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The beat (and spirit) of Pittsburgh’s legendary Skyliners goes on

Rex Rutkoski
gtrTKskyliners062818
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The Skyliners: Rick Purcell, John Sarkis, Donna Groom and Frank Czuri

When Pittsburgh legend Jimmy Beaumont died unexpectedly in the fall of 2017, Frank Czuri admits he thought, at least for him, that would be the end of The Skyliners.

“My initial reaction was to quit, as it would never be the same without him. He and The Skyliners were idols of mine since 1958,” the Highland Park resident recalls.

He learned about singing harmony from their records.

New era

“We talked about it and decided to keep the music of the Skyliners alive,” Czuri says. “Jimmy taught us the correct backing vocals. Few groups cover the songs correctly with lead and harmonies, and personally I feel it would be a waste to throw away those precious gifts Jimmy gave us.”

The Beaumont family, owners of the group name, agreed and a new era for the Skyliners has begun, led by veteran members Czuri and Donna Groom, along with new additions John Sarkis and Rick Purcell.

They headline a June 30 concert at the Oaks Theatre, Oakmont.

“I am sure Jimmy wanted his music to continue and us to remain Skyliners,” says Czuri, who previously was a member of Pure Gold, among other Pittsburgh groups.

Still, it was a difficult decision, Czuri says.

“Jimmy not only co-wrote many of their recordings, his ability as a singer is as good as it can get,” he explains.

He also reminds that The Skyliners’ contribution to music was significant.

“Their repertoire speaks for itself. They had a popular LP in an era when it was a singles market. (Late Manager/songwriter) Joe Rock’s direction and his way with lyrics are a huge piece of The Skyliners.

“Given the opportunity to show their talent, these kids from Pittsburgh’s South Side proved they could make world-class music. ‘Since I Don’t Have You’ has been covered more than 100 times by Barbra Streisand, Art Garfunkel, the Four Seasons, Johnny Mathis, Patti LaBelle, Lou Christie, Guns N’ Roses, Don McLean, Ronnie Milsap, Ricky Nelson, Lenny Welch, Brian Setzer orchestra, Manfred Mann, Chuck Jackson, Gloria Loring, Jay and the Americans, the Vogues, Ron Sexsmith, Spiral Staircase and on and on. ‘This I Swear’ and ‘Lonely Way’ are doo-wop classics the world over.”

The major consideration for the new-era Skyliners, he says, is to continue to keep the legacy and music alive, presented as it was intended to be heard.

“Donna Groom of Darlington had most of her life invested in being a Skyliner, since she’s been here for about 38 years, and her husband Mark, our drummer and musical director, worked with Jimmy for 40-plus years,” Czuri says. “That time dedicated to The Skyliners is nothing to scoff at.”

Czuri promises an entertaining evening for fans.

“Expect to hear the hits, and the harmonies are better than ever since the original five,” he says. “Donna and Mark Groom, John Sarkis, Rick Purcell and myself will do our collective and individual best to ensure a solid show.”

They will be backed by a full horn section.

‘Keep it going’

Audiences have been wonderfully supportive, he says.

The most frequent comment he has heard from longtime fans in the half dozen or so new era Skyliners shows so far is “Keep it going.” A Christmas CD is in the works.

“We are starting to get back on the show circuit and that is exciting to me,” he says.

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune Review contributing writer.

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