Song: “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry
Reached #1: September 18, 1976 (their first, 3 weeks)
Let’s see… the band was named after a flavor of cough drops… the first version of the band ended when the lead singer decided to manage a restaurant… when he got bored of that, he formed a new version of the band… they were a rock band, which kept getting asked at gigs, “when you gonna play that funky music?”… so they wrote that request into a funk song… had one hit… and broke up.
That’s the short version of Wild Cherry’s short ride.
The long version isn’t much deeper, really. I guess the question of why Wild Cherry – in its “rock band” phase – was playing clubs where the audiences wanted funk and disco is probably never going to be answered…
…but the song that Rob Parissi wrote in 5 minutes on a bar napkin has become a long-lasting legacy of the disco era. Certainly, it’s far longer-lasting than the band, which couldn’t duplicate its success with “Funky Music” and broke up a couple of years later.
Of course, since Wild Cherry faded quickly into obscurity, there are a lot of people who hear “Play That Funky Music” and mentally assign it to their favorite funk/soul/disco artist – apparently James Brown gets a lot of credit for it, although as far as anyone knows, he never touched the song – which would be the worst ending for a one-hit wonder. I mean, bad enough to have one hit, but not to be remembered for it?
Tomorrow, a song that spent three weeks at #1… one week the first time, and two weeks a year and a half later…
Other songs that reached #1 on September 17:
1961 – “Take Good Care Of My Baby” by Bobby Vee with the Johnny Mann Singers (his first, 3 weeks)
1999 – “Unpretty” by TLC (their fourth, 3 weeks)
2010 – “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry (her third, 2 weeks)