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Norman Nardini and the Switchblades with Willie Phoenix and the Soul Underground

Presented by Crazy Mama's Concerts and WCBE

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Norman Nardini and the Switchblades from Pittsburgh and Willie Phoenix and the Soul Underground.  Two kings of rock n roll together one special night – presented by Crazy Mama’s Concerts and WCBE

As bass player for the 1970’s Pittsburgh rock n’ roll band, Diamond Reo, Norman Nardini got his career started. After a very brief stay at Berklee School Of Music and more than a few special moments….while still in high school he rented his Hammond B-3 organ and roadied for Billy Preston and Sly and the Family Stone when they came to town…..was hired to play guitar and keys in fake versions of The Sonics and The Cherry People…………backed up Little Anthony and the Imperials, The Detroit Emeralds, and The Manhattans in pickup bands…..played guitar behind Big Mama Thorton and George Harmonica Smith at The Jazz Workshop in Boston Mass. At Fox studio he had the opportunity to play on recordings by Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners, Lou Christy, Terry Bradshaw……Nardini played bass on “The Pennsylvania Polka” Steeler fight song. After doing an arrangement of “Dancing In The Street” that got picked up by RCA he did an arrangement of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” that brought an album deal with Big Tree Records that got Diamond Reo started. With a single on the charts The Diamonds appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and did shows with Aerosmith, Rush, Ted Nugent, Kansas, Canned Heat, Blue Oyster Cult……they opened up for Kiss at Cobo Hall in Detroit the night they recorded Kiss Alive. Dirty Diamonds, they’re second release was on the Buddah label and was produced by Adrian Barber who had done Aerosmith’s first LP……although it didn’t do so well at the time, Dirty Diamonds is currently being re-released on Rock Candy Records and is considered to be a classic piece of work……Nardini produced Ruff Cuts The Diamonds third and final LP. Norman Nardini and the Tigers started tearin’ up rock n’ roll shows in 1979 opening shows for bands like The Romantics, Joan Jett, and Beaver Brown. In the fall of 1980 The Tigers played Asbury Park’s Fast Lane and opened the show for The Rest, one of Jon Bon Jovi’s early bands, he and Jon remain friends to this day. Jon had Nardini open his 2011 performance at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center. Recorded at Cleveland’s legendary Agora Nightclub, Eat n’ Alive, which received a 4 star review from Rolling Stone Magazine was released in ’81 and kept The Tigers on the road constantly. CBS released Norman Nardini and the Tigers in ’83, ole buddy Jon Bon sang BG vocals. With the Tigers broken up, Nardini did one more release with CBS, Love Dog, which featured Rick Derringer, Dr John, and Paul Shaffer and hit in ’86 and was followed by a tour with The Radiators. A tour of Germany as opening act for The Blues Brothers came about because “Smoke Two Joints”, the single off the Circumstantial LP, This Ole Train was hitting the airways just after the Berlin wall came down and folks were exercising their freedom to rock and smoke. Two more LP’s on Circumstantial followed, 1993’s Breakdown In Paradise and 95’s It’s Alive.

Whether he’s playing haunting blues, straight forward rock, garage band noise or psychedelic fusion – Willie Phoenix delivers. Willie’s career has spanned decades – and so has his passion – never stopping, never failing to deliver jaw-dropping performances with an undeniable edge.

Born in Camden Alabama, Willie says he entered the world “wrapped in a burning southern flag” – referencing his love for the blues. Growing up, he listened to all of the greats. They were all there on the 78/45 rpm records played on his family’s Magnavox record player:  Muddy Waters, Lightening Hopkins, Howling Wolf, John Lee Hooker and country greats Hank Williams, Buck Owens and Jerry Reed. Willie remembers thinking the guitars, harmonicas and voices possessed the same echoing, lonely sound as the midnight trains that rumbled past his Marion, Ohio home. It was there, in Marion,  where he grew up, went to school and cut his teeth on early British invasion blues and rock n’ roll.

Willie has never looked back. He learned to play the blues from his father, bluesman Willie James Creagh Sr. who played with big names like Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson II (Willie’s godfather).  Willie says, “I had a certain knack for writing songs. I started playing guitar, grabbed a few of my mates, formed a band and made a lot of wonderful noise.” Willie has worked clubs and concert halls from Toronto Canada straight to the west coast neon lights of Hollywood. He’s performed with many greats, including Muddy Waters, BB King, rock n’ roll’s Ramones and The Talking Heads – to name only a few.

A prolific songwriter, Willie has released more albums than can be mentioned – but most recently he’s released Magic in the Dark (2022), four albums in 2021 (Heavy Bubblegum, 3 Chords Maybe 4, Poster Noise, Bomb Shelter 13).  Other recent works include This Ain’t 1968 (2020), Backstage Rain (2019), Garage Blues Band (2017), Blues My Soul (2016) and Captain Psychedelic (2015), all released through 1978 Records.

Though he’s a very humble guy, if you’re lucky you might get Willie to tell you about how the City of Columbus honored “the legendary rock god Willie Phoenix” by renaming 16th and High Street “Willie Phoenix Way” (October, 2020) or about being inducted into the 2022 Columbus Blues Alliance Hall of Fame (October 2022).

When not on the road, Willie’s usually cutting sides at Eastman Studios. You can probably find Willie and his band (Steven Day Carter on drums and Chuck Birchfield on bass) performing into the wee hours of the morning somewhere in town or at Eldorado’s – their favorite underground juke joint in the Graceland district of Columbus.

Willie once told a friend, “Rock n’ roll has saved me from the blues of silence.” Long live rock n’ roll!

Food & Bar: Our full food and drink menu will be available before and during the show.


Date: Saturday, April 6

Time: 8:00 pm

Doors Open: 7:00 pm