Ed Salamon of The Headliners

[Interviewer’s note: After his original band broke up, Ed Salamon of The Headliners hooked up with another local combo and joined forces to form one of Pittsburgh’s more popular rock groups. Since Salamon’s previous group had existing gigs lined up, the newly formed line-up retained The Headliners moniker and continued to perform at all the local hot spots. Special thanks to “Pittsburgh’s answer to Mick Jagger” for sharing his recollections.]

“I recall that band breaking up when police met us coming off stage at a Battle of the Bands and confiscated our band mates' equipment as being stolen property.”

Lance Monthly (LM): How did you first get interested in music?

Ed Salamon (ES): My earliest memories of music are of tuning in the RCA console radio in our living room. The first station on the dial, 860, had both rhythm and blues and country music shows and I listened to both before there was rock and roll.

LM: Was The Headliners your first band?

ES: John Catizone and I formed The Headliners in mid-1964. John and Dennis were into jazz, and that was our initial approach. KQV DJ Steve Rizen auditioned us, and recommended that we get electric guitars and play the hits if we wanted to work. John and I bought electric guitars and amps at Lomakin Music on Liberty Avenue in October and we were playing at KQV hops shortly thereafter.

LM: Who all comprised the band?

ES: Ed Salamon - guitar and vocals; John Catizone - keyboards, guitar, vocals; Dennis Auth - drums; Frank Carey - guitar (originally sax); and Mike Hickman - vocals. We all attended South Hills Catholic High School at the time, and all but Mike had attended Resurrection grade school together.

LM: Weren’t there two different line-ups for the band? The original group disbanded in 1965, and you were the only one who stayed.

ES: At this point, I don't recall the reason that the original lineup disbanded; perhaps we had some "artistic differences." Maybe it got old for everyone but me. I don't recall any of the original guys going on to other bands, though they played well enough to do so.

LM: How did you hook up with The Travelles, the group that became the second set of Headliners?

ES: As I recall, The Travelles advertised for a lead singer in the newspaper classifieds. Because The Headliners already had bookings [and] instead of becoming their lead singer, they became my band.

LM: Wasn’t the band alternately known as The Highlanders?

ES: In 1966, our group was booked at an all black venue, The Rankin Elks. On our way to the club, we heard the DJ on WZUM promoting us as The Highlanders. When we arrived we found it was to avoid confusion with a black vocal group in the area calling themselves The Headliners. Since our group had worked mostly for KQV, the top 40 station, I believe that neither group knew the other existed until that point.

LM: Apparently you were dubbed "Pittsburgh's answer to Mick Jagger." Did you consider Mick a personal influence?

ES: It was Pittsburgh's big teen DJ, KQV radio's Chuck Brinkman, who promoted me that way. The Headliners played a lot of R&B, as did the early Rolling Stones. Songs like "Walkin' The Dog," "Mona," and "You Better Move On" were in both band's repertoires. Our performances were both more theatric than the norm. Although I wasn't intentionally influenced by Mick Jagger, before The Headliners formed I had seen The Rolling Stones at Westview Park Danceland during their first American tour. I was even able to talk to The Stones briefly in the backstage area before the show.

LM: Where did the band typically play?

ES: The Headliners performed mostly at record hops that were promoted by radio station personalities. We loved to hear our group talked about on the radio. These hops were usually in schools, VFW clubs, fire halls, etc. We also played at teen nightclubs. I have photos of The Headliners playing at the Downtown Au Go Go. We also played at the Giant in Brentwood and The Jet set Au Go Go.

LM: How far was the band's "touring" territory?

ES: We were always busy enough playing within the greater Pittsburgh area.

LM: How would you describe the band's sound? What bands influenced you?

ES: While every other band wanted to be The Beatles, we wanted to be The Temptations. Our play list was mostly rhythm and blues standards, but we especially enjoyed playing more obscure tunes. The Skyliners were also from the South Hills of Pittsburgh a few years earlier, and as neighbors their success was a great inspiration.

LM: Did The Headliners participate in any Battle of the Bands?

ES: I can only recall The Headliners participating in one Battle of the Bands, which we lost to a group from Indiana, Pennsylvania: J.R. and The Attractions. Their leader, Johnny Rand, was a great vocalist.

LM: What other local groups of the era do you especially recall?

ES: Jay Stricklett's group Me and The Organization, The Igniters, Tony Pierce's The Scroobies, The Triffids, and The Undertakers all played the same circuit at the time.

LM: Did The Headliners have a manager?

ES: I managed the band, and thereby controlled the bookings, which was the primary reason that I was the constant in the lineup.

LM: How popular locally did The Headliners become?

ES: Because The Headliners are featured on KQV's tribute website, we are probably the best remembered of all the bands that played KQV hops in the sixties. The group was hired for record hops by most of Pittsburgh's major disc jockeys, including KQV's Chuck Brinkman, Hal Murray and Dex Allen, WAMO's Porky Chedwick, and WZUM's Al Gee.

LM: The Headliners recorded a demo of "Little Latin Lupe Lu" b/w "Money."

ES: Mike Hickman and I sang both sides in a style similar to The Righteous Brothers. The recording wasn't very good. In retrospect, we should have pursued our original material if we wanted get a release.

LM: Did The Headliners write many original songs?

ES: Within the past year I came across some songs that were written at that time, but I don't recall ever performing them with the group.

LM: Do any Headliners recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings, or unreleased tracks?

ES: I still have a copy of the demo recording of "Little Latin Lupe Lu" and "Money" on a well-worn Gateway Records acetate. I don't believe that the group was ever recorded otherwise, either in live performance or at a practice session.

LM: Did the band make any local TV appearances?

ES: No.

LM: When and why did the band break up?

ES: Once the other group using the same name put a record out, we didn't want to deal with the confusion.

LM: Did you join or form any other bands after The Headliners?

ES: After The Headliners, I went right into a band called The Avengers. I have some of the business cards, but don't remember much about them (us). Later I played in a band, The Blight, with another South Hills Catholic High School alum, Tom Homnick. I recall that band breaking up when police met us coming off stage at a Battle of the Bands and confiscated our band mates' equipment as being stolen property.

My final band was The Rockers, with Jim Kurtock and Bucky Channing from the Mount Oliver section of Pittsburgh. Bucky saw me at The Loaves and Fishes coffeehouse in Shadyside, and when he found out I was not then in a band, asked me to join them. That ended when The Rockers got an offer to go out on a lengthy tour. I was attending college and wouldn't drop out, thereby losing the opportunity for the band. Being gentlemen, they did not kill me, but I was out of the band.

LM: What about today? Where, do you perform if at all?

ES: I haven't performed publicly since the sixties. My youngest son, Drew, is a talented singer and guitar player. We've played together occasionally at home. There's a funny line from one of the GREASE movies, "If you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.” After The Rockers, I knew that I would never be willing to bet on my own musical talents, so I looked at a job where I could still be around music. As a result, I had a great 30-plus-year career in radio. I am now living in Nashville and "giving back” by working for a non-profit industry organization, The Country Radio Broadcasters, and by teaching at MTSU.

LM: How do you best summarize your experiences with The Headliners?

ES: The Headliners gave me the opportunity while still in high school to meet and become friends with radio personalities and artists with whom I am still friends today. Even though I didn't continue to play music for a living, it was valuable to find out that I didn’t want to do that early in life.

"Copyrighted and originally printed on The Lance Monthly by Mike Dugo".
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