Play That Funky Music ~ Wild Cherry

Wild Cherry was a funk/rock band which had a great success during 1976 with the funk song “Play That Funky Music”.

Rob Parissi (lead vocals & guitar) was raised in the steel mill town of Mingo Junction, Ohio [1]. Parissi graduated from Mingo High School in 1968. Rob formed his first band in 1970 in Steubenville, Ohio, one mile north of Mingo Junction along the Ohio River. The band’s name “Wild Cherry” was taken from a box of cough drops while Rob was recouperating from a brief hospital stay. The band played the Ohio Valley region, the West Virginia panhandle, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The original lineup included: Ben DiFabbio – Drums, Lead and background vocals – from Mingo Junction, Ohio, Louie Osso – Guitar, Lead and background vocals- from Steubenville, Ohio, Larry Brown – Bass, Lead and background vocals – from Weirton, West Virginia, Larry Mader – Keyboards, Lead and background vocals – from East Springfield, Ohio, and of course Rob Parissi – Lead vocals and Guitar – from Mingo Junction, Ohio

After the original members broke up, there were other members who also played before the big hit, such as Rob’s cousin, Coogie Stoddart – guitar, Lead and background vocals and Joe Buchmelter on Bass

Several other records were released under their own label including You Can Be High (But Lay Low), date unknown, and Something Special On Your Mind, 1971. The music at this stage was pure rock music, not funk. Wild Cherry eventually gained a record contract with Brown Bag Records. Several demos and singles were produced including Get Down, 1973 (re-release of earlier self labeled demo); and Show Me Your Badge, 1973.

The band broke up when a disillusioned Parissi left the music scene to become the manager of a local steakhouse. Rob quickly realized that the steakhouse gig was not going to cut it – As his enthusiasm for the music eventually returned, Rob decided to give the business one last shot.

Soon after, Parissi re-formed the band with new musicians. The new lineup consisted of Bryan Bassett (guitar/vocals) and Ronald Beitle (drums/percussion/vocals), both from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Allen Wentz (bass guitar/synthesizer/vocals), who hailed from Detroit, Michigan. As the hard rockin’ quartet began to perform non-stop and build a huge, devoted following in the Pittsburgh PA area, they were repeatedly asked by listeners to play more dance music. Disco was beginning its rule on the radio and the dance floor. One night during a break between sets at the 2001 club in Pittsburgh, drummer Ron Beitle (in a group meeting in the dressing room) uttered the magic phrase that a table full of black fans at that very disco kept coming to the stage and teasing; “Are you white boys gonna play some funky music?” that eventually was to be heard around the world… “Play That Funky Music, White Boy”. And Rob Parissi was immediately inspired to write the song on a drink order pad with a borrowed pen from the bartender on the way back to the stage to play the next set that will live on forever. The song took a total of 5 minutes to write. When the band went into the studio to record it, the studio engineer, Ken Hamann, heard the song, was blown away by the potential hit, and brought the band to the attention of Sweet City Records, which then immediately signed the group. The label suggested recording the song as an A-side instead of as the B-side to a cover version of the Commodores’ “I Feel Sanctified,” as Parissi had originally planned. Epic Records then picked it up for major world-wide distribution. During the recording of the first album, Mark Avsec was hired as a session keyboardist on two of the album’s tracks, “Nowhere To Run” and “The Lady Wants Your Money”, and was asked to join the band after the album was released and the group was about to embark on its first tour.

“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. Both the single and Wild Cherry’s self-titled debut album went platinum. Play That Funky Music was #1 on the Billboard charts for 3 weeks. 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 that year, adding to their success.

Play That Funky Music (White Boy)

[flv]http://djallyn.org/media/wild-cherry_play-that-funky-music.flv[/flv]

Yeah, once I was a boogie singer…playin’ in a rock & roll band
I never had no problems, yeah…burnin’ down the one night stands
And everything around me, yeah…got to start to feelin’ so low
And I decided quickly [yes, I did]…to disco down and check out the show

Yeah, they were dancin’ and singin’ and movin’ to the groovin’
And just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted

Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right
Play that funky music white boy
Lay down that boogie and play that funky music till you die…
(hey,hey) till you die…yeah, yeah

Well, I tried to understand this…Yeah, huh, I thought that they were out of their minds
How could I be so foolish, [How could I]…tonight’s the hours, the one behind
So still I kept on fightin’…Wow, loosin’ every step of the way (Yeah, what’d you do?)
I said, “I must go back there”[Got to go back]…and check to see if things still the same

Yeah, they were dancin’ and singin’ and movin’ to the groovin’
And just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted

Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right
Play that funky music white boy
Lay down that boogie and play that funky music till you die…
Till you die…(Yeah) Wow, till you die

(Come on…Play some electrified funky music)

[Hey, wait a minute] Now first it wasn’t easy…changin’ rock & roll and minds
And things were getting shaky…I thought I’d have to leave it behind
Oh, but now its so much better [It's so much better]…I’m funkin out in ev-er-y way
But-I’ll never lose that feelin’ [No I won't]…Of how I learned my lesson that day

When they were dancin’ and singin’ and movin’ to the groovin’
And just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted

Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right
Play that funky music white boy
Lay down that boogie and play that funky music till you die…
Till you die…oh, till you die

(They shouted, Play that funky music) Play that funky music
(Play that funky music) Got to keep on…Play that funky music
(Play that funky music) Pl–AY that funky music
(Play that funky music) Wanna take ya higha now…

Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right, yeah

Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right

Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right, yeah

  • Audio from the 1976 album, Wild Cherry:

wild-cherry
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About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

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