PITTSBURG -- Oh, the stories they could tell. Eighteen artists, musicians and other creative types will be inducted into the Pittsburg Entertainment and Arts Hall of Fame during an inaugural ceremony this Sunday.
Some are no longer with us, such as Emilio Civita, who led the Pittsburg Municipal Band from 1916 until his death in 1966, and Joe Castro, a bebop jazz pianist who helped create the Clover Records jazz label, while others such as Pete Escovedo and Chooch Lombardo are alive and well.
"I was overjoyed and at my age," said the 82-year-old Lombardo, who learned he was among the inductees a couple months ago. "And I'm one of the first people to get in there. I've been doing this, playing with bands and playing in my own band my whole life."
Lombardo, a 1948 graduate of Pittsburg High, still plays trumpet and goes out on gigs, including ones at La Veranda restaurant in Pittsburg's Old Town with his latest band "Four Hits and a Miss," a jazz combo.
Of the 18 inductees, eight are graduates of Pittsburg High School and three others taught in Pittsburg schools.
"We are pleased to honor this group of individuals," said Merl Craft, president of the Pittsburg Entertainment and Arts Hall of Fame. "It is an amazingly talented group, but what makes it even more special is the number of lives they have affected as teachers and mentors in the arts."
All have ties to Pittsburg one way or another. Some were born here, while others have lived or performed here. All have made the city a better place through their contributions to local youth and culture through the arts, music or theater.
Nominations were made by a blue-ribbon panel of local musicians, artists and performers familiar with the city's arts and entertainment history. The finalists were selected by members of the Pittsburg Entertainment and Arts Hall of Fame.
Musical, dance and theater entertainment will be provided during the program, which will also include welcoming remarks from Mayor Nancy Parent, Supervisor Federal Glover and Linda Rondeau, superintendent of the Pittsburg Unified School District.
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Norman Abercrombie Sr. was a self-taught musician, who mentored countless youngsters and whose studio on Pittsburg's Cumberland Street was known for its top-flight jam sessions.
Betty Brown, a teacher and counselor in the Pittsburg Unified School District since 1960, was one of the founders of Pittsburg Community Theatre in 1973 and has been involved in over 100 productions as an actor, director or producer.
Rev. Isaiah and Geneva Brown brought many nationally known gospel stars to Pittsburg and created a 130-voice gospel choir at St. Mark's Church on School Street.
Joe Castro, a PHS grad, was an outstanding bebop jazz pianist who created a jazz label, Clover Records, with Duke Ellington and Doris Duke and later served as the musical director and conductor for the Tropicana Hotel's Folies Bergere in Las Vegas for over 20 years.
Emilio Civita was the director of the Pittsburg Municipal Band for nearly 50 years and was also a composer of many marches and music teacher for youngsters.
Orrin Cross is best known for his work as Pittsburg High's band director, invigorating the "Pride of Pittsburg" Marching Show, but he also was involved in all aspects of theater arts, including directing "Hair" in 1974.
Pittsburg native Pete Escovedo is an internationally known jazz percussionist, who toured with Santana, and is also a nationally renowned painter.
Clarence Fornwald originated the Pittsburg High School band in 1931, teaching in Pittsburg until 1965, becoming the composer and arranger for the Reno and Tahoe Harrah's orchestras after his retirement.
Gerald Glasper, a Pittsburg native and PHS graduate, is one of Pittsburg's top all-around entertainers with his dancing and singing skills and spot-on impressions of performers such as Rick James, Michael Jackson and James Brown.
Papa John Guerrero, a member of the Santa Fe Indian Band of Winslow Ariz., who performed at Dwight Eisenhower's presidential inauguration, played in a number of local bands, mentored hundreds of young musicians and directed the Royal Heartbeats, one of Pittsburg's top youth bands of the 1960s.
Leola Jiles, a PHS grad, is Pittsburg's first lady of song having performed on stage and in movies with the likes of Sammy Cahn and Dizzy Gillespie and opened in Las Vegas for Barbra Streisand while also winning various acting and cabaret awards.
Louis Jones played in Count Basie's orchestra as a teenager and later toured with Pearl Bailey before coming to Pittsburg where he earned a reputation as one of the West Coast's top bluesmen while also serving as a mentor to numerous youngsters.
Chooch Lombardo, a 1948 PHS grad, has been playing trumpet in Bay Area bands for eight decades and still leads his own band while serving as a mentor and inspiration to several generations of Pittsburg musicians.
Ollie McClay, a PHS grad, helped found the Mondellos, who were one of the bands first signed by legendary Bay Area disc jockey Don Barksdale for his record company, and still plays an active role in the Seattle musical scene.
Dr. Ronald McDowell, a PHS grad, is a nationally known artist, famed for his work with Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' album, statues and paintings of Civil Rights heroes, portraits and the 90-foot frieze of Pittsburg's cultural heroes in the Creative Arts Building.
Tom Nunnelly, a PHS grad, was the 2008 Bay Area Blues Society vocalist of the year, has opened for many starts and has fronted a number of Bay Area bands.
Alice Jean Wilton was a teenage singer and pianist who was a key performer with the Mondellos and was active working with youngsters.
Source: Pittsburg Entertainment and Arts Hall of Fame
IF YOU Go
What: Pittsburg Entertainment and Arts Hall of Fame's first induction ceremony
When: 2 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Creative Arts Building, Pittsburg High School, 250 School St.
Ticket prices: $20 general orchestra seating, $10 general balcony seating, $30 special reserved seating. Also $20 tickets to the ceremony's after party. Online sales at www.pittsburgentertainmentandarts.org (no service charge for online purchase), Railroad Book Depot, 650 Railroad Ave., and Pittsburg Historical Society Museum, 515 Railroad Ave.