? and The Mysterians  





The Mysterians

Frank Lugo

Frank Rodriguez

Bobby Balderrama

Robert Martinez


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Theirs is a most unpredictable tale, from the very start, and yet, despite the many twists and turns in their career, they are suddenly, 30+ years after their chart hits, back on top, with the rest of the music world "down there, looking up", just like Question Mark rails in "96 Tears". Formed in Saginaw, Michigan in 1964, Question Mark joined up with friends Bobby Balderrama (guitar), Robert Martinez (drums) and Larry Borjas (bass), taking as a band name the title of a 1957 Japanese sci-fi movie, The Mysterians.

The enigmatic Question Mark, whose first teen dream was to be a dancer on American Bandstand, quickly parlayed his high stepping ways into an atomic stage show, incorporating his amazing, arrogant vocal stylings into one snarling ball of what he refers to as, "Attitude, bay-bee, ATTITUDE!"

In an effort to further befuddle the local teens, Question Mark dubbed Bobby, Robert and Larry, X,Y, and Z respectively, but the renumeration was short lived. There was a change in the ranks thanks to the draft grab of Robert and the enlistment call of Larry, leaving Question Mark (?) and Bobby (X!) momentarily groping in the wilderness for a rhythm section. Drummer boy Eddie Serrato, bassman Frank Lugo, and organ grinder extraordinaire Frank Rodriguez were reeled in as the magic combination.

Working out their sound in the Rodriguez home basement,the Mysterians built their majestic "96 Tears" (renaming the unsavory "69 Tears" which had been the salty redub of "Too Many Teardrops") into the hypnotically persuasive original that soon would alter the eardrums of its first generation. Their first recordings ession, contrary to popular conception, was not the March session which netted their hit. Actually, their first studio session came a month earlier, on Feb. 12, 1966 in Detroit. A single acetate was cut of two cool numbers, "Are You For Real?"-- first called "(Hey Little Girl) Are You For Real?-- and "I'll Be Back". Norton issued both sides recently (Norton 45 083) is a boss full color sleeve boasting a couple dozen unpublished pix of the guys!

The legendary recording session which netted their hit came on March 13, 1966 at Art Shield's "studio" at 405 Raymond Street in Bay City, Michigan. "96 Tears" and "Midnight Hour" were soon issued on the tiny local Pa-Go-Go label.

With in person promotion by the unstoppable Question Mark himself, the single was soon on rotation at WTAC in Flint, Michigan and also on Detroit's powerful CKLW. There, it caught the ears of Cameo-Parkway talent scouts who promptly nabbed the young band. Question Mark recalls that there was major label interest galore, but that he chose Cameo- Parkway because "their label was orange".

In case we neglected to mention it, orange is more than Question Mark's color of choice-- he is flat out maniacal about the vivacious and powerful hue! He must have been everso disappointed when the label changed its design from the trademark orange to an updated mid sixties black and red imprint. The Cameo re-release of "96 Tears" entered the charts in August of 1966, peaked at #1 in less than two months and went certifiably gold in November, just in time for the release of their debut album. Not bad for a record cut on a Bay City patio!

The Mysterians were off and running, with regular TV appearances on Detroit's "Swingin' Time" as well as on "Where The Action Is."

They were a top act wherever they travelled, and understandably so. The contents of that first LP, which included "Up Side, "I Need Somebody", "8 Teen", "Don't Tease Me"-- are so flat out perfect, that no one could come within a mile of what the Mysterians were putting down-- a wildly flawless combination of soul and garage and rhythmic, lilting Tex-Mex angst, all laced with a teen dream pulchritude and poppy images with severely demented undertones.

Indeed, the mean arrogrance and the pop flamboyance of Question Mark has absolutely never been duplicated. This is ultimately evident on ACTION, their second album, released in June of 1967, where "Got To", "Smokes" and "Can't Get Enough Of Your Baby" certainly elevated the insights of any misguided pre-teen transistor sisters!

The Mysterians to this day purvey the same garage band snottiness that virtually every band of their generation promptly outgrew or discarded. More for the Mysterians, we say!




With the fabiulous RONNIE SPECTOR performing 96 Tears :

Lincoln Center - July 31, 2010


In the long night’s finale, Question Mark of Question Mark and the Mysterians, bounded onstage in a frilly-sleeved cropped top fit for a Las Vegas showgirl, along with his cowboy hat and shades. Defying age, he was in constant motion around the stage, singing about lust and hormonal overload over the band’s merrily pumping organ riffs–as frenetic and well-preserved as a record collector’s most prized vinyl artifacts.
Jon Parales-N.Y.Times-review of Ponderosa Stomp





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