Wild Cherry reuniting for benefit concert in Mingo

MINGO JUNCTION – Fans got to hear Mingo native Rob Parissi sing his all-time hit “Play That Funky Music” and jam during last year’s Mingo Community Days celebration that applauded the hometown celebrity’s success.

This year, there’s icing on the cake and cake, too.

For the first time in more than 30 years, the original Wild Cherry band will reunite, performing at the Mingo Knights of Columbus Hall, 117 Legion Drive, on Aug. 10 at what’s being billed as “Hoodstock 2014.”

It tops off the 2014 installment of Mingo Community Days.

Parissi will reconnect with Bryan Bassett of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., lead guitar with Foghat; Allen Wentz, who lives in the Hudson River Valley of New York and has worked with such stars as Cyndi Lauper and the late Luther Vandross; and Ron Beitle, who plays with a band and lives in Pittsburgh.

The performance will be part of Hoodstock 2014 that runs from 5 p.m. to midnight and includes a smorgasbord of area talent, including U.S. Kids, Spinning Jenny, the Granati Brothers Band, Rock Academy, Joe Macre’s Swinging Johnson Brothers and Tongue ‘N Cheek.

Tickets are $15 per person for the musicfest and are available at www.showclix.com, according to Francesca Carinci, who is collaborating with Parissi to organize the event. All of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Robert Parissi Scholarship Endowment managed by Petrella Wealth Management and providing scholarships for college-bound students at Indian Creek High School.

Also benefiting the fund are commemorative white T-shirts for $15 each with “Wild Cherry” and the original logo Parissi created on the front and “I Rocked at Hoodstock” on the back. They are available online through a Hoodstock 2014 Facebook event page to keep fans updated with concert information. They also will be available at Pesta’s Country Market, 300 Standard Ave., Mingo Junction; by contacting Carinci’s office at (740) 284-8008; and at the concert while quantities last.

Carcini said the idea for a repeat visit by Parissi took root last August when the Florida resident returned to his hometown for honors bestowed as part of the Mingo Business Association’s 2013 Mingo Community Days celebration.

Parissi, founder of Wild Cherry and author of the all-time favorite 1970s hit “Play That Funky Music,” was lauded with resolutions and proclamations; McLister Avenue carrying the honorary name of Rob Parissi Boulevard; and a dinner at the Mingo Knights of Columbus Hall where the keynote speaker was Terry Stewart, who served as president and chief operating officer of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland from 1999 through 2012. Wild Cherry is honored in the museum for its hit song.

Parissi also performed, accompanied by current Mingo Junction rock musicians, including U.S. Kids and Spinning Jenny.

But the actual agreement for the band to reunite for the upcoming Mingo event came in recent weeks, according to Carinci.

“This only happened over Memorial Day weekend,” Carinci said. “The original members of Wild Cherry decided to reunite over Memorial Day weekend. Rob contacted them all, and this is the first time in 36 years that they’re all going to be on stage together,” she said.

“Bryan Bassett, one of the original members, he is touring with Foghat, he’s in Europe. He is going to be back in the United States in Oregon playing a show, and he is flying here to Mingo to play, to reunite with Wild Cherry, coming off the tour to fly here,” Carinci said with a can-you-believe-that smile in announcing the band’s reunion to play locally.

“I talked to him. He said, ‘It’s time to do this,” Carinci said, quoting Bassett as having communicated, “This has been a long time coming. I’m glad the time has come, and it’s for a good cause.'”

Parissi is delighted as well.

“Actually, I just decided that after all this time, it was time for us to reunite under circumstances that would be fun, being the scholarship endowment,” Parissi communicated through a Facebook message. He explained that Bassett had established scholarships in his hometown area of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., in memory of his 18-year-old daughter who had cystic fibrosis.

“I called all the guys, and they were elated to get back together again, especially for the cause,” Parissi continued, adding, “I couldn’t be happier about it, and we’re going to have so many great friends coming from out of town and donating their talent and time to make it a very special and fun event.”

The name Hoodstock is a takeoff on Woodstock, a famous outdoor concert in 1969.

“Hoodstock means it’s because of the neighborhood, because the Mingo Knights of Columbus is a half mile from where Rob used to live, and that’s the neighborhood where this all started, where they used to rehearse, and so he said we’re back in the hood (the Wild Cherry band) and that’s really why he called it Hoodstock,” she said.

“He said we’re going to call this Hoodstock like Woodstock but back in our neighborhood because he was determined it was going to stay in Mingo. We need to come back to the ‘hood,” she said of the conversation.

“These guys have their hearts in Mingo,” said Carinci, who will serve as emcee. “They are not taking a dime for it and think it’s wonderful doing this scholarship fund. All of these bands are doing this for nothing,” she added. “The bands really have just all said, ‘Yes I’m in – we want to do this.'”

The Robert Parissi Scholarship Endowment was established as an offshoot of Parissi’s visit to his hometown last summer, according to Carinci. Parissi jumpstarted the endowment with a $5,000 donation.

“He decided to do something for the kids going to college with a career focus of music or the arts,” she said. Two annual $1,000 scholarships are to be awarded to Indian Creek High School students. Parissi is a 1968 graduate of Mingo High School.

The first two scholarships were presented in May at ICHS’ awards banquet. The recipients were Niki Wiggam and Shannon Kovach, and the presenters were Carinci and Pizzoferrato.

“We would like to increase that amount, and that’s why we decided to do this concert,” Carinci said.

The concert is just that – no dinner but an ongoing concert where people can come and go.

The Mingo Knights of Columbus Hall will operate a cash bar, and vendors from Mingo Community Days will be on site to offer a variety of concessions.

Parking arrangements will be announced.

“We’ve already sold 200 tickets with a private presale on Facebook,” Carinci said, anticipating a total of about 500 tickets will be available, including at the door if any are remaining.

The ticket price is low at Parissi’s insistence, according to Carinci. “He wanted people to be able to come and have a good time, enjoy themselves without having to spend a ton of money (on tickets).”

“We really encourage people to buy their tickets through showclix (“http://www.showclix.com”>www.showclix.com) because it’s so easy,” she said, noting people with ticket questions can contact her at her office by phone at (740) 284-8008 or by e-mail at f_carinci@usa.net.

“Bobby Pizzoferrato, a longtime friend of Rob’s who played in one of the subsequent Wild Cherry configurations in the 1980s with Rob and performed professionally with him and is with the U.S. Kids, has worked really hard with the bands to coordinate everything,” Carinci said. “This is a tremendous undertaking equipment-wise,” she said.

Carinci said the Spinning Jenny – sisters Julia, Talia and Angelina Balzano of Mingo – will perform on stage with Wild Cherry. “They’re going to be called the Wild Cherry Sisters. They’re going to be his backup singers,” Carinci said. Also performing with the group will be Pizzoferrato, Robert “Chic” DiCiccio of Follansbee playing saxophone and Johnny DiCarlo of U.S. Kids.

“I encourage people to check out the Facebook event page,” Carinci said. “Every day I feature one of the bands and say something about them, explain what they’ve done and who they are.

“It’s going to be a really good concert – some excellent musicians.”