In Memorium

LOUIS ‘THE GENT’ CIOPPA

Louie’s soaring high tenor voice was a hallmark of the Wee Jams success as the group moved into the 2000s. When “Patty Ann” became a surprise hit, Bill and Barry needed group members who wanted to work to support the song.

With past stints in the Devilles and Magic Moments, Louie brought the professionalism that helped move the group into the limelight once again.

Wee Jams also experimented with a cappella harmony singing, and the public welcomed the “street corner sound” that Louie had grown up with.  He was raised in Rankin, Pennsylvania, and was an admirer of the Teenagers, especially their lead singer, Frankie Lymon.  He incorporated much of Frankie’s charisma into his stage performing.  Louie’s dance movements and hand gestures were mesmerizing. He also coordinated the group’s wardrobe, with ‘basic black’ being one of Lou's most frequent color calls.

He volunteered for the Army Reserve during the Vietnam War and told many stories about his adventures singing for his fellow soldiers.

Many of Louie’s standout songs came from he and Barry’s rehearsals around a piano, trying out different songs and styles. “Abigail” came from backstage at the South Hills oldies club appearance.

Louie’s never-to-be-forgotten lead on the “Star-Spangled Banner” began after months of trial and error, rehearsing on Barry’s front porch. The resulting recording is one of the Wee Jams’ most popular CDs, requested frequently on radio and used to begin many sporting events. The group was honored to perform it several times for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Offstage, Lou enjoyed life with his wife Judith and daughter Maria. He loved working on his garden and had tips on raising fruits and vegetables for anyone who listened.

He was an in-demand hairstylist throughout the city of Pittsburgh. His clientele included society matrons from around the town; however, he was never too busy to serve his family, friends and needy bandmembers.

Louie’s Energy and wit perked up many a Wee Jams’ rehearsal. He could be quiet around strangers but never made them feel uncomfortable.

While Lou’s leads were always a high point of Wee Jams’ performances, one could always tell when a member of Louie’s extended family was in the audience. His showmanship reached new heights during these shows. We fondly recall Lou and his ‘jailbird’ outfit, in a dress and/or wig, and his unforgettable dancing on “Blue Moon!”

A good friend, a caring husband, father and a terrific coworker: Louis Cioppa was all of these and so much more. He is missed daily.

JAMES A. 'DOC' HALLIDAY

Without Jim, there would have been no Wee Jams. It's as simple as that.

Jim came from California in 1965, like a breath of fresh air into the Pittsburgh scene. He had surfed, he wore the most fashionable clothes, and he played rock and roll guitar! While the rest of us slogged away in the high school band, Jim brought hope: That we could make some of the new music, too!

In short order, Jim formed "The 'In' Crowd," a mostly instrumental group that played surf music, pop and even a bit of country. Jim and Paul Schuchman played guitars, Bill Barnhart drummed, and Barry Haughin blew tenor sax and sang the occasional number. The band won second prize in a local talent contest and worked high school dances and parties.

In 1966, major changes occurred in popular music and in the group. Jim switched to bass guitar to fill out the sound, and two outstanding guitarists, Alex (Augi) Neidhardt and Steve Meyer joined to update the repertoire. Everyone sang with duties split between Keith Sutherland, Barry and Augi. Steve and Augi’s best friend was Bill Dell. One night while out cruising and carousing, Bill was singing “Kind Of A Drag” in the back seat. Steve and Augi were shocked at what they heard and convinced Bill to come to a rehearsal. Bill was scared “stiff.”

So, Bill joined to deliver the great soul songs everyone was enjoying on WAMO and WZUM soul radio stations. A name change to Wee Jams seemed timely, as "The 'In' Crowd" name was already dated.

The Halliday home in Shannopin Highlands was the site of many Wee Jams rehearsals. Bill Barnhart left the band in 1967 to join the Navy, and, after an intense search, McKees Rocks native Phil Seretti was chosen to fill the vacant drum chair.

Listeners who remember the Sixties version of Wee Jams invariably site this combination as the one that clicked big in Pittsburgh. Jim, Augi, Steve, Barry, Bill and Phil played most of the popular teen clubs and dances in the city, with an eye to making a record.

They entered and won the KQV radio 'Big Break Contest' in 1967, while Jim, Barry and Phil attended Point Park College, and Steve, Augi and Bill finished their senior year of high school. The prize was a recording session with ABC Records. While the session would prove to be abortive, Wee Jams' version of The Temptations' "You'll Lose A Precious Love” got radio airplay and was bootlegged before getting an official release many years later.

With the Viet Nam War looming, Jim Halliday enlisted in the Naval Reserves and had to leave the band in 1968 for active duty. Jim's wife, Mary, and their children, Chris and Michelle, continued to be dear friends and staunch supporters of Wee Jams throughout the years.

His vision, good humor and love of music launched the group and never wavered over the years. 'Doc' Halliday will never be forgotten.

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