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The Jaggerz were a classic rock group known for their only true hit “The Rapper”. Founder Donnie Iris formed the group in 1964 while still attending university. With their expanding lineup, they were renamed Donnie and The Donnelles, and eventually The Jaggerz. Their 1969 debut album under Gamble Records, Introducing The Jaggerz, was moderately successful. Shifting to Kama Sutra Records, the group released We Went To Different Schools Together in 1970. The album yielded their only highest-charting single “The Rapper.” After that, the group went on recording for Kama Sutra and other labels but none of their releases matched the success of their second album. The group experienced hard times and several lineup changes, with the original band members going in their separate ways (Iris left The Jaggerz and joined another band, Wild Cherry). They broke up in 1977 but reunited in 1989, and have been active performing since.
The formation of the Jaggerz
Rock and R&B/blue-eyed soul group The Jaggerz may have been the one-hit wonders who brought “The Rapper” into the consciousness of music fans, but their music has been sampled by a several artists in recent years.
The band that would be the Jaggerz was founded by guitarist/singer Donnie Iris (born Dominic Ierace on February 28, 1943) while attending college in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Initially called the Tri-Vels, the band changed its name into Donnie and the Donnells as the lineup increased its number of members.
Soon after he dropped out of college, Iris discovered another band Gary and the Jewel Tones, whose one of the members was bassist/vocalist Jimmy Ross, was in need of a new guitarist. In 1964, the Jaggers was born, consisting of Iris, Ross, guitarist Benny Faiella, another bassist/vocalist Billy Maybray, keyboardist Thom Davies and drummer Jim Pugliano.
The Jaggerz at Gamble Records, and their debut album
The Jaggers began playing at local clubs and gradually, was earning a devoted following. In 1968, the Jaggers signed their first recording contract with Gamble Records, owned and run by the legendary soul songwriters/producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
Ross changed the spelling of “The Jaggers” by replacing “s” with “z,” soon after discovering an existing band with the name The Jaggers.
In 1969 the band released their debut album Introducing the Jaggerz, which tanked. The Jaggerz left Gamble and signed to Kama Sutra label.
“The Rapper” – The Jaggerz’s only big hit
In 1970, the Jaggerz released their sophomore LP (first on Kama Sutra)We Went to Different Schools Together, which featured the lead-off single “The Rapper.”
“The Rapper” gave the Jaggerz their first hit, and a big one at that. The single, written by Iris, almost topped the Billboard Hot 100 at #2. It sold over a million copies and was awarded with a gold disc.
But unfortunately for the Jaggerz, this would be their sole major hit. The second single off We Went to Different Schools Together, “I Call My Baby Candy,” became a minor hit on the Hot 100 (at #75). Another song, the non-album single “What a Bummer,” became the band’s final charting hit (at #88) in 1970. Despite these other minor charting singles, nevertheless the Jaggerz were becoming known as a one-hit wonder.
Disbandment, reunion, and recent activities
The Jaggerz experienced lineup shifts with the departure of Maybray and Ross. A new pair of keyboardists Hermie Granati and Frank Czuri came into the fold before the band recorded and released their third album Come Again, released by new label Wooden Nickel Records. But the album and its accompanying singles didn’t chart, and so the label eventually dropped the band from its roster.
Founder and leader Donnie Iris also left the Jaggerz to join another band Wild Cherry, before pursuing a solo career. By 1977, most of the original members had left, with only Faiella remaining in the band. He was joined by new recruits Gene and Robert Vallecorsa (lead guitarist and keyboadist, respectively), lead singer Sam Ippolito and saxophonist Mark Zeppuhar. Despite having a strong lineup, no hits further came to the band and this led to their dissolution around 1977.
In 1989, the group reformed (without Iris) and together they released a couple of CDs as well as performed several gigs. Two original members, Bill Maybray and Jim Pugliano, died in 2004 and 2010, respectively. Some notable rap and hip-hop artists have been sampling The Jaggerz music in recent years. In 2014 the Jaggerz released their newest album called The Walk.
The Jaggerz’s music has been sampled by a lot of artists, especially hip-hop musicians such as The Game, Curren$y and Whiz Khalifa