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Unforgettable oldies dances rekindle memories

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Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012

Legendary disc jockey and broadcast personality Terry Lee, whose dances and Internet radio stations center around oldies his fans enjoyed in their youth,• lays claim to a career that spans more than 50 years.

Lee said his loyal followers at dances throughout the Pittsburgh region talk about when they were young and the memories they have listening to the classic ballads of his signature Music For Young Lovers.

"Many say the first time they heard the Music For Young Lovers songs was in the back seats of their cars," Lee said. "They talk about their first love, and how they miss them, and some even long to see their high school sweethearts again. The songs played for MYFL then and now reminds them of times when they were young and today it gives them an opportunity to be young again, even for one night."

Lee's dances in the 1960s and '70s drew thousands of young people to such places as The Nite Train near Elizabeth and Redd's Beach in Fallowfield Township. He enjoyed success on radio and television and promoted concerts throughout the region.

His next appearance will be a Valentine's Day dance on Feb. 11 at Most Holy Name Church in Troy Hill. Tickets and other information are available on Lee's website.

Lee, 69, said he has been fortunate with the success of his Internet radio stations.

"We have listeners from every state and literally all over the world: Brazil, The Netherlands, Finland, Russian Federation, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Indonesia and more," he said. "We play music from the '50s, '60s and '70s on and the '50''s and early '60s on , which also features Porky Chedwick's live broadcast Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m. We are extremely grateful for the response to the streaming concept and the support or our audiences."

Trip down Memory Lane

"I held you, held you tight ... promised I'll never let you go ... in the Still of the Night... "• -- Fred Parris and the Five Satins -- 1956.

Paul Tobacco remembers record hops at the Italian Hall and St. Spyridon Hellenic Center in Monessen and the Stockdale Fire Hall.

Bob Hodgson remembers dances at the Italian Citizens Club in Monongahela, the Cougar Canteen in Charleroi and Stockdale.

Today, far removed from their teenage years, the retired teachers are among thousands of western Pennsylvania 1950s and early 1960s music enthusiasts who have turned oldies dances into a phenomenon, filling fire halls, clubs and concert venues throughout the region.

"Why do we go• Because we love the music and we enjoy dancing," said Tobacco, a Monessen native who has lived in Whitehall for 40 years. "The songs carry so many great memories of those special times in our lives, the formative years, if you will."

Hodgson of North Charleroi agreed.

"I always loved to dance and getting out there on the floor today takes us back in time," Hodgson said. "I think anyone who goes to the oldies dances in the area will tell you the same thing. It's a great trip down Memory Lane."

Hodgson and Carl Minkovich, a Charleroi native now living in Rostraver Township, coordinate a group of regulars for oldies dances at the Stockdale Fire Hall, where crowds of 1,000 prevailed at the original dances from 1957-1964.

They're anticipating another contingent for a March 31 dance there.

"It's a group of longtime friends who share a common bond with the music," Hodgson said.

Tobacco and his crew of nearly 40 people have danced the night away at Stockdale, the Monessen Elks, Rostraver Central Fire Hall, the Grove in Castle Shannon and St. Spyridon and The Palisades in McKeesport. He and Hodgson enjoy oldies concerts at The Benedum and Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, The State Theater in Uniontown and The Palace Theatre in Greensburg.

"My wife Dianne and I took dance lessons several years ago," Tobacco said. "The course was directed at ballroom dancing, but I learned some basic steps including swing dancing that were fun. Subsequently we started going to dances at the Holiday Inn at the Meadowlands and met a lot of people with similar interests in the oldies. That led to an e-mail network of those people plus longtime friends in the Mon Valley and we notify everyone about all of the dances or shows."

Glad to help out

Hodgson and Minkovich also spread the word.

Al Marcy, assistant fire chief and entertainment chairman at Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department, said their efforts are "deeply appreciated."

"They bring the largest groups to our dances, we know we can count on them every time. ... We are grateful to everyone who has supported these dances," Marcy said.

Tobacco said he enjoys Stockdale's huge dance floor and comfortable seats.

"They can accommodate between 500 and 600 people and the hospitality is great. The firemen certainly make you feel welcome," he said.

As a member of the Webber Athletic Club in Monessen, Tobacco helped present popular record hops in that city in the 1950s and early '60s.

"It was a lot of fun, the kids had a great time," Tobacco recalled. "We had (disc jockey) Porky Chedwick a number of times and live entertainment like Sonny and The Premiers and The Stereos."

Chedwick, who is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, will make a guest appearance at the March 31 dance at Stockdale.

Chedwick and Francis 'Slops' Delmastro "were playing the songs that we now call oldies when they were new," Hodgson joked.

Like everyone else that salutes the oldies, Tobacco and Hodgson have their favorite songs.

"I've always liked 'We Belong Together' and 'You're Mine' by Robert and Johnny," Tobacco said. "Those are fantastic ballads."

"Anything by The Platters," Hodgson said. "They're the best and there are such great memories associated with their songs."

Tobacco also enjoys shag/beach music and line dancing.

The beach/shag music evolved from various styles of the '40s through the '60s, including big band swing, boogie-woogie, rhythm and blues, doo-wop and original rock 'n roll.

"It's a feel-good sound," Tobacco said.

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