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Mt. Pleasant-area band Henwae goes digital

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Members of local rock band Henwae recently released a live version of 'Turn Around,' one of the group's many original songs, on iTunes, Rhapsody and Amazon. It was the group's first foray into marketing its music in an online, digital format. Members include Pete Smolcic, Rich Howard of Ligonier and Alan Emanuele of Norvelt, Tim Scott of The Vogues, John Prucnal and Ron Grkman. Submitted

In the early 1980s, local rock band Henwae became what Alan Emanuele called “a tri-state phenomenon.”

From Morgantown, W.Va., to Jamestown, N.Y., as well as in Greensburg, Johnstown and Altoona, Emanuele — a drummer, vocalist and songwriter — and his band mates would arrive at venues packed with members of a rabid fan base.

“Henwae had a large and loyal following that rivaled any fan's passion for a national act at the time,” said Emanuele, 55, of Mt. Pleasant Township.

In fact, the band regularly served as the local opening act for big-timers such as Henry Paul, Edgar Winter, Charlie Daniels, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Rare Earth, Rick Derringer, Molly Hatchet, The Guess Who and Papa John Creech, Emanuele said.

“It was a given that any show we traveled to would be sold out with standing room only,” he said.

The band earned its reputation solely on the strength of its live performances, as it received neither the support of a major record label nor the benefits of radio air play, Emanuele said.

“The most difficult thing back in those days involved distribution of our recorded music. We were pretty limited, at that time, to how we could sell our recordings,” he said. “If we had the technology of iTunes back then, we could have sold tens of thousands of CDs.”

With that in mind, Henwae officially stepped into the age of digital music with the recent release of “Turn Around (Live Version),” on iTunes, along with other online music stores such as Rhapsody, Amazon and

An original track off of the Henwae's 2005 album “Right Wing,” the recently released song was recorded in May of that year on the WDVE-FM Morning Show Coffee House segment as part of the band's Reunion Road Show.

“(That recording) has a whole new life as opposed to the album cut,” Emanuele said.

Going forward, Emanuele said he and the band's two other original members — Pete Smolcic of Greensburg and Rich Howard of Ligonier — along with Tim Scott of The Vogues, John Prucnal and Ron Grkman are currently working on new Henwae material to be released in similar format in the future.

“We recently laid some tracks down for another original single; we have about 20 songs in our archive,” said Scott, 56, of Norvelt, a vocalist who also plays guitar and harp.

The band plans to issue additional singles digitally online, Emanuele said.

“Then, once have a lot out more (singles) out there we'll think about putting them together on another CD,” he said.

Smolcic, a guitarist, vocalist and keyboardist, espoused the financial savings of going digital when compared with the band's former modes of musical production.

“It was just always a struggle, paying for studio time, pressing records ... it cost a lot,” said Smolcic, 62. “Nowadays, digitally there's no tape involved, no 24-track machines ... you can do it at home so you don't need a studio. If I could translate 1980s dollars into today's dollars, it's a tenth of the cost, I'd say.”

Howard — who sings and plays guitar, dobro, lap steel, pedal steel, mandolin and fiddle for the band — said the group's resurgence via the Internet makes it “a very exciting season for Henwae.”

“We're releasing some songs we recorded, we're developing new songs, keeping them in the mainstream and radio-friendly, but keeping the energy level where it was in the past,” said Howard, 55.

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or