Wild Cherry Biography

Wild Cherry’s claim to fame was the US number 1 and UK Top 10 funky dance single, ‘Play That Funky Music’, in 1976 has probably outlived the name of its creators in the minds of most fans. Wild Cherry was a white quintet formed that year in Steubenville, Ohio, USA. Its original membership comprised Robert Parissi (guitar/vocals) and other musicians although they never recorded; Parissi re-formed the band with new recruits Bryan Bassett (guitar), Allen Wentz (bass), Mark Avsec (keyboards) and Ronald Beitle (drums). The band took its name when Parissi, an accident victim laid-up in hospital, looked at a box of cherry-flavoured cough drops and liked what he saw. They recorded for a small record label owned by Terry Knight. The second line-up had the famous hit; signed to Epic Records, the band preferred hard rock but often played in discos where patrons would shout, ‘Play that funky music, white boy’. Writing a song around that phrase, they took it to Cleveland record producer Carl Maduri and concert promoter Mike Belkin, who secured them a record contract. The band charted with four subsequent singles but never came close to repeating the success of their ‘funky’ hit although the famous chant was used by white rapper, Vanilla Ice for his hit follow-up to ‘Ice Ice Baby’. Don Ierace and Cooke Michalchick replaced Bassett and Wentz on the band’s final album. Ierace subsequently changed his name to Donnie Iris, and worked with Avsec on a moderately successful solo career.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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