Donnie Iris and the Cruisers coming to Mr. Smalls |

Donnie Iris and the Cruisers coming to Mr. Smalls

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
Donnie Iris and the Cruisers will perform at 8 p.m. Oct. 27 at Mr. Smalls Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave. in Millvale.

Donnie Iris and the Cruisers will perform at 8 p.m. Oct. 27 at Mr. Smalls Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave. in Millvale.

Pittsburgh icon Iris learned how to sing from his mother and then from Tony Bennett and Marvin Gaye. In 1970, as a member of the Jaggerz, Iris earned a gold record for writing and singing the No. 2 song “The Rapper.”

He was asked to join Wild Cherry in the late 1970s which is where he met Mark Avsec, his future collaborator and partner. The two began writing songs in Iris’ basement and joined forces with a bass player named Albritton McClain and a guitar player Marty Lee Hoenes. Avsec invited drummer Kevin Valentine and Donnie Iris and the Cruisers was born. The song “Ah! Leah!” was passed by every major label but came to fame on the radio. It became one of the most played songs in the album-oriented radio format.

At the age of 75, Iris is now an elder statesman of rock and roll. Avsec has earned a living as a studio musician, producer and song writer, writing about 400 songs for, among other artists, Bon Jovi. He also went to law school.

Hoenes is a professional freelance graphic designer and an art director. Valentine has mixed sound for a variety of major television shows and feature films, including “Charmed” and “7th Heaven.” Bass player Paul Goll is a friend of Hoenes’ joined the band and received a master’s degree in social work and began working for Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic as a therapeutic support staff member.

The group has been managed by Belkin Personal Management for over 30 years. In August 2004, the group celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Advance tickets for $40 go on sale at noon Sept. 7.

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JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or [email protected] or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.

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