Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds will perform June 24

“Summer time has always been one of our favorite seasons to play. I think it reminds us of when we were starting out and playing outdoor venues like West View Park,” said Johnny Angel (aka Jack Hunt) It gave us a much wider audience than doing teen dances.  It forced us to become more professional and polish our beginnings and endings and the placement of our songs.  After a while we grew into larger venues and began playing the giant outdoor venues like the  Three Rivers Stadium Summer Oldies Concerts, Starlake Amphitheater and Oldies shows in the tri-state area.”


Pittsburgh may be well known for its ketchup, bridges and sports teams, but it has a place in the history of pop music. Back in the 1950s legendary radio DJ Porky Chedwick played music that other station would not touch and it led to the launch of many a career. Local acts like The Skyliners and The Marcels hit the top forty radio stations.


As this was going on the radio a group of young guys, the would-be Halos, much like pieces of a puzzle were scattered about Pittsburgh doing their own things. Hunt and Gary “Bubba” Daley grew up singing a cappella on the street corners of the Northside. The other pieces of what make up the band today, including the pivotal Al “KC” Lipp (guitar) were practicing in different neighborhoods of the city.


Until a fortuitous May 28 birthday party invite. (May 28 is also Hunt’s birthday), where Lipp and Hunt met.


Lipp’s parents, Herman and Millie were critical to the success that the newly formed band, Cordells.


“Mr. and Mrs. Lipp are very much heroes to me.  They gave unselfishly to young people who were not their own and made us feel like we were part of their family.  Mrs. Lipp actually moved her dinning room furniture out to give us a place to rehearse,” Hunt said.  “They would sit in the living room and watch us hour upon hour.  Mr. Lipp bought me my first microphone, our first PA system, and financed my first real drum set.  He drove us to gigs and most importantly, kept us all in line and helped to teach us how to be men.  To this day, they still follow the band.”


The Cordells scored what was considered the ultimate prize, a pressed 45 r.p.m., a record for today’s generation.


“I still get a rush thinking about our first 45 r.p.m... I am a vinyl collector to this day and having a record is like being a big leaguer, at least back in those days.  It set you apart from the regular, let's get together and jam bands or garage bands...it kind of makes the entire band pull together even more,” Hunt said. “No matter how good or bad one’s record is, you are leaving something when you are gone. It's recorded history.”



The band saw many changes throughout the  70s, but in the later half of the decade, Hunt, Lip and Daley were back together in a band called Slow Cooker, which morphed into what is known today as Johnny Angel and the Halos.


“It was probably somewhere in the later 70's that the Halo's actually clicked as a band.  We had the right players, our rhythm section gelled, the harmonies were nice and tight and everyone seemed to be on the same page for the style of music that best fit us,” Hunt said. “The band as you see it today is pretty much the same band from the early eighties, it's like a family and personnel has not changed much.”

 

The group was always playing the good-time hits of the 50s and 60s

 

“We have always performed the music that we do today, starting from when it was new.  Around the time of Woodstock and Sha Na Na, we started doing some 50's tunes that went over really well.  That grew into skits with costumes and comedy parodies,” Hunt said.  “After a while, we started to take what we were doing seriously again and began doing the music of our lives with a passion.  We started taking songs that we did as kids and add our own style to it...we call it "Haloizing".


The Halos have performed with a who’s who of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From the Four Tops to Jerry Butler to Jerry Lee Lewis.


But for Hunt, while it is hard to pick which group he remembers most playing with, he does have  some favored memories.


“I have a hard time picking one group or performer that stands out since they have all had such an influence on me and my choice of music.  But to name a few, the Temptations for sure, since they are my all time favorite group. I had a chance to sing a song with the Temps at Starlake and it will always be one of my most favorite Rock and Roll memories. James Brown was an amazing guy and gave me something that is so very important in a musicians life and that is his time, I learned a lot by talking to him.  Chuck Berry for his wisdom of how to over come the system and being different. I could go on and on...”


With the Halos still going at full stream, Hunt also works, is DJ on local 1320 WJAS on Sunday nights and is a partner in the Atria’s restaurant chain. The modern renaissance man doesn’t find it  work at all.


“When you do the things that you love and those things are also your passions, one finds a way to get it done. There is an old saying..."If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.”


On his radio show on from 7 to 11 p.m., he plays a variety of music that he grew up with. With the influx of the internet and mp3s, he doesn’t fear that the oldies, but goodies won’t be lost on a generation raised on such spectacularly bad music spawned from “American Idol” or the same tired classic rock that is repeated ad nauseum.


“You would be surprised the amount of young people that listen to my show and who have a true appreciation of our music.  As an example, just watch a new movie or a new sitcom on TV, you will most likely here an oldie.  Good music, no matter what format will always find a way to survive.”

 

With him juggling the many and varied careers, he has going for him, the Halo Nation need not worry about the band slowing down anytime soon.

 

“Johnny Angel and the Halos is actually part of my life and part of my family,” Hunt said. “As long as the good Lord gives us the strength and good health to perform, you will see us on the concert circuit.”


For more information and tour dates visit, www.jahalos.com/