Bill Heid remembers being in his father’s studio, George Heid Productions, and seeing famous musicians like Billy Strayhorn, Henry Mancini and George Benson walk through its doors to record.
“A lot of Pittsburgh’s jazz greats recorded their first demos in my dad’s studio,” said Heid, who has been playing jazz and blues and touring the world for nearly six decades, and will play a solo show April 16 at Joey’s Edge in Export. “When I was young, we listened to Porky Chedwick on WAMO-FM, and he played ‘authentic’ rock ‘n’ roll but also old R&B, ‘jump’ records, Chicago blues. And that was one of my first exposures to this music.
Heid, who grew up in the South Hills, began life as a professional musician in 1965, playing mostly in black jazz clubs in Pittsburgh.
“The Hill District had the Hurricane Bar in the center, which featured mostly organ bands, and the Crawford Grill No. 2 on Wylie (Avenue) always featured piano bands,” Heid said. “Coltrane, Miles Davis, a lot of greats have played there, and also a lot of local bands with guys like me.”
From the mid-70s to the mid-80s, Heid was based in Chicago, where he recorded with some of the city’s big blues names like Son Seals, Koko Taylor and Fenton Robinson.
In 2000 he moved to Washington, D.C., where he formed a band that became part of the US State Department’s Jazz Ambassadors program, touring Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia in 2002. , and returning a year later for an extended tour.
“It was hard work,” Heid said. “During the day you would do these clinics and you would play with other musicians, you would do Q&A sessions, and then at night you would perform.”
As well as performing in Export, Heid also has his own Westmoreland County connections.
“My mother was born in Jeannette and my grandparents lived in Claridge,” he said. “I remember being in Westmoreland County, reading the Jeannette News Dispatch and going to picnics at Bushy Run.”
On April 16 at Joey’s, Heid will perform a solo show.
“My favorite part of playing live is getting the crowd involved,” he said. “Most places you work, you have a lot of people making noise. It’s very rare to have a silent audience.
“I really like places where you can hear a pin drop, where I can talk about songs and engage the audience. But for the most part, if you can get people to dig it, great.
Heid will perform from 7-10 p.m., April 16 at Joey’s the Edge, 5904 Washington Avenue in Export. There is no cost to attend.
Patrick Varine is an editor at Tribune-Review. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, email@example.com or via Twitter .