Searching for a rockin' good time? The Igniters promise to deliver
If people like creative, soulful, fun, dynamic music, the Igniters is the band to see.
That declaration comes from no less than the voice of the band himself, the ever versatile Frank Czuri, who also is a member of the Skyliners and through the years has been a lead singer/vocalist of the Igniters, the Jaggerz, Diamond Reo, the Silencers and Pure Gold.
The Highland Park resident is returning to his teenage years in leading the Igniters — billed as “one the biggest bands to ever come out of Pittsburgh” — into the Oaks Theater on Sept. 30 for a performance that promises to yet again have a reunion feel for longtime fans.
After a series of successful reunion shows, the group, whose members also play in other bands in Pittsburgh, made the decision to reform in 2010.
“Good songs and good material always hold up,” Czuri says.
The Igniters came out of a garage in Penn Hills in the 1960s, a pioneering group of teens specializing in authentic American blues, R&B and rock and soul, and became a starring attraction at the now-defunct Oakmont teen club, the Varsity House. Enthusiastic followers waited in line outside to see them.
They also were popular in places like the Red Rooster/Hardy's Pub in Greensburg, the Psyche Dilly in McKees Rocks and Man Friday's in Moon.
“The Oaks is a great place to play. Members have played the venue with other bands they're in too,” Czuri says. “We hung out in the Oakmont-Verona area in ‘66-'68 until the release of our single on Atlantic (the Top 40 pop-soul tune, ‘Baby, I Love You.') Then we moved into a townhouse in Shadyside, which was a place for hippies, artists, musicians and the like to gather.”
The Igniters are considered a musical incubator, spawning dozens of Pittsburgh artists who went on to other acts such as The Jaggerz, Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners, the Roy Buchanan band, Diamond Reo, The Silencers, Pure Gold, Sweet Lightnin', Magpie, Borrowed Thyme and No Bad Juju.
Atlantic renamed the Igniters as Jimmy Mack and the Music Factory and, in the era of psychedelic and folk-rock, it changed its name again to Friends. Through the years, 23 musicians have contributed to the Igniters/Friends' legacy.
Czuri has been seen by millions on the PBS American Music Series, MTV, Dick Clark's “American Bandstand” and in thousands of live concert and club appearances. He has appeared on 17 nationally released albums with various groups.
“We're basically an R&B-influenced good time rock'n' band,” he says of the Igniters.
He believes the group's creativity is one of its greatest strengths.
“We never do a song just like the record; we always put an Igniter twist to it. We've been known for that since we started. Regarding our place in Pittsburgh rock history, I'll leave it to others,” Czuri explains.
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune Review contributing writer.