Cherry Baby

Album: Violation (1977)
Charted: 33
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  • "Cherry Baby" is the best-known song by Starz, a New Jersey rock band who almost hit it big. They shared a manager - Bill Aucoin - with Kiss and were signed to Capitol Records. Their producer was Jack Douglas, who helmed some of Aerosmith's biggest albums. All the pieces were in place, but after an initial push, Capitol stopped promoting them and musical trends started shifting toward disco. The "Cherry Baby" single stalled at #33 in the US but holds up as a hidden gem and shows Starz at their best.

    The band's guitarist, Richie Ranno, told Songfacts the story behind the song:

    "We were getting ready to record our second album, later entitled Violation. We were under the gun to write some songs as soon as we got off of a six-month tour that included many gigs on the Aerosmith tour plus lots of dates with Blue Oyster Cult and Rush, some Ted Nugent shows, and a few insane Midwest rock festivals.

    Michael Lee Smith (vocalist) came to a writing session and played the chords on the guitar to what became the chorus. He had some slight semblance of lyrics for that part. Then he left.

    He really wasn't a guitarist so what he played was a bit sloppy but definitely creative. Brendan Harkin (guitarist) and I expanded on the guitar part and then put together chords for the verse and bridge, which was a guitar solo.

    When we went in to record it at the Record Plant in New York City with Jack Douglas producing it turned into a kind of power-pop/rock song. I took my Gibson double neck out and played along. Then I doubled that with an acoustic 12-string. Lots of layers of guitars. Jack, along with the incredible recording engineering of Jay Messina, turned it into a recording masterpiece. The song certainly should have gone Top 10 but stalled at #33. That's what happens when both your record company and manager fail you at the same time."
  • The song tells the story of a man in prison who misses his girl, Cherry. He begs her to stay faithful while he's locked up and lets her know she's always on his mind. and his feelings for her to keep himself together until he is released.
  • You probably don't know any girls named Cherry, but that name shows up in some famous songs, most famously "Cherry, Cherry" by Neil Diamond.
  • Starz drummer Jeff Grob (who took the stage name Joe X. Dube) and bass player Peter Sweval were former members of The Looking Glass and played on their #1 1972 hit "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)." Lead singer Michael Lee Smith had been a stage actor; Ranno was in the band Stories, joining just after they had a hit with "Brother Louie."

    After the Violation album, Capitol Records took away their producer, Jack Douglas, and made the band produce their next one, Attention Shoppers!, themselves. They started going through lineup changes and released their last major-label album, Coliseum Rock, in 1978. They broke up in 1980. They eventually regrouped for occasional live shows.


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