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96 Tears by ? & the Mysterians

Album: ? & the Mysterians featuring 96 TearsReleased: 1966Charted:
1
37
  • "?" was Rudy Martinez, the composer of the song and the band's frontman who wanted to be anonymous. At one point he referred to the individual band members only by three-letter names. The mystery helped market the group, who wore dark glasses to add to the intrigue.
  • All five members of the group were from families who migrated from Mexico to work in the Saginaw Valley in Michigan.
  • ? tells us that the song was always called "96 Tears," and never "69 Tears" or "Too Many Teardrops" as sometimes reported. He insists that the number 96 has a deep, philosophical meaning, but refuses to tell us what that is.
  • The record was taped in a converted living room in Bay City, Michigan. The band then had the Texas-based Pa-Go-Go Records press 500 copies so they could distribute them to the DJ's in southern Michigan. The song became the most requested record on WTAC Flint, and CKLW out of Windsor, Canada, which went into Detroit. Cameo Records, having solvency problems, picked up the record after one of its staffers heard it on CKLW.
  • Garland Jeffreys covered this in 1980, with moderate success at the end of the disco era. ? & the Mysterians reformed that year, with ? the only original member.
  • Some sources insist that Question Mark's legal name is now the question mark symbol.
  • The follow up to "96 Tears," "I Need Somebody," peaked at #22 in 1966. The B-side was "8-Teen." Three more singles followed to no avail, and the group disbanded in 1968. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL, for all above)
  • During a 1981 interview in Goldmine magazine, ? revealed that the band had used a Vox Continental organ when they created the sound for "96 Tears," although legend maintained that sound had been made with a Farfisa. The trashy bar band sound of "96 Tears" still causes a rush of nostalgia for those of a certain age.
  • The band used to be called XYZ with ?, and played their first gig in Adrian, Michigan in 1964. (thanks, Bob - Knoxville, TN, for above 2)
  • This was very popular with American soldiers during the Vietnam War. (thanks, Kenneth A. Hinks - Canton, MI)
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Comments: 27

On August 28th 1966, "96 Tears" by ? and the Mysterians entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #75; and on October 23rd, 1966 it peaked at #1 {for 1 week} and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100 {and for 9 of those 15 weeks it was on the Top 10}...
The Bay City, MI-based quintet had three other records make the Top 100 chart; "I Need Somebody" {#22 in 1966}, "Can't Get Enough of You, Babe" {#56 in 1967}, and "Girl (You Captivate Me)" {#98 in 1967}...
In 1981 Garland Jeffreys covered the song; his version stayed on the Top 100 for 7 weeks, peaking at #66.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On January 8th 1967, a covered version of "96 Tears" by Big Maybelle entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart for a three week stay, peaking at position #96...
R.I.P. Big Maybelle, born Mabel Louise Smith, {1924 - 1972}.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I never heard who played the organ on this song, but Wiki has it credited to Frank Rodriguez on Vox Continental Organ.John - Cuyahoga Falls, Oh
? and the Mysterians used to play Saturday nites at the Mt. Holly Ski Resort between Flint and Pontiac on US 10. I talked to Rudy many times and was there the first time "he said" they played 96 Tears in public, probably summer of 64 or 65. It was a huge hit with the crowd and they played it 3-4 times.Richard - Redlands, Ca
Terrific song & unique group. In early 1967 I attended a concert at the St Petersburg , FL. Ampitheater-saw Sonny & Cher and a new group-? & the Mysterians. Loved that song -"96 Tears"!!!Stephen - Auburn, Al
Bruce Springsteen has played the song in five different concerts, the last time in 2009...Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
The Stranglers covered 96 Tears? Skin Deep is one of my favorite songs. ?&theMysterians with "96 Tears"? That song is just TOO COLD, BROTHA!!!!Jim - Enid, Ok
I like the falsetto at the end. he's not really good at it, so it makes it interesting to listen to and it fits!Guy - Woodinville, Wa
A great classic that will remain timeless.Rabitt - Sugar Land, Tx
Back in the early 80's David Bowie was hosting a rsdio show on BBC Radio 1 selecting some of his favourite ever tracks one of which was 96 tears, I was hooked straight away.

Rob Luton, CHELMSFORD ESSEX
Rob - Chelmsford, United Kingdom
Check out their Web site. They're good. They're still milking their one hit. The sound of that cheesy Farfisa organ made the record. They were the quintessential garage rock band.Dominick - New York, Ny
iM NOT LYING BUT I KNOW 96 TEARS BECAUSE BOBBY BALDERRAMA IS MY UNCLE UNCLE BOBBY.AND I KNOW THE QUESTION MARK'S 2 DOGS DIED IN A FIRE AT HIS HOUSE.IM AUBREE D'ADAMO AND MY MOMS NAME IS SANDY LEITCH! I LOVE YOU UNCLE BOBBYAubree - Evergreen Park, Il
? recently lost everything in a house fire.Paul - Rothesay, New Brunswick , Canada
These guys did a tour in 1997, not sure how many original members other than ? & they rocked the house. I was utterly amazed that a bunch of middle age men (and one hit wonders) could be so amazingly fantastic.Ruined - Philthy, Pa
The Stranglers' cover of 96 Tears made No.15 in the UK in 1990Dave - Cardiff, Wales
I have heard the keyboard player is Mel, the bass player in Grand Funk.Dan - Rockford, Mi
I actually saw ? and the Mysterians live in 1968, in a free street concert while I was in college. They all wore dark shades, white T-shirts, and I think Rudy (aka ?) wore a black leather jacket. I think that look was where the Ramones got their look about ten years afterward.

Incidentally they played their songs and some covers. They really rocked, and didn't deserve to be a one-hit wonder.
Pat - Albuquerque, Nm
Sometimes I hear this song on a Belgian radio called "Classic 21". Although it's a song from the 60's, I don't remember I heard it then and every time they play it on the radio I wonder who is singing. I love it and I hope to hear it again and again, it's a very good song. I think 1966 was a very good year, many great songs like "River deep, mountain high" are from 1966.Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
I got a chance to set in and listen to the band in the late 70s by inventation of the gropes drumer. i found myself in pinerun,mich. in a little bilding behind "?" home. there was on every inch of it,they were geting ready for some recording event of all the old band's. they were all verry plite to me.As for "?" he wore the dark sun glases and keeped to himself,but what i could see of his home,he was a verry careing person to his famly and frinds. I was told he had a verry ruff past but he never should it. I injoied his song verry much every time i hear it. sid, gladwin , MiSidney - Gladwin, Mi
During the 60's, "?" and the band would push the tables in the cafeteria at Central High School, Bay City, MI to the side and play during lunch hours. The students would all dance and enjoy the music. Miss those fabulous 60's!Rich - Essexville, Mi
Hmmm....69 Tears....wonder why they changed the titel...Matt - Millbrae, Ca
I thought I heard a DJ say that the keyboard player on this track was the guy from the Animals, but I'm not sure how accurate that is.Nickc - Ft. Wayne, In
That band played the song at my Mom's high school prom in '65 or '66 at Wilmington (MA) High School.Eddie - Acton, Me
who names there self "?", really "?", i'd rather be like 007, or something coolJake - Miami, Fl
? claims to be from outer space and over 65 million years old. makes ya think.Will - Mcallen , Tx
And he always wears dark glasses in publicDeana - Indianapolis, In
I can confirm that his legal name is the question mark symbol. I did a show with him in 2002 (used to do shows with him in the 60s) and he showed me his drivers license. He is just called "Q" by everybody who knows him.Jeff - Oscoda, Mi