Wild Cherry (band)

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Wild Cherry
Wild Cherry.jpg
Background information
OriginMingo Junction, Ohio, US
GenresFunk rock,[1] blue-eyed soul[2]
Years active1970–1979
LabelsEpic, Brown Bag
Associated actsThe Jaggerz, Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, Foghat, Molly Hatchet, Cellarful of Noise
Past membersRob Parissi
Ben Difabbio
Louie Osso
Larry Brown
Larry Mader
Coogie Stoddart
Joe Buchmelter
Bucky Lusk
Ron Beitle
Bryan Bassett
Allen Wentz
Donnie Iris
Cooke Michalchick
Mark Avsec
Ron Vallera

Wild Cherry was an American funk rock band formed in Mingo Junction, Ohio, in 1970 that was best known for its song "Play That Funky Music".


Early lineups (1970–1974)[edit]

Rob Parissi (lead vocals and guitar) was raised in the steel mill town of Mingo Junction, Ohio. He graduated from Mingo High School in 1968, and formed the band Wild Cherry in 1970 in Steubenville, Ohio.[3] The band's name 'Wild Cherry' was taken from a box of cough drops.[4] The band played the Ohio Valley region, the Northern West Virginia panhandle, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The original lineup included Ben Difabbio (drums and vocals) and Louie Osso (guitar, lead, and background vocals) from Steubenville, Larry Brown (bass, lead, and background vocals) from Weirton, West Virginia, Larry Mader (keyboards, lead and background vocals) from East Springfield, Ohio and Ron Vallera (guitar, background voals) from Steubenville, Ohio). Over time, the band members changed; Osso, Brown, Mader and Vallera leaving the band and were replaced by Parissi's cousin, Coogie Stoddart (guitar, lead, and background vocals) and Joe Buchmelter (bass). Buchmelter was soon replaced by Bucky Lusk.

In the early 1970s, several records were released under their own label including "You Can Be High (But Lay Low)", and "Something Special On Your Mind", in 1971. The music at this stage was pure rock music. Wild Cherry eventually gained a record contract with Brown Bag Records, owned and operated by the late Terry Knight.[3] Brown Bag produced several demos and singles that were later distributed by United Artists including "Get Down" (1973) and "Show Me Your Badge" (1973).

The band broke up and Parissi left the music scene temporarily. He reformed the band in 1975.[3]

Later lineups (1975–1979)[edit]

The new lineup consisted of Bryan Bassett (guitar/vocals), Allen Wentz (bass guitar/synthesizer/vocals), Ronald Beitle (drums), and Parissi.[3] As the group began to develop a following in the Pittsburgh area, disco was becoming increasingly popular, and they were repeatedly asked by listeners to play more dance music.[3] While brainstorming for new song ideas, Beitle recounted hearing a fan shout "Are you white boys gonna play some funky music?" Parissi was inspired to write a song based on the phrase; he began on a drink order pad with a pen borrowed from the bartender. After the band recorded the song, studio engineer Ken Hamann brought the band to the attention of Sweet City Records, distributed by Epic/CBS, which signed the group.[4] Parissi had intended to record the song as the B-side to a cover version of the Commodores' "I Feel Sanctified," but the label suggested it as the A-side.[5]

"Play That Funky Music" became a huge hit when released in 1976, peaking at number one on both the Billboard R&B and pop charts.[3] Both the single and Wild Cherry's self-titled debut album went platinum.[3] 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.[3]

"Play That Funky Music" was the only hit on the album, although "Hot to Trot" was a minor follow-up hit in some non-U.S. markets. The album featured contributions from keyboardist Mark Avsec, who soon thereafter became a permanent member of the band. None of Wild Cherry's 3 subsequent albums were very popular. Neither Electrified Funk (1977) (which contained the "Play That Funky Music" soundalike single "Baby Don't You Know") nor I Love My Music (1978) produced any top 40 hits, and Only the Wild Survive (1979) did not even produce a top 100 single. The band broke up in late 1979.[5]

Coogie Stoddart returned to perform with Wild Cherry beginning with the tour to support Electrified Funk and recorded I Love My Music with the band. Stoddart toured with the group in support of I Love My Music, but left before Only the Wild Survive was recorded.

Post-breakup (1980–present)[edit]

  • Mark Avsec partnered with Donnie Iris (of the Jaggerz), in the early 1980s, to form Donnie Iris and the Cruisers. Iris had played with Wild Cherry on their fourth and final album. Their hit singles included Ah! Leah!.[6] Avsec also teamed up with fellow Cruiser Kevin Valentine to record under the moniker Cellarful of Noise in 1985, releasing two albums with this project. Another of Avsec's compositions, "She Don't Know Me," originally written for the band, La Flavour (who later evolved into "Fair Warning"), became one of the first hits for the then-fledgling band, Bon Jovi.[7] A lawsuit related to this song inspired Avsec to become a copyright lawyer.[8]
  • Bryan Bassett became a producer and engineer at King Snake Studio in Sanford, Florida. He has played with Foghat and Molly Hatchet,[9] and he has also served as a board governor for the Florida Chapter of NARAS.
  • Parissi moved to Miami, Florida in 1979 and formed a tour band with Bobby Caldwell.[5] In 1980, Parissi moved to New York City, met members of Billy Squier's band, and did recording sessions with them and at the same time, He also co-wrote songs with Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Kent, and co-produced the album Dedication along with Gary U.S. Bonds and Bruce Springsteen in 1980/81.[5] The album produced the hit, "This Little Girl (Is Mine)," which sold over 500,000 copies, for which Rob was awarded another gold album. In the 2010s, Parissi resides in Florida, and is writing and recording in the adult contemporary and smooth jazz genres, as in his CD, The Real Deal an all-vocal album.[5]
On August 11, 2013, the people of Parissi's home town in Mingo Junction, Ohio, renamed the longest street there as Rob Parissi Boulevard,[10] and declared August 11 as Rob Parissi day. He and his wife, Ilona, established a scholarship endowment for his former consolidated high school, now named Indian Creek High School, and he returns every year to do a charity fundraiser for that scholarship endowment.
  • Ron Beitle (1954–2017) performed with several rock bands including Nied's Hotel Band in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania.[11] He died in 2017.[12]

Band members[edit]

Final lineup[edit]

  • Rob Parissi – vocals, guitar (1970–1979)
  • Donnie Iris – guitar, vocals (1978–1979)
  • Cooke Michalchick – bass, vocals (1978–1979)
  • Ronald Beitle – drums, percussion (1975–1979)
  • Mark Avsec – keyboards (1975–1979)

Previous members[edit]

  • Ben Difabbio – drums, vocals (1970–1975)
  • Louie Osso – guitar, vocals (1970–1973)
  • Larry Brown – bass, vocals (1970–1973)
  • Ron Vallera - guitar, vocals (1970-1971)
  • Larry Mader – keyboards, vocals (1970–1973)
  • Coogie Stoddart – guitar, vocals (1973–1975, 1977–78)
  • Joe Buchmelter – bass (1973)
  • Bucky Lusk – bass (1973–1975)
  • Allen Wentz – bass, synthesizer, vocals (1975–1978)
  • Bryan Bassett – guitar (1975–1978)



Studio albums[edit]

List of studio albums, with selected chart positions
Year Album US

1976 Wild Cherry 5 1 12 17
1977 Electrified Funk 51 33
1978 I Love My Music 84 54
1979 Only the Wild Survive

Compilation albums[edit]


List of singles, with selected chart positions
Year Album US


1970 "You Can Be High (But Lay Low) / Tomorrow Morning"
1971 "Something Special on Your Mind / You Took the Sun Away"
1972 "Get Down / I Wrote This Song for You"
1973 "Get Down / Livin' & Lovin'" (reissue)
1973 "Show Me Your Badge / Bring Back the Fire"
1975 "Voodoo Doll / Because Your Love Is Mine"
1976 "I Feel Sanctified"
"Play That Funky Music" 1 1 6 42 4 4 7
1977 "Baby Don't You Know" 43 41
"Hot to Trot" 95 62 17
"Hold On (With Strings)" 61
1978 "123 Kind of Love"
"I Love My Music" 69 49
"This Old Heart of Mine"
1979 "Try a Piece of My Love"

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Hottest music album covers". India TV. March 11, 2015. Retrieved April 24, 2015. funk rock band from Steubenville, Ohio
  2. ^ "Wild Cherry, Named For Cough Drops, Eyes Gold". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 88 (43): 54. October 23, 1976. ISSN 0006-2510.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Bogdanov 2003, p. 746
  4. ^ a b Harrison, Ed (October 23, 1976). "Wild Cherry, named for cough drops, eyes gold". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 88 (43): 54. ISSN 0006-2510.
  5. ^ a b c d e Arena, James (March 30, 2016). Legends of Disco: Forty Stars Discuss Their Careers. McFarland. pp. 175–182. ISBN 978-1-4766-6496-5.
  6. ^ Bogdanov 2003, p. 746
  7. ^ Michaels, Randolph (September 2005). Flashbacks to Happiness: Eighties Music Revisited. iUniverse. pp. 117–118. ISBN 978-0-595-37007-8.
  8. ^ Segall, Grant (March 10, 2013). "Mark Avsec is a leading rocker and lawyer: My Cleveland". cleveland.com. The Plain Dealer. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  9. ^ "Bryan Bassett". AllMusic. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  10. ^ Limnios, Michalis (June 18, 2014). "Interview with fabulous musician Rob Parissi of Wild Cherry - with an amazing career in the music industry". blues.gr. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  11. ^ "ABOUT – Nied's Hotel Band". NiedsHotelBand.com. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  12. ^ RONALD R. BEITLE Obituary
  13. ^ "Wild Cherry Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  14. ^ "Wild Cherry Chart History: Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Billboard. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  15. ^ a b Discografie Wild Cherry (in Dutch). dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  16. ^ Discography Wild Cherry. norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  17. ^ "American album certifications – Wild Cherry – Wild Cherry". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved April 22, 2021. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  18. ^ "Wild Cherry Chart History: Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  19. ^ "Wild Cherry Chart History: Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  20. ^ Discografie Wild Cherry (in Dutch). ultratop.be/nl. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  21. ^ Suche nach Wild Cherry (in German). charts.de. Retrieved February 1, 2014.[dead link]
  22. ^ Discography Wild Cherry. charts.org.nz. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  23. ^ "Wild Cherry | full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 22, 2021.


  • Bogdanov, Vladimir (2003). All Music Guide to Soul: The Definitive Guide to R&B and Soul. Backbeat Books. p. 746. ISBN 978-0-87930-744-8.

External links[edit]