50 years after hitting the charts, Salem's Blasko keeps on singing
Fifty years ago, Chuck Blasko was working at Westinghouse Air Brake and had to sit down and decide whether he should quit his job.
Blasko, now 72, of Salem was a member of The Vogues, first formed as the Val-Aires with high school friends in Turtle Creek.
“It was just pure, simple, hard-nosed harmony,” he said.
By 1965, they had two hit songs — “You're The One” and “Five O'Clock World” — that would persuade Blasko and the group to give up the 9-to-5 world they sang about and instead hit the road performing.
“We sat down at a round table and we said, ‘What do you want to do? Should we try this? Do you want to go and see what we can do?' Well, we did,” Blasko said.
Now, he's celebrating his career with an Oct. 29 concert at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg performing alongside Chubby Checker.
“I was blessed with a great career, and it's something I enjoy doing,” Blasko said. “I still enjoy doing it. I don't know why, but I do.”
Another group tours and owns the trademark as The Vogues and is not associated with Blasko.
He remembered first being inspired by quartets such as The Four Freshmen and The Hi-Los, which used close harmonies.
“The thing to do then was to have a vocal group, and they were strictly a capella. There were tons of them around,” Blasko said. “We were strictly high school kids that liked to sing like that.”
After the group set out to tour in 1965, Blasko said, they rode in two 8-seat airplanes from the Allegheny County Airport, criss-crossing the country. At one point, the group made 281 one-night performances in a year.
His wife, Patti, whom he met while working at Westinghouse, would ask him where they played, but it was all a whirlwind, Blasko said.
“I'd come home and she'd say, ‘Where were you?' I'd say, ‘I don't know.' The pilot would have sandwiches and hamburgers and maybe a six-pack or a bottle of pop, get in the plane and fly to another concert,” he said.
Patti Blasko said after 47 years of marriage and helping with promotions and contracts, she's supported his singing career.
“I'm behind him 100 percent. I always have been,” she said.
In 1966, The Vogues recorded “Magic Town,” which Blasko said is his favorite alongside “Five O'Clock World,” because they reflected the Pittsburgh region at that time.
“They were lyrically talking about ... trying to make it in this big city like New York and the lights going on and off in your room and you're not getting ahead. ‘Five O'Clock World' was strictly about a working guy in the mill,” he said. “There were jobs all over the place — mill jobs, blue-collar workers — and that song when it hit, it was perfect timing.”
The song was popular for troops serving overseas in Vietnam, and was used in the soundtrack for the movie “Good Morning, Vietnam,” which earned Blasko a platinum album.
With no signs of slowing down, Blasko said he has had no trouble with his voice.
Rather than change the music to accommodate his lower range, he instead has handed off the reins of the higher parts to fellow performers Sean Moran and Tim Scott.
“Nothing has changed as it was originally. The sound is the original sound,” Blasko said. He has performed with Moran for 11 years and Scott for four.
Blasko met Scott in the early 1980s and produced songs for Smile, a Greensburg-based band, and now the singer said he's enjoyed partnering with such a well-versed performer.
“We jelled right from the beginning,” Scott said. “It just seems to get better and better the more we play together, the more years.”
It helps that the songs seem to be timeless, with fans from age 16 to 80 turning out for concerts, Scott said.
“The music is appealing to all ages,” he said. “I can't really explain it; the songs, it's almost like they hit a nerve.”
Blasko said the music business has changed in his five-decade career. Performers are flashier, using truckloads of equipment to fill arenas with dancers and costumes. Vocal groups are engineered by record companies who bring them together to produce hits, not like the organic friendships formed in Turtle Creek.
But through it all, he's raised a family of two children and two grandchildren while entertaining countless fans and bringing endless smiles.
“It's just been a wonderful, wonderful career for me,” Blasko said. “What else can you ask for?”
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.