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The House Band: A Legacy Lives
October 7, 2009 - Jim Price
This Friday and Saturday night, October 9 and 10, The House Band will be performing in the Altoona area. On Friday night, the group will entertain at Rubine’s Bar in Altoona, and on Saturday night they will play at Family Pizza & Pub. When The House Band takes the stage both nights, they will continue a legacy on the Altoona area music scene that dates back 20 years.
It was in the late ‘80s that a Wednesday night jam session started at the U.S. Hotel in Hollidaysburg. At the center of the festivities was the U.S. Hotel House Band, fronted by the brothers Rossi; Jim on guitar and Mark on keys. (Both sang.) This jam session quickly grew into a weekly gathering of musicians and music fans; and before long, musicians from far and wide were converging on Hollidaysburg every Wednesday night to become a part of the musical magic and special vibes that emanated from “The ‘Us’ Hotel.”
The cream of the Altoona music scene were frequent flyers on the U.S. Hotel stage; including U.S. Hotel House Band members like Randy Rutherford and Pat McGinnis, as well as Chuck Knepper, Tom Rhodes, Tim Yingling, Johnny Alamprese, Rick Wertz, Paula Glunt, Kent Martin and many more. Also showing up frequently for those legendary Wednesday night jam sessions was a young guitar axeslinger from Gallitzin named Felix Kos, who was fronting a fledgling band at the time called The Hurricanes.
As word spread about what was happening at the U.S. Hotel on Wednesdays, musicians from outside the area started to show up and take part. Some of those participants included Tino Gonzalez from Lancaster, members of Baltimore-based southern rockers Great Train Robbery, Queen Bee & the Blue Hornet Band from State College, Bitter Route from Johnstown and more.
Those Wednesday nights became something very special. The atmosphere of top-notch musicians sharing the stage and exchanging licks, cheered on by a large crowd of music fans, was unforgettable. Beyond the music, friendships developed and musical alliances were forged.
The magic at the U.S. Hotel came to an end in the mid ‘90s when new owners took over the facility. But while the group’s home stage was no longer available, the group lived on. Jim and Mark Rossi continued the band as The U.S. House Band, reconvening for several years on the stage at Peter C’s in Altoona and a few other select venues until Jim’s unexpected passing in 2000 brought the group to a halt.
Mark (“The Duke”) dabbled lightly in other projects through much of this decade, but eventually began partnering with longtime Altoona music veteran Tom Rhodes on guitar. This partnership eventually evolved into the formation of The House Band. Mark and Tom are at the center of this group, with various guest musicians often helping out. In the tradition of the prior House Bands, this one keeps the mood upbeat with its blend of classic rock, blues, jazz and more. And like those earlier inceptions, this House Band maintains a similar fun vibe and spirit of camaraderie between musicians, and between musicians and fans.
Through this current edition of The House Band, the legacy of the original U.S. Hotel House Band lives on. And new musical magic is being made.
Rubine’s Bar is located at 721 2nd Avenue in Altoona. Family Pizza & Pub is located at 200 East Pleasant Valley Boulevard in Altoona.
Mark Rossi of The House Band during a March performance at The Hitching Post in Altoona.