November 19, 2004

Band Question Answered

Now, live from Bettis Hill in Dravosburg, it's the Tube City Almanac Information Booth ... where the "I-Team" is always on the go, taking action, for you! (Cue your thumping TV news music here.)

Yesterday, Ed from Washington, Pa., asked about a 1960s Mon Valley garage band called "The Oncomers." We sent out feelers to our vast (half-vast?) network of correspondents, and high school classmate Bill Scully, drummer for The Hi-Frequencies, and son of the drummer for The Arondies, responded:

I know the drummer. Jack O'Neill ... he still lives in McKeesport. I'm supposed to contact him again because Get Hip Records wants to release an Oncomers album. The Oncomers & Arondies were close friends ... the Oncomers were their "big brother" band when they were just getting started.
They only released one record, I think ("Every Day Now" b/w "You Let Me Down"), but they recorded about 10 or 11 songs total.
I have just about everything that they did on a cassette tape (a copy of a copy of a copy of a scratchy acetate). I'm a big fan of their can hear similarities between them & The Arondies, though The Arondies were a better band in my opinion. But then I'm a bit biased.

Ed had taped a performance by The Oncomers at the old Cove nightclub on Route 51 in Large. Writes Bill:

The Arondies played the Cove regularly (every Friday night, I think). I have always hoped that someone taped The Arondies in performance, or possibly filmed them via Super 8, but I haven't found anything yet. News like this keeps me hopeful, though.

We hooked up Bill with Ed; and here's what Ed had to say:

When I got out of the U.S. Navy in late 1960, the first thing I bought was a Sony reel-to-reel stereo tape recorder and a cheap Radio Shack electric guitar. The "Twist" was breathing new life into a lot of the old beer joints along Rt. 51, and I was hitting them all, listening to a lot of different bands, drinking beer, and chasing women. "The Cove" in Large became my favorite, and a lot of bands/groups came and went during that time. The Oncomers were head and shoulders above anyone else that ever played there. My love for Chuck Berry style guitar may have clouded my judgement, but I truly loved to listen to them play. I never was a groupie, as such, in that I never knew (or cared) what any of their names were. I loved the music though, and they all knew it. One of the greatest moments in my young life was when the guitar player allowed me to pick up his guitar and play a few chords during break.
One day I asked them if it would be OK if I recorded them while they were playing, and they agreed that it would be fun. The next Friday night I set up right on stage with them. I vividly recall hooking one channel of the recorder directly into the output of the guitarist's amp., without even a mike on that channel. The other channel I hooked to two mikes (with a mixer) for the drummer and bass, which also picked up some of the guitar. That setup was a long way from being "studio quality," but I ended up with what could be the most perfect reproduction of his guitar playing that could possibly be made. The quality of the reproduced sound is just like it was made yesterday, although my mixing ability left a little to be desired.
The tape has a lot of interesting (to me) stuff on it, such as when the guitarist broke a string right after starting, and they had to play an extreme drum and base "Topsy" until he got re-strung. They also do what they refer to as their "Dusty Disk" on the tape, "You Let me Down." There is a rendition of their version of "Bullfight," and "Johnny B. Goode" that still stands my hair on end, along with about 20 or so others.
I used to often listen to the tape, but as time went on I gradually lost interest and put it away where it has been for the last 35 years or so. My 6-year-old grandson is showing great interest in playing guitar, and has already played for his fellow schoolers in the auditorium. His favorite saying is "I want to rock the house." I dug out this tape to show him what really good R&R sounds like, and while I was listening, it ocurred to me that maybe The Oncomers may never have had a chance to save any of their own music, and maybe they might want some of this so they can pass it on to their own grandkids.

I love the Internet. Love, love, love the Internet. Trying to hook people up like this would have been well-nigh impossible 10 years ago ... or at least would have taken much more time. I was able to do it on my lunch break. Extra special thanks to Washington County correspondent Tom for doing the intermediary work, by the way.

And of course, we'll be following this story in the Tube City Almanac newsroom, and we'll have further updates over most of these same typing fingers.

But first ... experts say your underwear may be killing you! Find out why in a Target I-Team Investigative Consumer Eyewitness Alert Report coming up right after these messages from Edgar Snyder & Associates, and from Jim Owens' Country Ford. And, is a killer tornado about to strike your neighborhood? We'll check in with the Tube City Almanac Accu Doppler Severe StormTracker 24 Weather Center in just a moment!

Nah, not really.


To Do This Weekend: The Pennsylvania Pit Bulls open their inaugural ABA season tonight at Penn State McKeesport's Wunderley Gym at 7:05 p.m. tonight. Tickets start at $12. Former Pitt Panthers Julius Page and Jaron Brown are among the featured players. Call (412) 896-5337 or visit

St. Colman Church, Tri-Boro Expressway, Turtle Creek, hosts its holiday craft show from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Posted by jt3y at November 19, 2004 12:38 AM

My underwear isn't killing me. It gives my wife fits, though.

Nice job with the band stuff. Somebody's going to be thrilled to hear all of that music after all this time. I just pray that nobody ever recorded my old band. We were horrific.

Posted by: Bob at November 19, 2004 12:08 PM

Regarding the Oncomers and Arondies... I love it when a plan comes together. It's actually amazing how small a world we live in...for all of these people (strangers and disparate friends -- not to be confused with "desperate" friends) to come together in a story like this. Had I not known Bill, and had his father not been the drummer for the Arondies -- great drummer by the way -- and had the Arondies not known the Oncomers and had I not known Jason, none of this would have been possible. Did that just give you a headache? OK, me too... Time to go to sleep.

Posted by: Tom at November 20, 2004 03:45 AM
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