Donnie Iris: a rocker never forgets
SCENE - March 26 - April 1, 1992
By Marc Holan

Donnie Iris may have ”a day job,” but he still wants to rock. With the release of a CD compilation of ”greatest hits” and unreleased tracks titled OUT OF THE BLUE, Iris and his Cruisers — keyboardist/vocalist Mark Avsec, guitarist/vocalist Marty Lee, bassist Scott Williamson and drummer Steve McConnell — have stepped back into the spot- light. They will be playing Empire this Friday, March 27.

”We're just letting the pieces fall where they may," Iris said by phone from his office at the mortgage company he started with two other partners. ”So far, I guess it’s doing OK. It’s probably a long shot, but who knows? I've had long shots before.”

The 13 tracks on OUT OF THE BLUE run the gamut of Cleveland rock radio staples like ”Ah! Leah!” and ”Love is Like A Rock" to previously unreleased songs like ”On Our Way To Paradise,” "Temptation" and "Love Whispers." Other tracks include ”I Want You Back’ ”lnjured In The Game Of Love," ”10th Street" and ”Ridin' Thunder." Currently, WDVE in Pittsburgh and WMM5 here in Cleveland are playing another song on the CD, “That's The Way (Love Oughta Be)”— a track from Iris' second album, KING COOL.

Iris almost seemed embarrassed when it was pointed out that ”Ah! Leah!” and "‘Love Is Like A Rock" have become rock radio standards. ”We thought, at least for ‘Leah’ and ’Love Is Like A Rock’ that was the case" Iris explained. “Some of the other songs maybe, maybe not. But radio stations had called [Iris" management company, Belkin Management] and asked for something from us on CD, and we never had anything to give them. So finally we were able to work out a deal with MCA for three of the tunes. Most of the other songs we owned outright, so we were able to stick those on there, too.”

Although Iris was able to sustain himself and his family through the *80s with his musical career, he found it necessary to look for gainful employment at the end of the decade. ”What I’m involved with now is my own mortgage company,” Iris explained. “I have two partners in a mortgage company that I put together about two-and-a-half years ago. I’ve been doing this since then on top of doing gigs whenever they came in and whenever they made sense for us to go ahead and do. ”Most of the gigs,"’ Iris continued, ”have been in Pittsburgh and Youngstown. We've done a few in Columbus, but I’ll tell you what, this Cleveland gig Fri- day night will be the first time we’ve played there in a long time."

The current Cruisers lineup features Mark Avsec, Iris' long-time musical collaborator, and Marty Lee — both of whom have been in the band since its inception. Williamson has played with them for the past five or six years, while McConnell just joined the band a few months ago. The Empire gig this Friday will feature songs from throughout Iris' career. ”We’re doing probably five or six tunes off the CD,” Iris said, ”and then we’re going to do some things off the first album. We’ll do ‘Agnes' and ’I Can’t Hear You,’ and some of the stuff that isn’t on the CD.” OUT OF THE BLUE represents a look back and a look ahead to what may still be in store for Donnie Iris fans. Although Iris works a regular 40-hour week at his mortgage company, he’s still leaving the door open for future musical endeavors with Avsec and the band.

”I guess the time will come" Iris said, "when Mark and I will decide to get together and woodshed for a while and write some stuff. But so far we haven't done that, so I don't know what new and different stuff is going to come out of whenever we get together. ”We've got to both be ready to do that and spend some serious time on it," he continued. ”But for now, we've got this OUT OF THE BLUE thing going, and if that does OK, then I would imagine that Mark and I will get back together and do some serious writing."'

Until then, they'll just have to keep rocking.