In 1976 a four piece rock band called Wild Cherry was inadvertently lumped into the disco era when their song “Play That Funky Music” became a #1 hit.
Written, produced and sung by lead guitarist Robert Parissi,the song ? one of five charting singles by the group ? would become Wild Cherry’s only top 40 hit.
And while their self-titled debut album went platinum, three subsequent records failed to sell, and by late 1979 the band broke up. Parissi would go on to work and tour with several other artists, and he even did a stint in radio. He’s semi-retired now, but still writes and records at his home studio in Florida.
Thirty-one years after his one smash hit, Parissi is still reaping the benefits of having a ‘career’ record. Goldmine caught up with Rob to talk about his dance-floor classic, the problems he had following up that song and the legacy its created.
Your first album was a Top 5 platinum hit, yet Epic refused to release a second single to follow up “Play That Funky Music”(PTFM). Didn’t they believe in any of the other songs?
Rob Parissi: That was the whole problem, really, because when I delivered that first album, I told them “You’ve got three singles here. You’ve got PTFM which should be #1,”I Feel Sanctified” should be #2, and #3 should be “Hold On.”
When that album came out, I was rushed to even complete the album, because the single was hitting so fast. And at that same time we immediatly went on tour. And so while we were on the road, Carl Maduri, the head of Sweet City Records, came to me and said, “We talked to Epic, and they don’t think there are any more singles on the album.” And I told them I totally disagreed, and what do you want me to do? And they said, “Well, how about you come up with another tune that is continuing where the story of PTFM left off?”
So I told them that in the first place, I’m on the road now, and I don’t have time to write songs; I don’t even have a clear head. Number two, one song does not make a career. And I have to say that, at the time, what problem I faced is that Boston was also signed to Epic, and I was hearing about Tom Scholz and those guys giving them a hard time and they were difficult to deal with, because Boston was doing what I should have done ? they just said ‘no.’
When Epic wanted to do something, Tom Scholz just said ‘no.’