1966 The Critters – Mr. Dieingly Sad
High school student Don Ciccone was friends with saxophone player Bob Podstawski, who was a member of the Vibratones. The group was based in Plainfield, New Jersey, and also included keyboard player Chris Darway, drummer Jack Decker, bass player Ken Gorka, and lead guitarist Jim Ryan.
Don auditioned for the group and joined them and became their lead singer. They also changed their name to The Critters.
The group recorded an unsuccessful single for Musicor Records in 1964 before signing with Kapp Records. The Lovin’ Spoonful wrote and recorded the song Younger Girl for their first album in 1965, but did not release the song as a single. Artie Ripp produced the song for the Critters as their first single for Kapp Records. The record peaked at only #42 on the Hot 100, but reached #7 in the New York City area. It also reached #38 in the UK.
The group’s next single was their strongest hit. Don wrote Mr. Dieingly Sad, the group recorded the song with Artie as their producer again, and the group included it on their first album. The single peaked at #17 on the Hot 100 in 1966.
The group had two more singles reach the Hot 100 in 1967, but they only reached #55 and #39. Don enlisted into the US Air Force to avoid the draft, and Bob and Jack joined the military shortly after he left. Jim and Ken recruited new members and recorded two more albums, but the group split up after their poor sales.
Jim toured with Carly Simon and became a studio guitarist.
Ken became the co-owner of The Bitter End, a nightclub in Greenwich Village. He also became a booking agent. He died in 2015.
When he got out of the service, Don joined the Four Seasons from 1973 to 1981. He was one of the three soloists on their song, December, 1963 (Oh What A Night), which reached the top of the Hot 100 in 1976. He followed that with a stint where he played bass and sang on tours with Tommy James and the Shondells.
In 2007, Don joined the group Skeezix. They quickly changed their name to the Critters and began touring primarily as an oldies act. The reformed group even recorded a new Critters album. They split up in 2013. Don suffered a heart attack and died in 2016.
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