Pittsburgh music scene mourns loss of beloved concert promoter "Mama Jo" Coll | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh music scene mourns loss of beloved concert promoter "Mama Jo" Coll

Mary Jo Coll
Mary Jo Coll
Many in the Pittsburgh community, especially in the music scene, are currently processing the loss of Mary Jo Coll. Known affectionately as Momjo or Mama Jo, Coll was known as the person who gave many bands their break as the concert promoter and booker at Howlers and Hambone's.

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Coll died on Dec. 26 of stomach cancer. She was 64 years old.

Her passing occurred two weeks after an event at Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale where performers gathered to raise money for her medical and living expenses.

Those who worked with Coll, or knew her as a friend, have taken to social media to express their grief at the loss of someone who meant so much to so many.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our dear friend, Mary Jo,” reads an Instagram post from Linea Verde Green Market in Bloomfield. “If you knew this woman, you know she was one of the good ones. She was a force, a kind soul, and would always do the most.”

It goes on to say, “What she did for the Pittsburgh music scene will go unmatched. Thank you for everything you’ve done and everyone you’ve supported Mary Jo.”

Coll, who grew up in Morningside, was a lifelong music lover and translated that into supporting local acts. She worked as a paralegal, and in several positions at local clubs, before ending up at Howlers as a bartender. She would become an instrumental figure at the Bloomfield dive bar, which closed in 2020.

Karla Doolittle, who helped organize the Mr. Smalls event, said Coll had been a “pivotal force in keeping the music scene alive in Pittsburgh,” booking and promoting acts across punk, folk, acoustic, metal, and other genres.

Coll also booked live music at the now-closed Lawrenceville bar Hambone's for over 10 years before owner Jeff Holt passed away, and helped organize the Rock All Night Tour, or R.A.N.T, festivals in Lawrenceville.

On Facebook, Chip Dominick of the Pittsburgh band Chip & The Charge Ups wrote, “We all have to bow out at some point. We should all get [to do] so knowing how loved we are. I feel like Mama Jo did.”

Musicians from other local bands, including The Night’s Watch and The Nërd Hërdërs, also offered messages of gratitude and condolences.

Many are also posting “mama jo,” a song written by The Harlan Twins in tribute to Coll.

“It’s no secret that Pittsburgh’s music scene would not be what it is today without Mary Jo,” reads a post on The Harlan Twins Facebook page. “She gave us our first show and always told us that we were her favorite just as she did and said the same for so many other bands and musicians here too. She was tough as nails, but she made us all feel loved and special, and we’ll always hold her in our raggedy little hearts.”
If local musicians felt nurtured and cared for by Coll, it was no coincidence.

“They’re all my kids,” Coll told City Paper in 2017. “I just kind of refer to myself as the local bar mom. I do what I can and help when I can. I give you a stage if that’s what you need, and if the show fails, we tweak it, figure out what went wrong, and try again.”

According to a comment by Doolittle on the Pittsburgh Punk Rock Facebook page, Coll will be cremated and, in May, her family will have a riverside memorial service.

Comments (0)