Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Spanky Wilson LIVE! Betty Davis Documentary! Spider Rondinelli Tribute!

We've posted about Spanky Wilson a few times since the piece we published back in October of 2011. If you're still not familiar with her, or it isn't fresh in your mind, then we suggest that you go back and give it a read.

Spanky started her career here in Pittsburgh, in the 1950's, playing tiny clubs in neighborhoods like Homewood and the Hill District. At age seventy-six she has performed all over the world, she's legendary among record collectors and, while she never quite scored that 'big hit record', she has achieved nothing short of a worldwide underground cult status.

Spanky's been residing here in Pittsburgh for the past five years, but by this time next year she will be living back in Los Angeles. We urge Pittsburgh residents to check out her live show while she's still with us. Why procrastinate? Check her out THIS FRIDAY, September 18th at Thunderbird Cafe in Lawrenceville. She's assembled a great group of musicians, playing as 'The All-Stars', comprised of Max Leake (keys), Paul Thompson (bass), Thomas Wendt (drums) and Lou Stellute (sax).  Here is a little teaser for Friday's gig ...

alternate link for clip: http://tinyurl.com/pw6eg4g
This event was organized by the TITLE TOWN Soul & Funk Dance Party and it's being marketed as the TITLE TOWN 'Dance & Show.' Doors open at 9 pm. There will be two full one-hour sets, 9:30-10:30 pm and 11 pm-12 am, with TITLE TOWN DJ's playing forty-fives through out the night. Stick around and dance afterward. The party will likely go until 2 am. Advance tickets are available at Showclix.com.

We'd also like to take this opportunity to mention a few other local artists and upcoming events. Betty Davis, born in North Carolina, is another Pittsburgh-bred soul sister who is still residing locally. The one-time wife of Jazz great Miles Davis wrote songs for The Chambers Brothers and recorded with the likes of Larry Graham and Greg Errico of Sly & The Family Stone. She disappeared from the limelight in the late 1970's and she's been living in seclusion in Homestead ever since.


An international group of filmmakers, Native Voice Films, has recently convinced her to tell her story. They are working on a documentary titled NASTY GAL - The Many Lives of Funk Queen Betty Davis. Their IndieGogo campaign just launched this week and we urge you to check it out. If all goes well there will be a city-wide celebration of Ms. Davis next summer, which will be included in the film.

90.5 FM WESA's Saturday night DJ, Bob Studebaker, is organizing an overdue tribute to percussionist Spider Rondinelli on Sunday, October 18th at James Street Gastropub & Speak Easy. It's called SpiderFest and it will be upstairs in the ballroom. You can make reservations by calling 412-904-3335. Check it out on Facebook here. That's Spider in the photograph above, seated in front of Edgar Wills (bass) and vocalist Sonji Clay. Sonji Clay was the first wife of boxing great Muhammad Ali and, while she is from Chicago, she started her singing career here in Pittsburgh. Edgar Willis is a hometown Jazz hero who was the musical arranger for Ray Charles. In addition he played with The Johnny Otis Show, as well as with Doc Severinsen in The Tonight Show band. Spider Rondinelli is a fixture in the local Jazz community and he recorded with the likes of Deuces Wild and The Frank Cunimondo Trio.

We're tickled black & gold over here with all of this tribute that's being paid to some of Pittsburgh's local musical luminaries, especially while they're still here with us. We hope that you'll support some of these great efforts!