Valley musician scores from Beatles to Broadway to punk
STRUTHERS — Local musician Don Yallech recalls how music found him at a young age.
It all started at the age of 6, when Yallech was given his first record, The Beatles’ “Something New,” released in the summer of 1964, which was after their iconic “Ed Sullivan Show” appearance.
The Beatles also inspired Yallech to become interested in playing drums, which led to his future of playing drums in numerous experimental and well-known new wave acts.
Yallech, 63, recalls standing in line at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Youngstown to see “A Hard Day’s Night” with his family.
Yallech is musical director for Easy Street Productions, a role he assumed in late 2017, after former musical director Jeff Sanders died. Yallech has done multiple shows with Easy Street co-founders Todd Hancock and Maureen Collins over the years.
“With Easy Street Productions, I’ve been involved as music director for musicals including ‘Putnam County Spelling Bee,’ ‘Peter and the Starcatcher,’ ‘Matilda,’ ‘Nunsense,’ ‘Miracle on Easy Street.’ I also had the pleasure of being the musical director of two productions in the collaboration of Easy Street with the Youngstown Symphony under the late conductor Randall Fleischer with ‘Guys and Dolls’ and ‘South Pacific,'” Yallech said.
Yallech started playing drums for productions at The Youngstown Playhouse in the late 1970s until 1984. He was the musical director for a production of “Grease” in the early 1980s and also was the musical director for the production of “Chicago” at The Youngstown Playhouse in 2006.
“More recently, I played their production of ‘The Color Purple,’ which was coproduced with the Youngstown Symphony in late 2021. This was a collaboration with the Youngstown Playhouse and the Youngstown Symphony after the sad loss of Randall Fleischer. With Easy Street, I also got to finish the production work and performances of ‘Nunsense.’ That was the show we were working on when we got shut down in March of 2020 due to the pandemic. Currently, I’m working on a few new charts for Easy Street’s Christmas show. Hopefully, we’ll actually get to do it front of a live audience this year,” Yallech said.
Yallech played in his first band while in seventh grade, a polka band called The Keynotes. While attending Struthers High School during the 1970s, Yallech played in a trio called Tobin Count, which covered material by popular rock bands at the time, such as King Crimson and Genesis.
By 1976, Yallech was graduating high school and entering into his early college days during the time when punk and new wave were the prominent influences. By 1978, the steel mills were closing in Youngstown and the younger generations in Youngstown were absorbing the music, art and fashions of the punk and new wave scenes of Pittsburgh, Akron and Cleveland. During this time, Yallech formed the local band, The B-Minors, with local musician John Chianese.
The B Minors was among one of the well -loved post-punk bands at Cedar’s Lounge in downtown Youngstown during the early 1980s.
“Playing at Cedars turned into a local music and art scene that was starting to thrive. It brought in local music acts like Nancy Bizarri, The 8-Balls, The Sonics, The Elements, Mephisto Waltz, The Infidels, etc. Poster art was popular and most of ours was done by artist, Louise Corsi and occasionally local artist, Jim Pernotto, who also designed a great Cedar’s T-shirt. We also did music for a fashion show by Peggy Millard or a beach themed night with the 8 Balls. That was the start of Cedar’s for me with the energy of an art scene. Of course, during this time I would still be doing others gigs like playing at the Playhouse or the Youngstown Symphony and finishing my undergraduate degree at YSU,” Yallech said.
The B-Minors included Yallech on vocals, drums and keyboards; Jody Rizer on bass, congas, keyboard, percussion and vocals; John Chianese on guitar, bass and vocals; and Ben Neill on vocals, guitar, keyboard and trumpet.
HEADING TO NYC
By 1983, Yallech, Chianese and Neill relocated to New York City. Yallech and Chianese both attended The Manhattan School of Music. After Yallech finished his master’s degree at Manhattan School of Music in 1986, he worked on the productions of “A Chorus Line, “42nd Street,” “Sophisticated Ladies,” and “Chicago” among others. It was also during this time that Yallech and Neill started treks to Europe performing in Holland, Germany and Italy.
” At the end of the ’80s, I was on the road with the production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ in Beverly, Mass. This moment was when I got a phone call asking if I would be interested in joining the acclaimed London post-punk / new wave act, The Psychedelic Furs. This call did not come out of the blue. Peggy Millard, a friend and denizen of the Cedars Lounge gang, had moved to New York in July of 1984. She moved into my sublet on Claremont Avenue since I was out in Long Island. Eventually, she met and married bassist Tim Butler from The Psychedelic Furs. Tim and I became fast friends, painting the town whenever we could, generally becoming drinking buds and club attendees for whatever hot bands came into town,” Yallech said.
This moment was a new world for Yallech. He had been a fan of The Psychedelic Furs’ first several albums. In fact, Yallech said that The Psychedelic Furs’ influence can be heard on The B-Minors song, “17 Believers.” Yallech ended up playing drums on The Psychedelic Furs seventh studio album, “World Outside,” released on Columbia Records in July 1991. The album was produced by British record producer Stephen Street, who has produced works by The Smiths, The Cranberries and Blur.
Yallech had many great moments being on tour with The Psychedelic Furs in support of the album, including playing many cities in the United States and Western Europe. He said that some of his favorite moments include playing at Festival by the Sea in Barcelona, Spain, where about 100,000 people attended.
“I remember being in Athens, Georgia, on the ‘World Outside’ tour and having the night off from playing gigs and bar hopping with Peter Buck of REM. Just after the tour ended, our tour manager, Phil McDonald, scored us tickets from Paul McGuinness for the U2 Zoo TV tour at the Brendan Byrne Arena in March of 1992. The Psychedelic Furs and U2 had come up together in the early years and had often toured together so it was a nice meet with them after the show in what I would call the green room,” Yallech said.
“Fast forward to 2018, Ben Neill and I were asked to resurrect material from our 1992 record, ‘ITSOFOMO’ by The Whitney Museum of Art in New York. The museum was planning a retrospective of the work of David Wojnarowicz. We hadn’t done the piece for 20 years. We got together in June to rebuild / rehearse and then later in October we did the performances at the Whitney. Wojnarowicz’s voice portions of the piece were extracted from the original recordings of 1991,” Yallech said.
Yallech relocated back to Youngstown in 2004. He now teaches private music lessons out of his home in Struthers. He mainly teaches percussion studies.
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