featured on legendary disc jockey Gene Nelson’s local television show in the 1950s.
Although he played guitar, Wesley had always been interested in the flute and would create and play bamboo flutes for himself that he would share with youngsters growing up in the El Pueblo area where he made his home.
Because he found the traditional flute with its side mouthpiece cumbersome to play, Wesley had always explored ways to create a flute that would have its mouthpiece at the end. He came upon the idea after watching a friend clean his .410 shotgun and blow through the barrel. By 1975, he had perfected and patented the new flute that has become a staple for many flutists today.
Seattle native Larry Widener, director of bands at Antioch's Deer Valley High School and Dozier Libbey Medical High School in Antioch as well as an adjunct professor at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, began his musical career after moving to Pittsburg.
As a seventh grader at Central Jr. High, he was part of the orchestra for Pittsburg Community Theatre's production of 'Oklahoma.' He played in house orchestras including the Willows Theatre and Contra Costa Community Theatre as well as Pittsburg High School productions under the direction of PEAHOF Inductee Orrin Cross before graduating in 1980.
A born drummer, Widener played with several bands in high school, including Cross Section with PEAHOF Inductees Sal Bruno and Ned Canepa and Brothers Plus. He also became proficient on bass and trombone and has learned to play all other band instruments as a way to instruct his students better.
He earned an AA degree at Los Medanos College, studying under PEAHOF Inductee John Maltester. He earned a BA at Cal State Fresno where he studied percussion with Sandy Schaeffer and Steve Schick and later earned a Masters degree in conducting at Southern Oregon University.
While at Fresno, he played with a gospel band, Tim Johnson & Co., and was a founding member of the Blue Street Dixieland Band, which has performed worldwide. He has played with musicians such as Doc Severinsen, Bobby Shew and Jim Walker and worked under conductors such as Johan de Meij and Col. Arnald Gabriel.
Still a resident of Pittsburg, Widener takes his greatest pride in the accomplishments of students such as Grammy winners Doug Rovira and Chris Duncan and Broadway performers such as Jason Hite and Celissa Henderson.
Had he been born centuries earlier, Daniel Zwickel ben Avram would have been considered a troubadour. In Pittsburg, he is best known as “Guillermo’s guitarist,” providing the music for the legendary Pittsburg restaurateur and PEAHOF inductee Guillermo Muniz.
As a youngster, he received classical training on the violin and was given an appreciation of classical and many other types of music, including Mariachi, sacred and folk music, by his parents, Jean and Abe.
At age nine he won Honorable Mention for his first composition, a piece for flute and piano in a Young Composers competition sponsored by the San Diego Symphony.
He learned guitar in 1964 when studying at the University of Guadalajara. While attending San Diego State in the mid-60s, he began singing and playing at local coffeehouses, playing his first professional gig in 1969.
He came to Northern California in 1971, immediately landing a full-time gig as a musician at the Elegant Bib in Alamo. He also served as a cantor at the Newman Center (Catholic) located near UC-Berkeley. He began playing at weddings and also began playing at churches of all denominations. He also continued at other music venues, including nearly 19 years at Chatillon Restaurant in San Ramon.
He was playing at a wedding reception when introduced to Muniz for the first time when Muniz began singing as he played several Mexican songs. The two became immediate friends, bonding through their love of music, and Zwickel was always available to back up his friend and patrón.
He worked tirelessly on the restoration of the Creative Arts Building on the Pittsburg High School campus and created the logo for the CAB Concerts series of benefit concerts sponsored by the Pittsburg Creative Arts Building Corporation.
He has composed and recorded a classical work, ‘Metanoia,’ uses his computer tech skills to transcribe music for fellow musicians, has written short stories and edited several books and created a computer-themed card game, Hexadec. Long active in the peace movement, he is currently (2016) working on a ballet and on publishing a book on the history of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek of which he is a member.