Bridgeville jam session gains a following
At first, David Bateman had reservations about joining an informal group of musicians in Bridgeville.
“My friend called, and I said this looks fun (but) I didn’t know about a Tuesday afternoon. I mean, what are we doing playing at a bar in the afternoon?” said Bateman, 69, of Mt. Lebanon. Bateman plays guitar and bass and calls the afternoon jam sessions “the best-kept secret around.”
Although the time and location might sound odd, this weekly gathering of musicians at their local American Legion has gained a following, attracting more than 30 people each week.
From 2 to 5 p.m. about 15 to 20 musicians and their friends meet at Bridgeville’s American Legion 54, located at 325 Station St., to “jam out.”
The Tuesday jam sessions have grown over the past three years and on any given Tuesday, there’s instruments ranging from a guitar to accordion in the packed smoky basement.
“Polka, Latin music, rock ‘n’ roll. We cover pretty much a little of everything,” said clarinet and saxophone player Jim Bogdon. “It’s a day out. We have a couple drinks and play a couple songs.“
Bogdon, of South Fayette and a member of the Bridgeville Legion, has been coming by for about 10 years and said they allow anyone to join in their Tuesday festivities despite it being a private club.
“One time or another everyone in this room was probably in a band. It’s a nice way to give the older guys a chance to come on out and still play their horns,” said Dick Conley, 70, of Carnegie who plays saxophone, drums and keyboard on Tuesdays.
Conley is a member of Carnegie’s American Legion and has been attending the open jam sessions for three years after being invited by a friend.
He is also one of the few that remains in an active band — The Mansfield Five, which he describes as an “oldies” band that plays ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s music. He said it’s not uncommon for him to find a quick replacement for shows from the Legion’s group.
Everyone brings their own instruments, Bogdon said. The legion houses an old piano.
The two words the group uses most to describe each other is “camaraderie” and “encouragement.”
“They brought me out of retirement, I wasn’t playing at all and I’m thankful for it,” said Steve Lewis, 66, of Ross. He’s been playing guitar and keyboard at the legion for three years.
The musicians can also always expect a nice spread of food each week.
“Every other week one of us cooks. We’ll make soup, potatoes salad, sloppy joes,” said Charlotte Fairweather, of Carnegie, who has been coming regularly for about six months.
Fairweather and a group of five other ladies said they find it a nice excuse for a social gathering, adding that it has led to new friendships.
The Tuesday musicians can also be found playing the first Thursday of each month at Carnegie’s Ukrainian Club, 302 Mansfield Blvd.
Alex Felser is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5810 or [email protected].