Welcome to Beaver County Memories, a look back at the people, places and events that have made Beaver County a special place, presented by St. Barnabas Beaver Meadows. In this first segment about Beaver County musicians, you might feel the need to sing along as we highlight some of the musical groups and performers that have called Beaver County Home.
From his home is West Aliquippa, it is theorized, that Henry Mancini had a good view of the Ohio River, and at night, the young Mancini, at the time, sat outside and observed the beauty of the moon and stars in the sky and the light that they cast reflecting off of the tranquil waterway below. This was believed to be Mancini’s inspiration for “Moon River”, one of many award winning songs that Henry Mancini would compose throughout his prolific career. Enrico Nicola Mancini, or Henry Mancini as we know him, enjoyed great success as a composer, arranger and conductor and also performed as a solo artist. His most well known work was writing the musical scores for hundreds of movies and television shows. In addition to the aforementioned “Moon River”, a song from the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, other very familiar tunes penned by Mancini would include the Peter Gunn television series theme and music from the movie The Pink Panther.
Not long after Henry Mancini had written about the celestial beauty of his backyard, a set of twins, also from Aliquippa, began to write music that would eventually be heard over the radios and record players everywhere. Melvin and Mervin Steals were in their early twenties when they got the attention of a record producer at Gamble Records in Philadelphia. This led to the Steals brothers contributing a couple of songs to an introductory album being recorded by another Beaver County band in 1968 called The Jaggerz. One of those tunes, “Gotta Find My Way Back Home”, became a fairly well known song and the first small bit of fame and fortune for both the Jaggerz and the Steals brothers. In 1973, Melvin penned the words and Mervin wrote the music to “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”, a hit song that was recorded by legendary motown group, The Spinners. The song sold over three million copies and continues to receive significant airplay and has been covered and re released by dozens of other artists through the years. Through they moved on to other careers, To date, the duo of songwriting twins from Aliquippa have written around twenty five songs that continue to receive airplay and produce royalty checks.
The Jaggerz, who we mentioned earlier, had roots in Beaver County as well. The original line up was made up of prominent local musicians including Jimmy Ross, Donnie Iris, Bill Maybray, Jim Pugliano, Benny Faiella and Thom Davies. The group hit it big in 1970 with the release of a song from their second album that went to number two on the billboard charts that year called “The Rapper”. In all, The Jaggerz have had eleven nationally released songs, with three of them reaching the top one hundred according to Billboard Magazine. The Jaggerz continue to perform in the Beaver County area many times a year with original members, Ross and Failla joined by Hermie Granati, Paul Martello, Chris Patarini and Dennis McAbee to make up the present day version of the band.
Another family act from Aliquippa had significant success in the late sixties and early seventies. The Stringfield family put together a group called The El Pooks that performed with a similar style, energy and talent level likened to the Jackson 5 or Sly and The Family Stone. In 1970, The El Pooks recorded “Psychedelic Soul, Parts I and II” at Orivious Records in Ambridge. The song became a region wide favorite and copies of the original vinyl record are still a highly sought after item in online auction sites. The pinnacle of the El Pooks career happened when they at one point in time performed as the opening act for the Temptations.
This has been part one of Beaver County Musicians, part of Beaver County Memories, presented by St. Barnabas Beaver Meadows. In Part 2, we will shine the memory spotlight on other great musicians who first performed right here in Beaver County. Tune in everyday for a another memory on Beaver County Radio, or visit beavercountyradio.com for a complete transcript of this and other archived editions of Beaver County Memories.