Wild Cherry scored a number one hit with their all time classic song "Play That Funky Music". Written by lead singer and band founder Rob Parissi, it was the number one hit on both the Billboard R&B and Pop charts in 1976, staying at number 1 on the Billboard chart for 3 weeks.. Both the single and Wild Cherry's debut album on Epic records went platinum. Play The band was named Best Pop Group of the Year by Billboard, and received an American Music Award for Top R&B Single of the Year, as well as a pair of Grammy nominations for Best New Vocal Group and Best R&B Performance by a Group or Duo..
Playing Funky Music in Pittsburgh
Wild Cherry was founded by lead singer and guitarist Rob Parissi of Mingo Junction, Ohio around 1970.. The original roster included: Ben DiFabbio, Larry Brown, and Larry Mader. Wild Cherryc released two rock albums on their own label "You Can Be High (But Lay Low)" and "Something Special On Your Mind" in 1971. They signed with Brown Bag Records to release the singles 'Get Down' and "Show Me Your Badge" in 1973. The band broke up and Parissi took a job as a manager of a steak house..
Bored with steaks and wanting to give music another shoot, Parissi reformed Wild Cherry with a new line up that included
Pittsburghers Bryan Bassett on guitar and drummer Ronald Beitle. Detroit native Allen Wentz was added as the bassist. . In the late 1970's the Wild Cherry built a huge following in the Pittsburgh area.
At a gig at the 2001 Club on Pittsburgh's North Side a table of African American fans kept coming to the stage and teasing: "Are you white boys gonna play some funky music?" During a break drummer Ron Beitle, uttered the magic phrase that that was heard around the world: "Play That Funky Music, White Boy". Rob Parissi was immediately inspired to write the song on a drink order pad with a pen borrowed from the bartender.
Epic Records Deal
Wild Cherry recorded “Play That Funky Music at the Cleveland Recording Studio in Cleveland. Owner/engineer Ken Haman took the tape to Mike Belkin and Carl Maduri, Cleveland concert promoters, who were starting a custom label to be distributed by Epic. Looking for their first recording project Belkin and Maduir took the tape to Steve Popovich of Epic Records. Popovich liked what he heard, signed Wild Cherry to Epic and promoted the single making it and the "Wild Cherry" album million sellers. The band toured the U.S. opening for Average White Band and other acts.
Mark Avsec was hired as keyboardist after the "Wild Cherry" album was released. The "Electrified Funk" album released on Epic in 1977 climbed to number 33 on the Billboard R&B Albums chart and sold 400,000 copies. The singles"Baby Don't You Know", Hold On, and Hot to Trot all landed in the Billboard Hot 100,copies. Their third album "I Love My Music" was released on Epic in 1978 landing at number 54 on the Billboard R&B Albums chart. Donnie Iris joined Wild Cherry as guitarist/vocalist on their fourth and final album "Only the Wild Survive" that was released in 1979.. It was the last album before their breakup
Wild Cherry Alumni
After the break up of Wild Cherry guitarist Byran Bassett became a member of the classic rock band Tumbling Dice in 1979 performing with them in Pittsburgh and Miami area clubs. He joined the Silencers in 1983 replacing Warren King and played with them until they disbanded. In 1984 Bryan formed the Mystic Knights with Warren King, keyboard player Gil Synder from the Houserockers. and former Silencers drummer Ron 'Bryd' Foster. Bryan left the Mystic Knights moving to Orlando Florida to become an engineer, producer, and session guitarist for King Snake Studio. Bryan recorded, mixed, and produced over 75 Albums/CD's during his 15 years with King Snake. His guitar was featured on more than 25 blues albums. Byran began 4 years of touring with the band Foghat in 1988. In 1993 he joined Molly Hatchet and toured with them for seven years through 1999. Bryan appeared on three of Molly Hatchet’s CD releases. He left Molly Hatchet to rejoin Foghat as Rod Price’s replacement in 1999. Bryan has written songs on several of Fog Hat’s CDs and continues to perform and record with Foghat.
Bob Parissi became a disk jockey in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Mark Avsec partnered up with Donnie Iris following the demise of Wild Cherry to form The Cruisers.