DONNIE IRIS AND THE CRUISERS
DONNIE’S 80TH BIRTHDAY BASH
UPMC EVENTS CENTER
SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2023
WITH SPECIAL GUESTS THE VINDY’S
TICKETS GO ON SALE ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 AT 10 A.M. AT TICKETMASTER
Pittsburgh-area rocker Donnie Iris is turning 80 and celebrating in style. Today, Donnie Iris announced his 80th Birthday Bash will be on Saturday, March 11, 2023 at the UPMC Events Center with special guests the Vindy’s and more guests to be announced.
Iris, whose birthday is February 28, sang the National Anthem before the Pittsburgh Steelers game this past Sunday, September 18. He will also throw out the first pitch at PNC Park before the Pirates game on Friday, September 23 in a city celebration.
Donnie’s 80th Birthday Bash is being held at UPMC Events Center at Robert Morris University in Beaver County where Iris was born.
Tickets will go on sale on Friday, September 23 at 10 a.m. at Ticketmaster.com.
About Donnie Iris
Donnie learned how to sing from his Mother and then from Tony Bennett and Marvin Gaye. In 1970, as a member of the Jaggerz, Donnie earned a gold record for writing and singing the No. 1 song “The Rapper.”
In or around 1978, Donnie was asked to join “Wild Cherry” (“Play That Funky Music) in the group’s waning days. Donnie met Mark Avsec, his future collaborator and co-writer in “Wild Cherry” and the two of them began discussing plans for a recording project. Oddly enough, Mark’s first love (at the age of 15) was a huge fan of “The Rapper” and Mark thought that was somehow profound. Then again, Mark sees profundity in a good many things!
Mark and Donnie began writing some songs in Donnie’s basement, and eventually they recorded some tracks at Jeree’s Recording Studio. Donnie knew of a terrific bass player named Albritton McClain; he also heard about Marty Lee Hoenes, a hot young guitar player who was playing in a band called “The Pulse.” Donnie went to go see both Albritton and Marty and, after hearing them, invited both to come down to Jeree’s Recording Studio to record some tracks for an unknown project; Mark invited drummer Kevin Valentine to the same session (Kevin and Mark were then currently in the band “Breathless”). Mark brought some songs and sketches of songs, a couple of keyboards, and was eager to produce his first record. Pleasantries all around, within a couple of hours the boys were cutting the tracks for “Agnes,” “Ah! Leah!” and the other recordings that would comprise the “Back On The Streets” album.
The song “Ah! Leah!” was passed by every major label. However, in 1980 you could still break new music on the radio. WMMS in Cleveland added the record. WDVE in Pittsburgh added the record. WBCN in Boston added the record. The phones exploded. The single and album were issued by Midwest Records, out of Cleveland, Ohio, and both began to chart on the Cashbox and Billboard charts. Eventually, Chrysalis and MCA/Universal made overtures to pick up the music – MCA/Universal prevailed. “Ah! Leah!” peaked at or around #29 in Billboard’s Singles Chart, achieved much critical acclaim, and was one of the most played songs in the Album Oriented Radio format in 1980. Donnie was christened by a Toronto reviewer after a blazing show at “The El Mocambo” in Toronto as the “new king of cool.” Hence, the follow-up album was called “King Cool.”
The “King Cool” album was recorded in the “stacked vocals” style that Mark and Donnie pioneered on the first album. It yielded the songs “Love Is Like A Rock” and “That’s The Way Love Ought To Be.” It also yielded the song “My Girl,” which reached at or near #20 on Billboard’s Singles Chart.
Beginning in 1980, the band began touring relentlessly, pausing only for bouts of recording. During a three year stretch, the band headlined shows all over the country and toured with dozens of artists, including Journey, Loverboy, Bryan Adams, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, The Romantics, Eddie Money, UFO, Nazareth, Ted Nugent, Joan Jett, Hall & Oates, and the Michael Stanley Band, to name a few.
In August 2004, “Donnie Iris and the Cruisers” celebrated their 25th anniversary before 4,000 screaming fans at the Chevy Amphitheater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All three drummers – Kevin Valentine, Tommy Rich, and Brice Foster were on the stage (as was Mark’s daughter, Danna, who began sitting in with the band as guest drummer when she turned 16 years old).
The “Ellwood City” album, three years in the making, was released in May 2006.