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.
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 By this time, Guitarist Ianini had been replaced by Mike Terrell and before the release of their second single in 1978, Ensemble & Majorettes featuring “Love Me” b/w “When I Find Out,” Chris Burgess was replaced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.