Donnie Iris

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Donnie Iris
Born(1943-02-28) February 28, 1943 (age 69)
Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, US
GenresRock
Pop rock
Power pop
InstrumentsGuitar, voice
Years active1965–present
LabelsMidwest National, MCA, HME, Seathru, Primary Records Group
Associated actsThe Trivells, Donnie & The Donnelles, The Jaggerz, Wild Cherry, Donnie Iris & The Cruisers, Cellarful of Noise, The Innocent
Websitewww.donnieiris.com
 
  (Redirected from Donnie Iris and the Cruisers)
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Donnie Iris
Born(1943-02-28) February 28, 1943 (age 69)
Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, US
GenresRock
Pop rock
Power pop
InstrumentsGuitar, voice
Years active1965–present
LabelsMidwest National, MCA, HME, Seathru, Primary Records Group
Associated actsThe Trivells, Donnie & The Donnelles, The Jaggerz, Wild Cherry, Donnie Iris & The Cruisers, Cellarful of Noise, The Innocent
Websitewww.donnieiris.com

Donnie Iris (born Dominic Ierace on February 28, 1943) is an American rock musician known for his work with The Jaggerz and Wild Cherry during the 1970s, and for his solo albums during the 1980s. He wrote the #2 Billboard hit, "The Rapper", with the Jaggerz and was a member of Wild Cherry after the group had a #1 hit with "Play That Funky Music."

In addition to performing on the first three Jaggerz albums and the third and fourth Wild Cherry albums, Iris as a solo artist has released eleven studio albums, one EP, two live albums, and two compilation albums. He continues to release new material and tours throughout the Ohio River Valley.

Contents

Biography

Early life

Born Dominic Ierace in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, Iris began singing at weddings at age five, and by eight was performing on local television and entering talent contests. When his voice changed around age 12, he took up the drums but later got back into singing while in college. Donnie learned how to sing from his mother and then from Tony Bennett and Marvin Gaye, and was also a self-taught guitarist, starting at about age 15.[1]

1960s

While attending Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, Iris formed a band called The Trivells with two fellow musicians. With the addition of a fourth man, they renamed themselves Donnie and The Donnelles. This band in both incarnations played frat parties. Around 1965, Donnie and The Donnelles merged with members of another band called Gary and The Jewel Tones, forming The Jaggerz (originally The "Jaggers").[2] Their first album, Introducing the Jaggerz, was released in 1969. It was the first album to feature Iris.

1970s

Iris first came to national prominence as the lead singer of The Jaggerz, which became famous for its #2 hit "The Rapper", written by Iris and included on their second album (We Went to Different Schools Together, 1970). The group released one more album, Come Again, but it failed to produce any more hits. After The Jaggerz broke up in 1976, Iris toured with Wild Cherry, whose 1976 hit "Play That Funky Music" had made them a hot property into the end of the decade. He recorded two albums with Wild Cherry, I Love My Music in 1978 and Only the Wild Survive in 1979. It was during this period that he became acquainted with his future partner Mark Avsec, then playing keyboards for Wild Cherry. Unfortunately, Wild Cherry was unable to duplicate their previous success and disbanded by the end of the decade. Becoming good friends, Donnie and Mark decided to form a project together and the two began writing songs. Their first release saw the disco-influenced single "Bring on the Eighties" backed by the cover song "Because of You" in 1979, however it failed to garner attention. Iris and Avsec decided to go in a harder direction for their next release and returned to the studio with guitarist Marty Lee Hoenes, bassist Albritton McClain and drummer Kevin Valentine, who at the time was in the band Breathless with Avsec, to record his first full length album. This line-up would remain the same for the next five years.

1980s

Iris' first album, Back on the Streets, was released in July 1980 on the small Cleveland, Ohio-based Midwest Records.[3] With the track "Ah! Leah!" receiving airplay in Boston, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, MCA Records took notice and quickly signed Iris to a five album deal and re-released the album nationally in October. The first single "Ah! Leah!" peaked at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1981 and became one of the most frequently played AOR tracks of the year, and the album reached #57 on the Billboard 200. In addition, the band launched a national tour to promote the album and its follow-up during the summer of 1981.[4]

The follow-up album, King Cool, credited to Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, was released in August 1981 and garnered the band more AOR success, with "Love Is Like a Rock" reaching #9 on Billboard's Top Tracks chart. In addition, he gained the nickname King Cool from this album in the later part of his career. However, the album itself charted less successfully, at #84. After the long tour promoting their two previous albums, the band continued songwriting and in the fall of 1982 released The High and the Mighty. The album contained the single "Tough World", but only charted at #180, marking a decline in his success, but the band still was determined to release new material.

Their next album one year later, Fortune 410, contained the hit single "Do You Compute?", which was used by their label MCA and the computer company Atari to form a cross-marketing promotion. Because the promotional partnership was secured prior to release of the album, it was possible to use the Atari 1200 XL Home Computer in poster photography, as well as in the video clip for "Do You Compute?", which aired on MTV. The title of the album is a reference to the trademark glasses Iris wears, Fortune 410s.[5] The combination of marketing and the promotion for its hit single allowed the album to chart higher than its predecessor. The next album, No Muss...No Fuss, continued the trend two years later in 1985, by charting at #115 with the single "Injured in the Game of Love". Both of these albums were more critically acclaimed than The High and the Mighty.[4]

In 1985, just prior to the release of No Muss...No Fuss, the band began to split into different directions. Drummer Kevin Valentine and bassist Albritton McClain left to join a new group, The Innocent, whose members included future Nine Inch Nails main man Trent Reznor. That same year, keyboardist Mark Avsec, also a longtime friend of Iris, released a solo project under the moniker Cellarful of Noise. Even after releasing the eponymous debut album that same year, however, the two maintained that Donnie Iris and the Cruisers was still their main focus, and that they wanted to continue to release new albums with the band and its new line-up.[6] The band returned to the studio in 1986 and recorded a new album titled Cruise Control, however, a lawsuit with the band's former label MCA resulted in the shelving of that album pending the resolution of that lawsuit. It still not been released as of 2007 although some material is thought to have been released on subsequent releases. Since the band seemed to have hit a road block, Iris partnered with Avsec on the second Cellarful of Noise album, Magnificent Obsession, which was released in 1988.

1990s

Donnie Iris and the Cruisers returned to the studio in 1992 to release their first album containing new material since 1985. Titled Out of the Blue, the album was a compilation album containing older hits and new material. It failed to have any impact on the charts, however. Still, the band toured throughout the rest of the year around Pennsylvania and Ohio, and attracted newer and younger fans from the area.[7] The band released another album the following year, Footsoldier in the Moonlight. At this point, the band underwent yet another line-up change as bassist Scott Alan and drummer Tommy Rich departed the group, and were replaced by Scott Williamson and Steve McConnell respectively.

In the summer of 1994, original members Albritton McClain and Kevin Valentine temporarily reunited with Iris, Avsec and Hoenes to record the first album of all new material by the original line-up in nearly 10 years. During recording, the band performed one reunion show together at Conneaut Lake. The album Poletown was released in 1997 and was notable for its shift in style to a mature blues influenced sound.[who?]

In 1998, the band released their first live album. A collection of tracks played at Nick's Fat City, a popular Pittsburgh nightclub, Live! At Nick's Fat City was the first to feature bass guitarist Paul Goll who had been touring with the band since 1995 along with drummer Tommy Rich. 1999 saw the release of an Iris collaborative project entitled Together Alone. After Alone, which featured a softer side of Iris's vocals, the band took a break from releasing new material but continued to perform regularly through the decade.

2000s

The first true compilation album by the band was released in 2001, The Best of Donnie Iris. In 2004, the band celebrated its 25th anniversary with a new album, 25 Years, and performed live at the Chevrolet Amphitheatre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for 4,000 people. This concert was known for featuring a four drummer lineup of current and previous drummers for the band; Kevin Valentine, Tommy Rich, Brice Foster and Mark Avsec's daughter Danna Avsec, who was the guest drummer.[8] Since then, the band has used a three drummer line-up for several concerts.

The band's 2006 album, Ellwood City, is a tribute to Iris' hometown, Ellwood City, Pennsylvania.[9] June 17, 2006 was recognized throughout Lawrence County, Pennsylvania as Donnie Iris Day by Ellwood City Executive Council President Glenn Jones and Mayor Roy P. Meehan.

In recent years, Iris received special commendations and awards from United States Congresswoman Melissa Hart and Pennsylvania state representative Frank LaGrotta.

Now a grandfather, Iris is still making music, and has unreleased material he hopes to make available. He currently works for a mortgage company in Wexford, PA.[10]

From 2008‒2009, King Cool Light was developed after Mark Avsec realized that "King Cool" sounded like the name of a refreshing beer. He later approached Iris and Marty Lee Hoenes who both immediately liked the idea, giving birth to King Cool Limited.[11] King Cool Light was unveiled on November 20, 2009, at Club Diesel in Pittsburgh during the band's 30th anniversary concert. Every case was sold out, but 25 more cases were brought in, which were also sold out.[12]

The band's first EP, You Can't Really Miss Me If I Never Go Away, was released in 2008. It was followed in 2009 with their second live album, Ah! Live!

2010s

In an interview with Cleveland Scene, Mark Avsec announced that the band's next project would be a Christmas album.[13] Ah! Leluiah! was released on November 18, 2010.[14] King Cool Light (Donnie's beer) was released in Ohio in July. Donnie says "Youngstown is really good to me, they buy the beer, and come to the concerts. I'm glad I've had this experience."

Discography

Albums

With The Jaggerz

With Wild Cherry

Solo work

Singles

YearSinglePeak positions
U.S.U.S. Mainstream Rock
1981"Ah! Leah!"2919
"I Can't Hear You"-47
"Sweet Merilee"8031
1982"Love Is Like a Rock"379
"My Girl"25-
"Tough World"5726
"The High and the Mighty"-39
1983"Do You Compute?"6420
1985"Injured in the Game of Love"9128

Song covers

Since the 1990s, Iris has done cover versions of various songs by various artists. The songs below are organized by which Donnie Iris and The Cruisers album they first appeared on.

Footsoldier in the Moonlight, 1993

Live! At Nick's Fat City, 1998

Together Alone, 1999

Ellwood City, 2006

Ah! Live!, 2009

Donnie Iris and the Cruisers members

Main line-up

(1980–1985)
(1985–1992)
  • Donnie Iris - lead vocals, guitar
  • Mark Avsec - keyboards, background vocals
  • Marty Lee Hoenes - guitars
  • Scott Alan - bass guitar
  • Tommy Rich - drums
(1992–1993)
  • Donnie Iris - lead vocals, guitar
  • Mark Avsec - keyboards, background vocals
  • Marty Lee Hoenes - guitars
  • Scott Williamson - bass guitar
  • Steve McConnell - drums
(1994–2003)
  • Donnie Iris - lead vocals, guitar
  • Mark Avsec - keyboards, background vocals
  • Marty Lee Hoenes - guitars
  • Paul Goll - bass guitar
  • Tommy Rich - drums
(2003–2007)
  • Donnie Iris - lead vocals, guitar
  • Mark Avsec - keyboards, background vocals
  • Marty Lee Hoenes - guitars
  • Paul Goll - bass guitar
  • Brice Foster - drums
  • Kevin Valentine - drums
(2008–present)
  • Donnie Iris - lead vocals, guitar
  • Mark Avsec - keyboards, background vocals
  • Marty Lee Hoenes - guitars
  • Paul Goll - bass guitar
  • Kevin Valentine - drums
  • Mark Tirabassi - drums*

References

External links