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Luzerne County’s Arts & Entertainment Hall of Fame Inaugural Signature Event
Saturday, October 14, 2023
1280 Highway 315
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702
5:30 p.m. Cocktail Hour
6:30 p.m. Dinner is served*
7:00 p.m. Awards and Performances
Deluxe Open Bar from 5:30 – 9:30 p.m
The Luzerne County Arts & Entertainment Hall of Fame was formed in 2022, with a news conference announcing the formation that was held in October in the lobby of the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Public Square.
The members of the Luzerne County Arts & Entertainment Organizing Committee are:
Joe Nardone Sr., Gallery of Sound
Bill O’Boyle, Times Leader
Lindsay Griffin-Boylan, President/CEO Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber
Tony Brooks, Wilkes-Barre City Council/Wilkes-Barre Preservation Society
Mayor George Brown, Wilkes-Barre City
Constance Wynn, RACETeam — Rediscovering Ancestry Through Culture and Education
Alan K. Stout, Visit Luzerne County
Jody Busch, musician/recording engineer
The organizing committee issued the following list of inductees:
• Adrian Pearsall, architect and furniture designer — designed hundreds of distinctive furniture designs between 1952 and the mid 1970s. His furniture was the epitome of classic American mid-century modern design.
• Barbara Weisberger, founder of the Pennsylvania Ballet — founder of the Pennsylvania Ballet in 1961. She was George Balanchine’s protégé and his first American student as a child.
• C. Edgar Patience, coal artist — took the ordinary piece of coal and sculpted it into something extraordinary. The anthracite sculptor, who lived from 1906-1972, crafted works which were given as gifts to U.S. presidents and displayed in museums.
• George Catlin, Native American painter — was born near Public Square in 1796. The world famous Native American painter is the first American to have a large scale exhibition at the Louvre in Paris. His collection is now at the Smithsonian.
• Hammond Edward “Ham” Fisher, comic strip writer and cartoonist — was an American comic strip writer and cartoonist born in Wilkes-Barre in 1900. He is best known for the popular newspaper comic strip, Joe Palooka.
• Sue Hand, artist — is best known for her artworks in watercolor and her hexagon-shaped historical illustrations of mining, “The Anthracite Miners and Their Hollowed Ground.” Hand is the founder of the national miniature art organization, Cider Painters of America.
• Jack Palance, actor — was an American actor known for playing tough guys and villains. Born in Hazleton in 1919. He was nominated for three Academy Awards and won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in City Slickers.
• Santo Loquasto, production and costume designer for stage, film and dance — is a Tony-award winning production designer, scenic designer, and costume designer for stage, film, and dance. He was born in Wilkes-Barre in 1944.
• Lee Vincent — formed the Lee Vincent Orchestra after returning from World War II and rose to prominence shortly after playing locally and nationally. In February 1951 he and several other jazz groups preformed in downtown Wilkes-Barre from 6 p.m. til the wee hours of the next day in what would be the beginning of the Newport Jazz Festival. He was not only a musician but an orchestra leader, talent agent, radio sales manager and played for or arraigned for Natalie Cole, Johnny Mathis and Aretha Franklin to name a few.
• Joe Nardone & The All Stars — Joe Nardone Sr. has devoted his entire professional life to music. As the leader of Joe Nardone & The All-Stars, he has entertained thousands of people throughout Northeasters Pennsylvania. As a concert promoter, he brought acts such as Neil Diamond, Billy Joel and KISS to the region when they were still young and up and coming artists, and he continues to promote shows featuring some of the most legendary Doo-Wop acts of all-time. As a retailer, he is the founder of the Gallery of Sound record stores, which have been a haven to music lovers for five decades. He will be joined by the core members of Joe Nardone & The All-Stars.
• Eddie Day Pashinski — has dedicated much of his life to music. He spent 35 years as a music instructor at the Greater Nanticoke Area School District, where he shared his love and knowledge of music with several generations of students. He was the band leader of the highly successful regional acts, Eddie Day & TNT and Eddie Day & The Starfires. Those acts entertained thousands of people at hundreds of shows throughout the decades.
• Jimmy Harnen — a native of Plymouth and, with the song “Where Are you Now,” he is the only artist from Luzerne County to score a Top-10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Following his own career as a recording artist, Harnen began a successful career in the music business and held positions at DreamWorks Records, Capitol Records, Republic Nashville and is currently the president/CEO of BMLG Records. He is credited with the development and signing of dozens of gold and platinum artists and considered to be s one of the most respected and influential people in the music industry.
• Breaking Benjamin — This explosive modern-rock band has sold over 19 million albums in the United States and have earned three platinum albums and two gold albums. They are the only band with roots in Luzerne County to have an album hit No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. Much of the group’s early success stemmed from its weekly live shows at the former Voodoo Lounge in Luzerne and the airplay received on Wilkes-Barre’s 97.9X radio. The band continues to successfully record and play large concert venues and arenas throughout the nation. Being inducted into the Luzerne County Arts & Entertainment Hall of Fame are founder Ben Burnley and five past/current members with roots in Northeastern Pennsylvania: Aaron Fink, Mark James Klepaski, Jeremy Hummel, Chad Szeliga and Aaron Bruch.
• Bobby Baird — took his first trumpet lesson 88 years ago and his career has spanned nine decades. The well-known area entertainer — best known for Bobby Baird and the Dixieland Band — his career is filled with memories of Julius La Rosa, Arthur Fiedler, Harry Truman, Ed Sullivan, Esther Williams, Milton Shapp, Harry James, Louis Armstrong, Al Hirt, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney and countless others. By age 18, Baird was playing trumpet solos in the U.S. Navy Band — playing at the inauguration of President Harry S. Truman. He and the Navy Band toured the 48 states and Canada and were featured on the coast-to-coast broadcast, “The Navy Hour.” Baird has worked with Skitch Henderson and Doc Severinson, of NBC’s “The Tonight Show.”
• Brunon Kryger/The Kryger Brothers — played polka music from 1937 until 1996 locally and nationally. They were inducted into the International Polka Association Hall of Fame and had both records and radio and TV shows locally.
• The Buoys — one of the first acts from Luzerne County to land a national recording contract and have national success. Known for their impeccable harmonies, the band signed with Scepter Records in 1971 and scored a Top-20 hit with the song “Timothy.” Other notable tracks include “Give Up Your Guns.” Two members of the group, Billy Kelly and Jerry Hludzik, went on to form the Jerry-Kelly Band and Dakota, both of which were also signed to national recording contracts. But the start of that, and everything that came after, began with The Buoys and they remain one of the most important and iconic bands in the history of Luzerne County.
• Mel Wynn & the Rhythym Aces — perhaps the most impactful band on the local music scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Melvin Samuel Wynn, the front man for the Rhythm Aces, was known for his electrifying on-stage presence. Was truly a house band started in people’s homes only to become one of the leading groups in Northeastern Pennsylvania. They started with their voices known as the Shalamar’s in Doo Wop and went on to become one of the top bands of Rhythm and Blues in the region, producing five records very popular in the ’50s and ’60s. But what they were truly best known for was the integration of our local dances. Most dances up till the ’50s were segregated. But that was one large step that the band took together and weathered the storm.
• The Badlees — this critically-acclaimed roots-rock band was signed to two national recording contracts and scored national hits with the songs “Angeline Is Coming Home” and “Fear of Falling.” They have released nine full-length studio albums, three EPs and have shared the stage with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Bob Seger and The Allman Brothers. They also appeared on VH1. Prior to their first national record deal, the band built up strong regional followings throughout the state of Pennsylvania, particularly in Luzerne County, where they received substantial radio airplay. Several of the band’s albums were recorded in Luzerne County and the group continues to perform here.
The organizing committee issued the following statement:
“After years of discussion and wishful thinking, a committee was formed to discuss the establishment of a Hall of Fame to honor and memorialize all those who have made their mark in the world of arts and entertainment by enshrining them in this prestigious Hall.
”And there are many more that will be enshrined in the coming years.”