Donnie Iris and the Cruisers to perform at Casino
Tribune-Review - September 30, 2004
By Jim Heasley

Western Pennsylvania native Donnie Iris will perform at the Casino Theater in Vandergrift Oct. 16 at 9 p.m. to benefit the Casino Theater Restoration Program.

Iris, 61, was born in New Castle and moved to Ellwood City as a child where he went to Lincoln High School before moving on to Slippery Rock University before dropping out to pursue his music career.

Iris with Donnie and the Cruisers has had three hit singles, with his greatest hit, "Ah! Leah!" hitting the top 40 in the 80s.

Iris toured as Wild Cherry's guitarist after the group's hit, "Play That Funky Music" from 1976. Before that, he had spent time with The Jaggerz and wrote the group's biggest hit, "The Rapper."

His mother had taught him to sing and he appeared on a local radio show when he was 7. When he was in high school, his father gave him a guitar.

When he was in college he formed a group called Donnie and the Donnells. They played college frat parties before becoming part of The Jaggerz.

Iris and Mark Avsec of Wild Cherry split from the group in an effort to go a different direction . While in the studio they developed a formula for stacked vocals. Stacking the background vocals produced a different sound and one they really liked.

"Ah! Leah!" hit the radio and moved up the charts.

They managed to get the musicans who worked on the album in the studio and the Cruisers were born.

Iris played guitar and did vocals, Avsec on keyboards, Marty Lee (Hoenes) on lead guitar, Albritton McClain on bass and Kevin Valentine on drums.

The entire group sang and worked to duplicate the studio sound live on stage.

A second album, "King Cool," yielded two more hits, the No. 37 "Love Is Like a Rock" and "My Girl" (not to be confused with the Temptations hit), which peaked at No. 25 in 1982.

His third and fourth releases for the label, "The High and the Mighty" and "Fortune 410" (its title a reference to Iris' trademark Buddy Holly glasses) didn't get much airplay. "Tough World," from the third one, peaked at No. 57 while "Do You Compute?," from the fourth, peaked at No. 64 in 1983.

There are a variety of reasons offered for lower sales on the last two from pressure on the band, the tape used, lack of backing by the label and becoming formulaic.

The Cruisers were dropped after "Fortune 410," but were back with another release, "No Muss ... No Fuss," in 1984.

The band is still recording and performing.

More recent albums include 1992's "Out of the Blue," 1993's "Footsoldier in the Moonlight," 1997's "Poletown," 1998's "Live! At Nick's Fat City" and 1999's "Together Alone" (with cameo vocals from Michael Stanley and the Clarks' Scott Blasey).

And you can still catch Iris leading the latest edition of the Cruisers through their greatest hits.

The band performs from a12 to 18 shows a year between Pittsburgh and Ohio.

Iris, Avsec, Marty Lee and the two newest members of the Cruisers, bassist Paul Goll and drummer Brice Foster.

Tickets for the Donnie Iris and the Cruisers concert Oct. 16 are $30 and less than 250 tickets remain. Tickets are available at Ross Grant Avenue Pharmacy, 724-568-1221 and Pomfrets Paints and Variety, 724-568-2317.