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"Play That Funky Music"
The first version of Wild Cherry was formed by Rob Parissi in Steubenville, Ohio, in 1970. The band's name was taken from a box of cough drops, and the original lineup included Parissi (vocals, guitar), Ben DiFabbio (drums, vocals), Louie Osso (guitar, vocals), Larry Brown (bass, vocals), and Larry Mader (keyboards, vocals). This lineup played gigs throughout the Ohio Valley region and released several records under their own label before getting a contract with Brown Bag Records in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Brown Bag never released a Wild Cherry record, however, and the band broke up in 1974 (or early 1975). A dejected Parissi subsequently sold off most of the band's equipment and walked away from music.
Parissi's interest in music quickly returned, however, and he soon formed a new version of Wild Cherry with himself (lead vocals, guitar), Bryan Bassett (guitar), Allen Wentz (bass), and Ronald Beitle (drums).
Like the original group, the new Wild Cherry was primarily a rock and roll band, but its potential fan base was more interested in the burgeoning disco music scene. After numerous requests to "Play That Funky Music," Parissi wrote a song by that title and the group recorded it at a local studio, along with a cover of the Commodores song "I Feel Sanctified. "Studio engineer Ken Hamann overheard the track and brought it to the attention of Epic Records, which in turn signed the band to a contract. During the recording of the band's first major label album, Mark Avsec was hired as keyboardist for two tracks and was subsequently asked to join the band as a permanent member.
"Play That Funky Music" topped both the Billboard R&B and pop charts in 1976, while both the single and the band's self-titled album went double platinum. By the end of that year Wild Cherry had been named Best Pop Group of the Year by Billboard, received an American Music Award for Top R&B Single of the Year, and earned Grammy nominations for Best New Vocal Group and Best R&B Performance by a Group or Duo.
Wild Cherry's success proved short-lived, however, as neither Electrified Funk (1977) nor I Love My Music (1978) generated a Top 20 hit. Only the Wild Survive (1979) and Don't Wait Too Long (1979) were equally unsuccessful, and the band broke up soon after release of the final album. Although each of the band members have continued to pursue careers in music, the band has only reunited once since the break-up, for a 2004 PBS-sponsored disco concert in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Library >> Music >> Biography: Musical Groups
This page was last updated on 06/24/2017.