Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 10/19/2019

Drummer Robert Martinez and guitar players Bobby Balderrama and Larry Borjas formed a rock trio in 1962. They mostly played in clubs near their hometowns in Michigan. They decided to add a frontman and since Robert’s brother Rudy could dance up a storm and sing, they added him to the group. They named themselves after the 1957 Science Fiction film The Mysterians and billed Rudy as Question Mark. The result was the strange name ? and the Mysterians. The record labels for the group showed this as ? (question mark) and the Mysterians.

They also recruited keyboard player Frank Rodriguez into the group. They recorded a pair of songs as part of an audition, but the record company failed to do anything with them.

In 1966, Robert and Larry enlisted into the army to avoid being drafted and sent to Viet Nam. The group replaced Robert with Eddie Serrato and recorded two songs for a small independent record label. Midnight Hour was released in late Spring and was immediately ignored. The b-side of the record had been written by Rudy, er, Question Mark, and he took it upon himself to promote 96 Tears to the local radio stations. Cameo-Parkway Records leased the song from the small record label and took the song to a national audience and by the Fall it was the number one record in the country.

In November the group released their second single onto the charts, I Need Somebody. The follow-up did not do as well, only reaching #22, with sales that were a fraction of the million copies their first single sold in spite of a few television appearances.

The record label apparently was tired of dealing with the ? on the record labels, and for their second album and third single, the group was billed as Question Mark and the Mysterians.

The Four Seasons recorded Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby in early 1966 on their Working My Way Back To You Babe album, but don’t appear to have released it as a single. Question Mark and the Mysterians covered the song and released it as a single. The record sounded way too much like 96 Tears and failed to even reach the top forty and stalled at #56. The song lived on in spite of its poor reception: the record was covered by Smash Mouth and included in the soundtrack of the Jennifer Love Hewitt film Can’t Hardly Wait. Perhaps thanks to the exposure in the film, their single peaked at #27.

A different lineup of ? and the Mysterians toured in 1971 without a keyboard player. Rock critic Dave Marsh wrote about the group in Creem Magazine and used the phrase “punk rock,” to describe them, perhaps the first time that term was used.

The group disbanded and reformed with different group members and even recorded a new album in 1999, but never got near the charts again.


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