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Meet the Raspberries [PHOTO/VIDEOS]

Raspberries
Best of Raspberries, 1991 (Craig Allen photo)

The Raspberries were an American pop/rock band from Cleveland, Ohio…that had a run at the pop charts through the early 1970s!

The band that would become the Raspberries, was made up of some of the members of two of Cleveland’s most popular local bands of the late 1960s: “The Choir,” and “Cyrus Erie.” While the Choir had a local hit record, and Cyrus Erie was drawing enthusiastic fans to club appearances, both bands were through by 1970.

At this time, Eric Carmen from Cyrus Erie and Jim Bonfanti from the Choir started talking about forming a new band…together.

The first lineup of the Raspberries was: Eric Carmen (lead vocals, rhythm guitar and piano), Jim Bonfanti (drums), Wally Bryson (lead vocals, lead guitar) and John Aleksic (bass guitar).

Aleksic left by the end of 1970.

In 1971, a member of the Choir, Dave Smalley, returned from duty in Vietnam. With Smalley taking up rhythm guitar (and vocals), Eric Carmen started playing the bass.

Thus, the original four-member, recording lineup was set.

The Raspberries demo ended up on the desk of producer Jimmy Ienner, with whom Carmen had done some previous session work.

After a bidding war, the new band signed with Capitol Records.

On stage, the guys wore matching suits…tuxedos…and sported large, bouffant hairdos. While the press ridiculed the Raspberries, Eric Carmen maintains that the look complimented their musical style.

The band’s first single, “Don’t Want To Say Goodbye,” was barely noticed (#86/1972).

But, the Raspberries wouldn’t have to wait long to make it BIG!

One Of “Jersey’s Favorite Hits,”

“Go All The Way” zoomed to #5 on the Billboard charts! The song would sell over a million copies, earning the band a “gold disc.”

At this time, Carmen and Smalley switched instruments…allowing Eric Carmen to move up to the front of the stage…

“I Wanna Be With You” hit the radio airwaves in early 1973 (#16).

A bit of a “softer” song followed…”Let’s Pretend” kept the Raspberries on the Top-40 charts…(#35/1973).

Now, with two albums under their belts (“Raspberries” and “Fresh”), creative tensions started to take their toll…tensions reportedly due to Carmen’s creative dominance.

The next album, “Side 3,” is described by critics as more rock-based, and aggressive. It is interesting to note that neither of the two charting songs from this album landed in the Top-40.

“Tonight” (#69/1973).

“I’m A Rocker”  (#94/1973).

After “Side 3″ was released, Dave Smalley was forced out of the band.  Jim Bonfanti (also from the Choir), left soon afterwards. They would form their own band, “Dynamite.”

Bassist Scott McCarl and former Cyrus Erie drummer Michael McBride would join the band for the fourth and final Raspberries album “Starting Over.”

“Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” would land the band on the Top-40 charts one final time (#18/1974).

Raspberries CD
(Craig Allen photo)

The Raspberries split up in April 1975.

Eric Carmen would have a successful solo career for the rest of the 1970s, and would reappear in the late 1980s, thanks to the “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack. He would also write hit songs for other artists.

In 1999, three of the four Raspberries released “Raspberries Refreshed,” hoping to recreate the band’s classic sound and energy. Eric Carmen did not participate.

In 2004, the “House Of Blues” nightclub opened a Cleveland branch, with a Raspberries reunion concert! That lead to a mini-tour in 2005…one night of which was recorded. “Live On Sunset Strip” was released in 2007.

If you’d like to read more about the Raspberries, you can check out the biography “Overnight Sensation-The Story Of The Raspberries.” It’s written by Ken Sharp, and was published in 1993.

Check out the Raspberries Official Website by clicking here!

 

 

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