Parissi Lauded for Bringing the Funk to Ohio Valley

They say that music makes the man, but many in the village said that native son Rob Parissi was a different kind of musician and human being right from the beginning.

Parissi was lauded over the weekend for forming the band Wild Cherry and writing one of the greatest rock and roll singles in history with “Play That Funky Music” in the mid-1970s. The song, which rocketed to No. 1 for a month, has had serious staying power over the years, being used in numerous commercials and movies.

The village of Mingo got its chance to say thank you back to Parissi for helping put Mingo on the map, culminating in a banquet in his honor Sunday at the Mingo Junction Knights of Columbus hall.

The event, sponsored by the Mingo Business Association, included proclamations in Parissi’s honor along with gifts, speeches by local dignitaries, a slide show demonstration and, of course, music.

The evening began with the Rev. Sam Davis giving the invocation followed by Tom Graham, Jefferson County commissioner, who sang the national anthem and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

The program began with Graham presenting Parissi a proclamation from Jefferson County commissioners hailing his accomplishments to the world of music.

“As a musician you are in the history books forever,” Graham told Parissi.

Carm Gentile, mother of State Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, apologized her son couldn’t be there in person to congratulate Parissi, but she did present Parissi with a proclamation from the Ohio Senate honoring him and his achievements.

Also recognizing Parissi and his musical achievements was Sarah Poulton, representing Rep Bill Johnson, R-Ohio. Yet another proclamation was presented to Parissi from Gov. John Kasich before Rich Angelica presented him with a pillow made from the uniform of a former Mingo High School marching band jacket and an “Indian clock.”

Musician and friend of Parissi, Robert Pizzoferrato told the gathering Parissi’s kindness and not forgetting his roots led to Parissi hiring Pizzoferrato as bass player in 1983. Pizzoferrato also introduced a slide montage of Parissi’s life, which included photos of Parissi growing up in Mingo to his ultimate fame appearing on television in the mid-’70s playing Wild Cherry’s signature song and other highlights from his career.

Councilman John “Wiz” Fabian gave Parissi a Rob Parissi Boulevard sign along with a key to the village and a proclamation from Mayor Ron DiCarlo. He added every Aug. 11 in Mingo now will be known as Rob Parissi Day.

Longtime friend Fran Carnci said she met Parissi while a 19-year-old cocktail waitress at the former Aquanaut dance club, when Parissi intervened while she was being yelled at by her boss.

“He even gave me a hug,” she said, adding Parissi has assisted musicians during his career. “I never forgot what a great guy he was.”

Terry Stewart, former president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, said Parissi was one of the good guys in a dirty business. He added Wild Cherry’s hit making No. 1 on both the R&B and pop charts was something that happens very rarely.

Stewart also discussed his friendship with Parissi over the years, and he once booked a concert at the Hall of Fame with Parissi as the last act singing “Play That Funky Music.”

“Rock keeps changing and evolving,” he said. “(Parissi) is a guy that gave up the business, got back in and went to the top. Rock is a vehicle for marginalized individuals. (Parissi’s) legacy will go on forever. It’s so rare you find someone as genuine as Rob in this business. (It’s difficult) to write one good song that’s so good you never get tired of hearing it.”