STRUTHERS – Local musician Don Yallech recalls how music found him at a young age.
It all started at the age of 6, when Yallech received his first record, “Something New” from the Beatles, released in the summer of 1964, after their iconic appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show”.
The Beatles also inspired Yallech to take an interest in drumming, which led to him playing drums in many experimental and well-known new wave acts.
Yallech, 63, remembers standing in line at the Paramount Theater in downtown Youngstown to see “A Hard Day’s Night” with his family.
Yallech is music director for Easy Street Productions, a role he took on in late 2017, following the death of former music director Jeff Sanders. Yallech has done several shows with Easy Street co-founders Todd Hancock and Maureen Collins over the years.
“With Easy Street Productions I have been involved as musical director for musicals such as ‘Putnam County Spelling Bee’, ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’, ‘Matilda’, ‘Nunsense’, ‘Miracle on Easy Street’ I also had the pleasure of serving as Music Director for two collaborative productions between Easy Street and the Youngstown Symphony under the late conductor Randall Fleischer with ‘Guys and Dolls’ and ‘South Pacific’,” Yallech said.
Yallech began playing drums for productions at the Youngstown Playhouse in the late 1970s until 1984. He was the music director for a production of “Grease” in the early 1980s and was also the director musical of the production of “Chicago” at the Youngstown Playhouse. in 2006.
“Most recently I played their production of ‘The Color Purple’, which was co-produced with the Youngstown Symphony in late 2021. This was a collaboration with the Youngstown Playhouse and the Youngstown Symphony following the sad loss of Randall Fleischer. With Easy Street, I was also able to complete the production work and performance of “Nunsense. This was the show we were working on when we were closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Currently, I’m working on some new rankings for the Easy Street Christmas show, hopefully we can actually do that in 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 in the 1970s, Yallech played in a trio called Tobin Count, which covered material from popular rock bands at the time, such as King Crimson and Genesis.
In 1976, Yallech had graduated from high school and was entering his early college days when punk and new wave were the main influences. In 1978, the steel mills were closing in Youngstown, and Youngstown’s younger generations were absorbing the music, art, and fashion from 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 were among the best-loved post-punk bands at Cedar’s Lounge in downtown Youngstown in the early 1980s.
“Playing at Cedars turned into a local music and arts scene that was beginning to flourish. It brought in local bands like Nancy Bizarri, The 8-Balls, The Sonics, The Elements, Mephisto Waltz, The Infidels, etc. Poster art was popular and most of ours were done by artist Louise Corsi and sometimes local artist Jim Pernotto who also designed a great Cedar’s t-shirt We also did music for a Peggy Millard fashion show or a beach-themed party with the 8 Balls. For me, that was the start of Cedar’s with the energy of an artistic scene. Of course, during that time, I would still do ‘other gigs like playing 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.
ON THE WAY TO NYC
In 1983, Yallech, Chianese and Neill moved to New York. Both Yallech and Chianese attended the Manhattan School of Music. After completing his master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music in 1986, Yallech worked on productions of “A Chorus Line,” “42nd Street,” “Sophisticated Ladies,” and “Chicago,” among others. It was also around this time that Yallech and Neill began trips to Europe performing in Holland, Germany and Italy.
“In the late ’80s, I was on the road with the production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ in Beverly, Mass. It was then that I received a phone call asking if I would be interested in joining the acclaimed position in London. -punk/new wave band, The Psychedelic Furs. This call did not come out of nowhere. Peggy Millard, a friend and inhabitant of the Cedars Lounge gang, had moved to New York in July 1984. She had moved into my sublet on Claremont Avenue since I had been on Long Island. Eventually, she met and married bassist Tim Butler of The Psychedelic Furs. Tim and I quickly became friends, painting the town whenever we could, generally becoming drinkers and club goers for any hot bands that came to town,” Yallech said.
This moment was a new world for Yallech. He had been a fan of The Psychedelic Furs’ early albums. In fact, Yallech said the influence of the Psychedelic Furs 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 produced works by The Smiths, The Cranberries and Blur.
Yallech had many great times touring with The Psychedelic Furs in support of the album, including playing in many cities across the United States and Western Europe. He said some of his favorite moments include performing at Festival by the Sea in Barcelona, Spain, where around 100,000 people attended.
“I remember being in Athens, Georgia on the ‘World Outside’ tour and spending the night playing gigs and bar hopping with Peter Buck of REM. Right after the tour ended, our tour manager, Phil McDonald, presented us with Paul McGuinness tickets for the U2 Zoo TV tour at the Brendan Byrne Arena in March 1992. The Psychedelic Furs and U2 had reunited in the first years and had often toured together, so it was a nice meeting with them after the show in what I would call the green room,” Yallech said.
“Fast forward to 2018, Ben Neill and I were invited 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 play for 20 years. We got together in June to rebuild/rehearse, then later in October we did the performances at the Whitney. Wojnarowicz’s vocal parts of the play were taken from the original recordings from 1991,” Yallech said.
Yallech moved to Youngstown in 2004. He now teaches private music lessons from his home in Struthers. He mainly teaches percussion studies.