BAND OF THE MONTH – The Wild Giraffes: Sticking Their Necks Out For Rock

As I’ve spent the better part of a year digging deep into the NE Ohio music scene from 1985 to 2000, I realized that using a hard start date hindered more than helped.  There were a number of late 70s/early 80s that influenced bands from the mid 80s and onward.  Some of those bands existed into the years beyond 1985 including Terrible Parade, The Adults, and The Mice to name a few.  Others flamed out or disappeared before the golden age took off.  One of those bands, I discovered, was Wild Giraffes.

Wild Giraffes 01

The band was formed in the mid 70s by Mentor High School graduates Chris King and Edgar Reynolds.  King was the Daltry (the voice) to Reynold’s Townshend (the songwriter).  Initially, the duo was joined by Chris Burgess on bass, Alan McGinty on drums and Jeff Ianini on guitars.  Their music was not typical of what was happening in Cleveland at the time.  Where most bands were deep into punk and post punk, Wild Giraffes seemed to be influenced by classic 1960s garage rock mixed with power pop harmonies, new wave pizzazz and a dash of punk sensibility.  The band was a ferocious live act and was known as one of the best dance acts of that era, packing clubs all over northeast Ohio. In Deanna Adams’ great tome Rock -N- Roll & The Cleveland Connection, drummer Al McGinty told Adams:

“We did all our songs loud, long and fast.  When we’d finish our set, we all looked like we just walked out of a swimming pool.  We had this great synergy together.”

In 1977, Wild Giraffes released their first 7″ single, “New Era” b/w “Dreams Don’t Last.”  By this time, Guitarist Ianini had been replaced by Mike Terrell and before the release of their second single in 1978, Ensemble & Majorettes featuring “Love Me” b/w “When I Find Out,” Chris Burgess was replaced on bass by Dave Ivan, thus setting up what is considered the classic lineup. A third single, the original “I Don’t Know About of You” b/w a cover of Willie Dixon’s “Crazy Mixed-Up World” was released in 1979 followed by a cover of “Burnin’ Love” b/w the original “Knock Knock.”  All four singles were released on the band’s own Neck Records, but “Burnin’ Love” was also featured on a compilation album, “The Pride of Cleveland” released in 1980 by local radio powerhouse WMMS, 100.7 FM along with songs from other popular acts of that time such as Love Affair (featuring Rich Spina), I-Tal, rocker Don Kriss and the Generators.

The zenith of the band’s career came in 1981 with the release of their full length album, Right Now again on Neck Records.  The LP release brought another personnel change as guitarist Mike Terrell departed after playing on two tracks.  He was replaced by Bill Elliot for the rest of the album.  While the album received favorable reviews (Trouser Press compared them to the early Who and praised their ingenuity), drummer McGinty left the band within two years of its release and the departure of Bill Elliot who was replaced on guitar by future French Lenard Tom Jares.  Singer Chris King told Deanna Adams:

“for some reason, the chemistry of the band was that Edgar was the writer and had the strongest ideas.  And he took more influence from the guitarists.  So every couple of years, he would either get fed up with them or they with him and we’d end up getting a new guitar player.  But every incarnation of the band brought its own uniqueness.

By 1984, the Wild Giraffes had run their course.  Vocalist Chris King paralyzed a nerve in his vocal cords and he was unable to sing.  The members went their separate ways.  Edgar Reynolds, the writer of all those great songs, passed away at age 42 in August 2001.  In December of that year, surviving members of Wild Giraffes including Dave Ivan, Chris King and Al McGinty reunited to perform a blistering set for “Edgarfest” a tribute to Edgar Reynolds which was hosted by Peanuts and the Ghoul and included sets from The Pagans, The Adults, Satan’s Satellites, Balls of Fire, Hi-Fi’s w/Marti Jones & Don Dixon, Qwasi Qwa w/ Wally Bryson, Cats on Holiday, The Dukes of Windsor, Lucky Pierre and the Holy Cows.  50% of the proceeds went the Disney-Reynolds Children Trust (Edgar had been a Disney employee in California where he was living at the time of his death) and 50% went to The Fender-Guitar Lessons for underprivileged Children Foundation.  You can find videos of Edgarfest here.

 

13 Comments

  1. Great article, thanks, but it was Chris Burgess who was the founding bassist. And I think Alan was around after 1983. They all lived in a house together on Bishops Road into 1984, I’m pretty sure. But that’s a minor point.

    Enjoyed the article, though! Where can I find more from that era?

    Also, I can’t see the links to Edgarfest? I had moved to London by then and missed it.

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  2. Thanks, enjoy these flashbacks 💥
    Love the different past rock/punk sounds and trying to figurie out their influences.
    So much original talent in NE OHIO!
    My Brother Michael (ZOMBO) Devine was like no one else with “King Dapper Combo” (1980’s)
    His Surfaholics Band was always kickass, infact Mike is in Pittsburgh today with ”Vertigo-Go”…
    Thanks for the fun articles, Lola

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  3. Thank you. This is cool. While Deanna is a great writer and I enjoyed and own her book, She missed a HUGE point that was explained to her. I paralyzed a nerve on my vocal chord in 1980 or so. I rehabbed and took voice lessons and was back at it for the duration. Scary times. I was told that it may or may not reactive. It did and after a 6 month break, we came out guns blazin’ to an amazing crowd of our loyal fans at the Pop Shop/Mistake below the Agora. We really thank you for your coverage. It makes me feel like a rock star. That point has always bugged me and I just wanted to clear that up. There were soooo many great bands during that era in Cleveland. You had to bring your A game every night. Good times.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Chris. I’m truly humbled to hear from you. The music made by Wild Giraffes is truly amazing and timeless. I love to sit down with you and get the band’s story directly from you – preserving the histories and stories from primary sources such as your self is one of this project’s two primary goals. The second goal is to reintroduce the music to not only those who loved it the first time around but to a new generation as well. Feel free to email me at chris@listenclevelandmusic.com if you’d like to sit down and talk not only about Wild Giraffes but about the Cleveland music scene of the mid 70s to mid 80s.

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  4. We played for 2-3 years after and in a botched decision, 3 of 5 of us decided to manage ourselves. Extremely BAD idea. Musicians… concentrate on the music!!

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