Play that funky music.
Albert Powell has a story to tell about that song.
Powell was a drummer for the rock band Wild Cherry.
Yes the Wild Cherry with the one hit – Play that Funky Music.
The leader of Wild Cherry was Rob Parissi. Wild Cherry was a rock band.
And in the 1970s times were changing – disco and dance music were starting to come in.
“Wild Cherry was playing in a club in Pittsburgh and the club owner says to Rob – music is changing, you guys are playing rock and the crowds are getting thinner and thinner,” Powell told Russell Mokhiber of This Week in Morgan County. “You are going to have to play some dance music, play some funkier music. Rob and the band went to a restaurant one night, and all of a sudden, Rob Parissi started writing Play that Funky Music. He wrote it on a napkin. They recorded the song in Cleveland and the song took off. Disc jockeys started passing it around. And all of a sudden, everyone wanted this song. And that song is still on the charts as one of the top 100 songs of all time.”
Powell came along in the second life of Wild Cherry in the 1980s.
“I was in Oklahoma at the time when Wild Cherry was auditioning for drummers,” Powell said. “My brother called me and said – Wild Cherry is holding auditions for drummers. You ought to come back home and audition for the band. I called Rob Parissi and he said – I can’t guarantee you a spot, but you can audition. I started practicing hours and hours on end. I polished my drum set up. I drove back to Ohio. I set up my drum set in his basement.”
Powell meets Rob Parissi and they spent a couple of hours together, talking, having dinner, playing music. And he got the gig. He played with Wild Cherry for the next three years.
“The main focus of the band at that time was to write a second hit,” Powell said. “We spent a lot of time writing music, recording music, testing music out. We practiced a lot, we played out a lot and we played the original music that we were testing.”
But there was never a second hit after Play that Funky Music.
“You never know what is going to resonate with people at one time,” Powell says. “A lot of it is timing.”
“Rob Parissi is a great and kind hearted person,” Powell said. “And to this day, he still has that same spirit. We are very close. I have a lot of respect and admiration for him.”
Powell is also good friends with former Pittsburgh Pirate Al Oliver. He’s written a chapter in the book about Oliver – Life is a Hit, Don’t Strike Out: The Al Oliver Story.
Powell met Oliver through business. Oliver is now a motivational speaker. And Powell has been helping Oliver get speaking engagements – and Powell helped Oliver set up his web site.
“Al is up for nomination for the Hall of Fame,” Powell said. “His stats are Hall of Fame stats. Al has a great Hall of Fame character. He’s a man of integrity. We’re hoping this year will be his year. People are starting to recognize that not only is he a great player but a great human being.”
Albert Powell moved to Morgan County, West Virginia to start a small business. He’s got a construction company. His specialty is painting.
“People hate painting,” Powell says. “I love painting. That’s how I got to know the people in Morgan County. You get to meet them on a day to day basis. I’ve gotten to meet some really interesting people.”