Performers Donnie Iris and Lou Christie and a legendary DJ, the late Porky Chedwick, will be honored April 23 for their decades of contributions to the Pittsburgh music scene.
The trio has been selected to receive the 2015 Pittsburgh Rock 'N Roll Legends Awards. Iris will be inducted as a Modern-era Legend, Christie as a Legacy Legend (more than 40 years in the industry) and Chedwick as a non-performing contributor. The honors were voted on by 200 local industry professionals known as the Pittsburgh Rock 'N Roll Legends Academy of Voters, along with an online public vote.
The ceremonies will speak to the strength of the Pittsburgh music scene, and the recipients and nominees show just how rooted music is in Pittsburgh's history, as well as how deeply rooted Pittsburgh is in the lives of recipients Iris and Christie.
"I started playing clubs in Pittsburgh on a three- or four-night basis when I was in The Jaggers," recalls Iris. "This would have been in the late '60s, early '70s, and I always bragged about Pittsburgh when I was on the road to bands like Loverboy and Hall and Oates. We've always had a good music scene."
- Lou Christie (left) and Donnie Iris
Christie feels similarly, "I love Pittsburgh. I always have," he says. "I've lived in many places — England, New Orleans, Hollywood, New York, but Pittsburgh is my home."
With such strong emotional ties to the city, it's no surprise that both Iris and Christie are grateful for the recognition. "I feel honored to be chosen," says Iris. "And especially to be nominated with people like Billy Price, Joe Grushecky and Rusted Root. Those are people that I admire and have followed their careers all along."
For Christie, being recognized satisfies a connection to a city beyond the music scene.
"Living in Pittsburgh was a total reality for me. I didn't want anything to do with the steel mills," he admits. "But I always had a deep respect for those who did. My father, uncles and brothers all worked in the mill, and it was a hard life for them. They built America. Pittsburgh is stamped all over this country."
Last year was the first year of the Rock 'N Roll Legends Awards (originally named the Pittsburgh Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame, with promoter Rich Engler as the inaugural inductee). The induction process will occur every April, celebrated with a performance by the award recipients and others. This year, the performance will be held Thu., April 23, at The Hard Rock Café, in Station Square, with proceeds benefitting the Cancer Caring Center.
While Porky Chedwick will be receiving his award posthumously — he died last year at the age of 96 — his presence will be felt at the ceremony. Iris recalls how important Chedwick was to the scene.
"He used to play the B-sides!" Iris remembers. "You don't have that anymore. The DJ used to be someone that you could rely on, and you could rely on Porky."