Obituary: Morry Martin and Herman Granati Sr. / Longtime Beaver County friends die on same day

March 29, 1931 - June 30, 2013 | April 4, 1929 - June 30, 2013

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Morry Martin and Herman Granati Sr. died an hour apart on June 30, a notable coincidence for two friends who shared a common bond: Mr. Martin owned the nightclub where Mr. Granati's four sons and nephew made their name as musicians.

Morry's Speakeasy in Rochester Township gave the Granati Brothers rock band the chance to build a following and sign a record deal. The band reciprocated by packing the house for more than 200 shows in the late 1970s and early 1980s, until they were "discovered" by Van Halen, with whom they played 78 sold-out shows on tour.

"I felt like I lost both my fathers on the same day," said musician Rick Granati. His father. he said, was a drummer and music aficionado who raised his children to love music, while Mr. Martin gave them the stage and counsel to succeed.

"Herm and his wife were always at the club when the guys played," said Mr. Martin's son, Hal Martin. "The fathers became friends through the kids."

Mr. Martin, of Beaver, died at 82 of renal failure at Good Samaritan Hospice in Pine. He was buried Monday at Shaare Torah Cemetery in Carrick. Rick Granati served as a pallbearer.

Herman Granati, 84, died of a heart attack at Heritage Valley Medical Center, Beaver. Visitation will be today from 1 to 8 p.m. at Campbell Funeral Home, 1326 Eighth Ave., Beaver Falls. A funeral service will be held at the same location Wednesday at 10 a.m., followed by burial at St. Mary's Cemetery, Chippewa.

"They were both very funny men and they got along great," said another son, Joey Granati. "They must be laughing together now, wherever they went."

"I like to think they're in the kingdom of God negotiating a big show," Rick Granati said.

Mr. Martin was born in the Hill District, but he and his mother lived with relatives around the city while his father served in the Army. After graduating from Peabody High School, Mr. Martin saw combat in the Korean War, finishing his service as an army corporal.

After the war he went into business in Cleveland but soon moved to Beaver County, home of his bride, the former Renee Silverman, whose father was a beer distributor. Mr. Martin became a beer salesman and did well at the job, but when the owner of the Speakeasy was looking to sell in 1969, Mr. Martin bought the place.

"He transitioned it into a live music, rock and roll nightclub," Hal Martin said. "He could tell what bands could draw an audience, and various musicians got started there. Donnie Iris and the Jaggerz, Norm Nardini, B.E. Taylor all played there, and sometimes big acts would, too, like the Union Gap and Gary Lewis and the Playboys."

In the early 1970s, he said, the young Granati boys approached his father about playing.

"He gave them a break sight unseen," Hal Martin said. "They played there for years and matured into a very popular act that generated huge crowds. Their dad came to every show and brought a big block of family with him."

The club gained a reputation as "the rock and roll capital of Beaver County." Hal Martin said his dad became a local celebrity who "lived the high life," having gotten divorced in the 1970s.

"Morry looked after us like a father would," Joey Granati said. "He booked us every Saturday for three years, gave us advice and kept us in line sometimes. Thanks to him we caught the tail end of the greatest era of rock and roll."

In 1984 Mr. Martin sold the club and bought a corner tavern in New Brighton, renaming it Morry's Bar and Grill, which he ran for seven years before entering "a pseudo-retirement," his son said, distributing newspapers and playing golf. The Granatis stayed in touch, and the year his dad turned 80, the band organized a musical tribute featuring many of the acts that played at the Speakeasy and drawing 500 people.

In addition to his son, Mr. Martin is survived by three grandchildren.

Herman Granati was born in Beaver Falls and graduated from Beaver Falls High School where he played drums and cymbals in the marching band -- an avocation he continued throughout his life, most notably with the marching band of the Patterson Township Volunteer Fire Department, where he was a longtime member.

From the age of 9 he worked for a neighbor's dairy operation delivering milk, butter and cheese. After high school he went to Geneva College for "a few days," Rick Granati said, "but it didn't work out." He went on to work as a steelworker, restaurant cook, salesman for several dairies and a life insurance company.

"He had a knack for sales," his son said. "He just had that personality, really gifted with people."

Eventually he settled into the candy and tobacco business, working for several companies.

"Every time he changed companies his clients went with him," Rick Granati said. "He took such good care of them, he even let them call him on Steeler Sundays."

Mr. Granati and his wife, the former Norma Jean Bonomo, were married for 61 years. Skilled and enthusiastic cooks, they made sure the family sat down together every night for a homemade dinner. Their house was always open to visitors, their son said, including musicians and their friends who would sometimes sleep on the floor after the Granati Brothers' shows, and their legendary Christmas feasts drew huge numbers of guests.

"My dad never made a fortune, but every night at dinner he'd say, 'The president of the United States isn't eating as well as we are.' " Rick Granati said.

The children grew up going to parades and hearing all kinds of music in the home. But, Rick Granati said, "When we saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, forget about it, our destiny was scripted."

The Granatis were big supporters of their sons' music, attending just about every performance and cheering them on.

In addition to his wife and sons Rick of Beaver and Joey of Patterson, Mr. Granati is survived by sons Herman Jr. of Moon and David of Patterson and five grandchildren.

As to the deaths of these two men on the same day, Rick Granati said, "Maybe Dad and Morry felt their work was done. I hope I listened real well. Anyway, it makes a good story, and they were both world-class storytellers."

obituaries - neigh_west - music

Sally Kalson: skalson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1610.


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