? and The Mysterians Biography

Originally formed in Saginaw, Michigan, USA in 1963 as XYZ, ? And The Mysterians entered rock ‘n’ roll immortality as the band that first popularized the punk rock classic ‘96 Tears’. ? (Question Mark) was vocalist Rudy Martinez (Mexico) and, after numerous line-up changes, the Mysterians became Frankie Rodriguez, Jnr. (b. 9 March 1951, Crystal City, Texas, USA; keyboards), Robert Lee ‘Bobby’ Balderrama (b. Mexico; lead guitar), Francisco Hernandez ‘Frank’ Lugo (b. 15 March 1947, Welasco, Texas, USA; bass) and Eduardo Delgardo ‘Eddie’ Serrato (b. Mexico; drums). ‘96 Tears’ was initially intended as the b-side of their debut single, first issued on the tiny Pa-Go-Go label. However, disc jockeys in Michigan, where the band had now settled, turned it over and began playing the three-chord rocker with the now infamous lead organ line (played on a Vox, not Farfisa as legend dictates). The record was sold to the Cameo label and re-released, whereupon it became a number 1 single in September. The band’s name invited further publicity, with ? (Martinez had changed his name legally) refusing to divulge his true identity and opaque sunglasses shielding him from recognition. They charted with three more Cameo singles of which only ‘I Need Somebody’, in 1966, made any significant impact, reaching number 22 in the US charts.

Despite success with these singles and their first album, ? And The Mysterians never again came close to recapturing their brief moment of fame. A second album appeared on Cameo, before the band released one-off singles for Capitol Records and Ray Charles’ Tangerine label. Further low-key releases appeared sporadically through the 70s and 80s, and in 1997 the band re-formed to re-record the best of their classic 60s material for the Collectables label. ‘96 Tears’ was incorporated into the live sets of countless ‘garage bands’ during the 60s, and was later revived by such artists as Eddie And The Hot Rods (1976), Garland Jeffreys (1981) and the Stranglers (1990). The ‘cheesy’ organ sound the band used in most of their material has become synonymous with many 60s outfits, but arguably, this band has first claim, if not for their timing, but for their overall sound.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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