Gumbands: A Pittsburgh Podcast with Rick Sebak
GUMBANDS is a brand new podcast about Pittsburgh, its people, its history, its neighborhoods, its small businesses, its food, its charms, its stories, and many of its surprises.
People around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, know the word “gumbands.” It’s a regionalism, a somewhat wacky word that some call an example of “Pittsburghese.” A gumband is simply a rubber band, and we all know those words too, but we also often have a bit of pride in our exclusive Pittsburgh vocabulary.
WQED’s longtime producer Rick Sebak is the host, and he works closely with podcast creator Rich Capaldi who has been producing at WQED since 2017.
Gumbands is made possible by the Buhl Foundation.
012: Brooke Barker
Brooke Barker writes and illustrates books about animals. Some of the creatures are familiar, others may be rare, all have captured her attention (and her sense of humor) for a wide variety of reasons. Her most popular work is titled Sad Animal Facts, but she has also put together a follow-up titled Sad Animal Babies, and her newest book is called How Do Meerkats Order Pizza?
We talk about her lifelong love of animals, some of the many places she’s lived, including Pittsburgh where she and her husband, Boaz Frankel, have lived for about five years now. (They also wrote a book together titled Let’s Be Weird Together.)
011: Day Bracey
Day Bracey is a Pittsburgh comedian and podcaster who also organizes festivals, including the beautiful beer-based Barrel & Flow Fest that celebrates African-American culture, arts, cuisine and collaborations that encourage black-owned breweries, businesses and brilliant ideas across America. Born in Braddock, studied at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Day shares stories about his own history, how the festival that started as Fresh Fest in 2018 transformed into Barrel & Flow that was recognized in 2023 by USA TODAY as The Best Beer Festival in America. We talk about craft beer, community and Blowfish BBQ.
010: Anna Singer
Anna Singer sings. She paints. She shares classical music on our FM radio station. And she does all of these with style and grace and enthusiasm. And she’s a wonderful guest on this episode of GUMBANDS as well.
We talk about her early years, her dreams of being an opera singer, her schooling, her successes, and the factors that led her to WQED-FM where she started to work for this all-classical-all-the-time radio station in 2000. She is on air weekdays from 2pm till 6pm.
009: Sebastian Lobo-Guerrero
Sebastian Lobo-Guerrero knows how to tell a good story.
He came to Pittsburgh as a student at Pitt in 2001, studying geo-technical engineering (still his specialty), involving the complicated composition of the earth beneath our feet and under all sorts of structures and their foundations. As a Geotechnical Project Manager at a company called AGES Inc. with headquarters in Canonsburg, PA., he has worked on many projects, including several around Pittsburgh, the City of Retaining Walls as well as the City of Bridges.
He is also an Adjunct Lecturer at the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He has published many articles and delivered presentations in cities around the world. But he tells a great story about his father, working as a civil engineer on a highway construction project in 1990 in the jungle in Colombia.
And we learn a lot.
008: Rick Sebak
Rick Sebak is celebrating his 50th anniversary year working in Public Broadcasting. For this episode of Gumbands, co-producer Rich Capaldi has taken Rick's seat, and Rick is the guest! There's a lot about Rick—including his growing up in Bethel Park, PA, studying in Brazil and France, working at South Carolina Educational Television, and arriving at WQED in 1987. Rick has told a lot of stories about a lot of topics over the years, this episode highlights some of his own story.
007: Tom Roberts Part 2
We continue our talk with pianist-composer-historian Tom Roberts, finding out about his moving back to Pittsburgh, his continuing connections with Leon Redbone, his work on Martin Scorsese’s movie “The Aviator,” and his ongoing work with discovering and preserving the often overlooked musical history of Pittsburgh and its mighty musicians from the decades before World War II.
Tom also explains the origins of some of the organizations he works with including the Allegheny City Ragtime Orchestra, the Hot Club of Pittsburgh, and the Red Beans & Rice Combo. He’s a busy man with lots of good stories.
006: Tom Roberts Part 1
Tom Roberts is a pianist, a composer, a 78 rpm record collector and a musical historian with special interest in late 19th century and early 20th century Pittsburgh musicians who are often overlooked.
In this episode of GUMBANDS, he talks about growing up in Swisshelm Park, teaching himself to play piano, learning about ragtime, classical and New Orleans jazz, moving to other cities, and eventually how he introduced himself to the great Leon Redbone with whom he toured for several years. He has some really good stories.
005: Mark Houser & Skyscrapers
How do you hold together a wide range of topics from bow ties to American Standard bathtubs? From French President Emmanuel Macron to elevator technology? From the old Mad Mex Restaurant on Atwood Street to the Shroud of Turin? From early lightbulbs to the kindness of Fred Rogers? You hold them all together with GUMBANDS.
And you can hear (and see!) how they all connect with lots of help from Mark Houser, writer, historian, architectural reporter, tour-guide extraordinaire and our guest on this episode of the podcast. We had a good time talking to Mark, and we learned a lot. Give it go. You can choose audio-only or the whole interview with video.
004: John Tarallo & Steel City Salt Company
John and Candy Tarallo sell salts and spices that are wonderful ways to make your foods taste better. They started selling their wares on a sidewalk table in the Strip District in 2014, and have since opened a small brick-and-morter Steel City Salt shop on Grant Avenue in Millvale.
For GUMBANDS, we talk to John about the history of this business, how it’s grown and the development of special spicy blends that he and Candy create themselves.
For this episode, there are three parts: 1) an audio podcast, 2) a video version of that interview and 3) a special documentary short about the Tarallos and their business. You can listen to the first one and/or watch the other two.
003: Jared Evans & Radical Trivia
Jared Evans asks interesting questions in various locations around the Pittsburgh area, primarily in bars on weeknight evenings, attracting a local and loyal audience as well as unexpected newcomers. Often with saucy language, he runs a business called Radical Trivia that allows him to perform a bit as well as captivate and challenge drinking patrons of all sorts.
Jared talks about the detailed process of preparing for Radical Trivia, his regular creation of unusual promotional posts on Instagram (and Facebook) and a few of his favorite movies.
Jared also loves the martial arts and studies and teaches Brazilian jiu jitsu and has a series of instructional videos on the Radical Trivia YouTube channel with Coach “Iron City” Mike Wilkins.
There are also some enthusiastic food recommendations involved, including Jared’s beloved fries at OTB on the South Side.
002: Bill Tippins & The Ghost Warriors
Bill Tippins has written two novels set in the Stone Age in a territory that may seem familiar to readers from Western Pennsylvania. Intended for YA (Young Adult) readers, the books focus on a boy named Tioga and his best friend Kopi as they take on several difficult quests near where the Allegewi River and the Angry River meet to form the Great River.
Bill Tippins has worked in the Pittsburgh area as an electrical engineer, but he has also spent years working on these books that may remind readers of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling.
With great affection for both books, GUMBANDS host Rick Sebak asks Tippins about his writing process, his ongoing interest in pre-history and his creative inspirations.
001: Sarah McAlee aka @brothmonger
Sarah McAlee makes soups. A wide variety of soups from chowders to bisques to gazpachos and noodle-y broths. She started by selling to friends from her home on Pittsburgh’s North Side in 2018, mostly through her Instagram account @brothmonger, but the number of her hungry fans have grown steadily since then.
You can now get quarts of her tasty creations at Thyme Machine on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield.
On this episode, GUMBANDS host Rick Sebak asks her about her soup business and her former work as a funeral director in the South Hills. Lots of good stories.