1958 Dion & the Belmonts – I Wonder Why
Three young men from the Bronx formed one of the earliest doo-wop groups in the mid-fifties. Angelo D’Aleo, Carlo Mastrangelo, and Fred Milano called themselves The Belmonts, a name that came from the Bronx neighborhood they lived in.
The group began recording for Mohawk Records in 1957. Their first record was based on a song written in 1884 by Percy Montrose. Oh, My Darling Clementine was first recorded in English in 1941 when Bing Crosby released the song as Clemintine and his single reached #20. You may be more familiar with Huckleberry Hound singing the song in cartoons.
The Belmonts’ version of the song, Teenage Clementine, had new lyrics. Fred sang lead on the record. It did not chart.
Meanwhile, Mohawk Records was working with another Bronx native, Dion DiMucci. The label used Hugo Montenegro (who later had a hit with the theme song from The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly) to record a song with Vic Damone. A group called the Timberlanes sang backup vocals on The Chosen Few. Mohawk Records wanted to replace Vic’s vocals with Dion’s, so he recorded new lead vocals for the song without ever meeting the Timberlanes. Dion’s single became a minor hit on the East Coast but also failed to chart nationally.
Bob and Gene Schwartz owned Mohawk Records and got the four singers to work together on We Went Away, which they released on the Mohawk label in 1957. Mohawk listed the artists on the record as Dion With The Belmonts. The single did not chart.
Bob and Gene formed Laurie Records and signed the group to their new label. In May 1958 they released I Wonder Why by Dion and the Belmonts and the single reached #22 on the Hot 100.
The group’s next single was a ballad, No One Knows, which did even better. It reached #19 on the Hot 100 later that year.
The group’s last single in 1958, Don’t Pity Me, only reached #40. The group was a party of the Winter Dance Party tour that resulted in the death of Buddy Holly. They offered Dion a seat on the plane that crashed and killed all aboard, but he turned it down. He didn’t want to pay the $36 fee for the flight since that was the amount of his parents’ mortgage payments.
The group’s next single, the classic A Teenager In Love, peaked at #5 on the Hot 100 and brought them into the national spotlight.
Three more top forty singles followed before Dion left the Belmonts to pursue a solo career in 1960.
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