Tucked into a historic, 220-year-old brick house two blocks from Old Economy Village in Ambridge, PA; the Performing Arts Legends Museum (PALM) is a treasure trove of musical artifacts from many of our region’s best known and most influential musical artists.
From gold records to a banana-yellow stage costume, and an arsenal of not-so-gently used guitars, the PALM’s walls and display areas tell a story of western Pennsylvania musicians who thrilled us, cheered us up, and made us stay out past our bedtimes. Situated at the intersection of 15th and Merchant streets in the Ambridge Historic District, PALM is educational for visitors and a trip down memory lane.
A stage outfit worn by Turtle Creek’s The Vogues joins Elvis Presley memorabilia and a vintage drum collection in one room at the Performing Arts Legend Museum in Ambridge.
“They can see the impact that so many local artists have made in our personal lives and relive their glory days,” PALM founder Elbie Yaworsky said. “Almost 300 artifacts, gold records, signed photos, 45s, LPs and CDs framed and signed. You can feel the impact this region has had on the evolution of the performing arts.
Yaworsky says he and his wife, Denise, invested into the complex, which also includes second floor Artist in Residence accommodations, and an attached garage tricked out into a modern performance studio that doubles as the rehearsal space for Yaworsky’s band, Hot Metal Horns.
Yaworsky says he’s “super excited” about the PALM’s debut, though final details remain, including replacing the main air conditioning unit that failed last week.
Yaworsky and his team spent months designing the museum’s rooms, which are themed by decades but offer versatility.
“We could rearrange every wall based upon receiving new artifacts,” he said.
The 1950s room includes items like Elvis Presley’s yearbook, Perry Como gold records for “Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom”) and “Round and Round,” and an authentic ’50s diner booth, straight outta TV’s “Happy Days,” with a tabletop jukebox.
In the 1950/60s rooms are instruments, outfits and autographed photos from Pittsburgh jazz and blues aces like Walt Harper, Harold Betters, Joe Negri and Chizmo Charles, plus a stage jacket from The Vogues (“5 O’Clock World”).
Yaworsky, a drum aficionado, displays a collection of drums that includes a set from the 1950s, and a 1983 Black 9 ply Maple Pearl GLX 6 piece drum kit valued at over $20,000 in the PALM Studio.
Most of the artifacts on the walls belong to Gene Rees of Center Township, the executive director of the museum. Rees was the architect for Nick’s Fat City on Pittsburgh’s South Side, a popular art-deco style nightclub that was the hottest showcase club for Pittsburgh’s mainstream rock acts during the 1990s. Items from Donnie Iris, The Clarks and other Pittsburgh musical luminaries graced the walls of Nick’s, and Rees ended up purchasing much of the memorabilia.
“After all the work that we’ve put into The PALM to say we’re excited to finally be ready to open would be a huge understatement,” Rees said. “One of the main things that never ceases to amaze me is finding out how much of a national impact that local musicians have had. An impact that I’m betting very few local citizens have any knowledge of.”
He cites examples like Ambridge’s Mars Scarazzo, who drummed for Frank Sinatra in Vegas, and Beaver Falls native Papa John Creach who played in Jefferson Airplane and Starship, “and numerous others whose history, awards and musical impact are all finally on display.”
Crescent Township’s Lou Christie, famed for the soaring hit “Lightnin’ Strikes,” is featured in the Performing Arts Legend Museum in Ambridge, where he’s got family and his Dad grew up just one block away from the PALM.
While representing all of western Pennsylvania, there’s a noticeable Beaver Valley flair to the museum, seen in items from bands like Madhouse, the 1980s rockers who packed local clubs and appeared on the first WDVE-FM compilation album. A framed copy of that album is displayed next to a framed write-up on the band and the stage jacket of Madhouse’s David Cipriani.
A Madhouse jacket and signed guitars and drums are part of the Performing Arts Legend Museum collection.
Admission is $5 for adults; $4 for seniors and students ages 12 to 18; veterans and active military are free.
Autographed guitars, drums and more are part of the Performing Arts Legend Museum in Ambridge.
From Rees’ collection, the PALM will display:
Framed stage costumes of Chuck Blasko from The Vogues (“My Special Angel”), Mark Koch of The Marcels (“Blue Moon”) and Jimmy Beaumont of The Skyliners (“Since I Don’t Have You”).
Framed “Platinum” records from The Silhouettes (1958 Billboard No. 1 “Get A Job”), The Marcels, The Del-Vikings (“Come Go With Me”), Perry Como.
Harold Betters framed autographed trombone and “Live At The Encore” album.
Framed autographed photos from Darryl & Don Ellis, Johnny Angel & The Halos, Kenny Blake, Chismo Charles, Unwound, Ike McCoy Band, Roger Humphries, Walt Harper, Lucy Van Sickle and Phil Harris. Gary Baloma autographed beret.
Autographed album covers from The Vogues, Eric Leeds, Novo Combo, The Parker Bros., East Coast Offering, Al Dowe & Etta Cox
1980s tour T-shirt by rock band A.T.S.
Sleeping Giants CD Release Party poster.
Framed drum sticks autographed by Roger Humphries, Spider Rondinelli.
Autographed bass drum heads from Dharma Sons and Wade.
Autographed saxophones from Glen Quarrie, Robbie Klein, Kenny Blake, Johnny “Smooth” Sabre.
Autographed accordion from Frankie Capri.
Autographed acoustic guitars from Joe Negri, Dave & Shari, Billy Dean, D. C. Fitzgerald, Gypsy Wind and Anne Feeny.
Autographed electric guitars from Mike Sallows (with Van Halen paint scheme), McKeg Lawson Band, Whiskey High, Buzz Poets, Tony Janflone, Norm Nardini, Shadoz, Force Field, Gas House and Room To Move.