96 Tears

Album: ? & the Mysterians featuring 96 Tears (1966)
Charted: 37 1
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  • This song was written by "?," the band's frontman who wanted to be anonymous (he's listed on the composer credits as (Rudy Martinez). At one point he referred to the individual band members only by three-letter names (at one point, the band was known as XYZ). The mystery helped market the group, who wore dark glasses to add to the intrigue.

    Since mystery has always been a staple of their act, it's hard to know which stories about the group are factual. When they recorded this song, they were a five-piece whose families migrated from Mexico and Texas to work in the Saginaw Valley in Michigan.
  • ? told Songfacts 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. Interviewing him is quite an adventure.
  • Note that the singer is not the one crying the 96 Tears. He's been dumped, and plans to get revenge by reuniting so he can dump her back. That's when she'll be crying the 96 tears.
  • When the group came up with this song, ? didn't want to use a title with a number in it because he thought they would be accused of ripping off The Rolling Stones, who had a hit with "19th Nervous Breakdown." His bandmates convinced him to go with it.
  • 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.
  • In our interview with ?, he talked about how this song came together: "Little Frank [keyboard player Frank Rodriguez] comes in singing a tune, and I said, 'I've heard that before. And I ain't going to do nothing until I've heard where that music and the title of it comes from.' He played it for like 45 minutes. Everybody's getting mad. And then all of a sudden it dawned on me, I said, 'Oh, I know where I heard that. I wrote that song long time ago.'

    Then the lyrics came out: 'Too many teardrops for one heart to be crying,' all that came out just like that. Boom. See, it was meant to be. There are certain things that are meant to be."
  • The follow-up to "96 Tears," "I Need Somebody," peaked at #22 in 1966. Three more singles followed including "Can't Get Enough Of You, Baby," which made #56 in 1967. The group disbanded in 1968, but have reunited from time to time since.
  • The organ riff on this song is one of the most recognizable in rock, and helped define the sound of that era.
    Often thought to be a Farfisa, the band's keyboard player Frank Rodriguez used a Vox Continental on "96 Tears."

    This trashy bar band sound would later become vintage - many musicians use a Vox or Farfisa to get a retro sound (see: "Dirty Laundry" by Don Henley). Hearing this sound causes a rush of nostalgia for those of a certain age.
  • Garland Jeffreys covered this in 1980, with moderate success at the end of the disco era. ? & the Mysterians re-formed that year, with ? the only original member.
  • This was very popular with American soldiers during the Vietnam War. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Kenneth A. Hinks - Canton, MI

Comments: 35

  • Pianorman from Falmouth, MiI would like to add that following Garland Jeffries' remake of 96 Tears in 1980, I was recruited (on keyboards) into Que's band by Bob Simerau (guitar) who had just been hired in in the spring of 1981. Bill Worden (bass) and Terry Lazar (guitar) were also hired into the band at this time. After several auditions for drummers, Que brought in his brother, Robert, who stayed on with the band. Robert turned out to be one of the funniest musicians to hang out with.
    Having said that, the line-up of musicians Que used in that line-up, following Jeffries' remake in '80, DID, in fact, include another original member - Robert [Kapp] Martinez on drums.

    You can see him in our only picture in the May 25, 1981 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine (Harrison Ford on cover as Indiana Jones) - our interview with Parke Puterbaugh.

    Brad Norman
  • Dj Lebér Loops from Heartbreak HotelThis song is 55 years young, and sounds crisp clean. Stood the rest of time.
    The organ sound, and how it’s played just dope.
    Just learned it’s a Vox Continental.
  • Jude from League City, Tx I am 63 now and just cannot get enough of Que and the mysterians. I never knew of them until recently. Isn’t that so sad. But o am so in love with their style and sound. I play 96 tears in the older video with his cool orange top and pants. Love his sound and the entire band just works. wish I would have met them when I lived in Ohio. ? Que you are the best and thank you for the music. A fan forever
  • Kevin from South CarolinaDid 96 just sound better than any other number or any other description of tears?
  • Richard Sanchez from Albuquerque, New MexicoCan not remember which year we had ? and the Mysterians play at a Del Norte High School dance in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Still can't believe it to this day! I attended Del Norte High School from 1966-1968.
  • Susie from MichiganI am the Publicist for ? and the Mysterians. There are a number of things wrong with both the article and confusion in the comments section...96 Tears was, according to my VERY reliable source, coming together in '65 and recorded in Bay City, MI on March 13, 1966. Lets start with that.
    Keyboard Player was "Little Frank" Rodriguez who was about 14 years old at the time -- the only member of the band actually old enough to sign a contract was Question Mark.
    Mel from Grand Funk had nothing to do with the recording of 96 Tears. He was however at one time after the original Mysterians went different directions in 1967, the bass player for ? and the Mysterians. He went from the Mysterians to Grand Funk Railroad.
    To Stephen in Auburn AL who saw them with Sonny and Cher at St Pete--do you have any photos??? I was at that show and left my camera on the Greyhound bus I took back to Orlando FL ...
    To the 1997 question, by then, the band was back to ALL original members (Robert Martinez on drums did not play on 96 Tears because he wa in the Army in Germany at that time BUT IS the ORIGINAL drummer) --
    The biggest insult you can offer is to call Question Mark by the widely circulated name several of you have used -- I know him and even his family members do not call him by anything but Que, Ques (pronounced like Quest without the t) or Question Mark.
    Yes, in Jan 2007 his house burned to the ground. He lost 7 purebred yorkies (2 lived for a time but never were able to recover) his birds and all his photos, gold records, clothing--EVERYTHING. The house was not insured and has never been completely rebuilt to this day.
    ? and the Mysterians are not a "one hit" anything--thank you to the person who posted the Billboard info--96 Tears and I Need Somebody were both on the charts at the same time.
    The photo at the top of this page is NOT the ORIGINAL BAND.
    To Pat in NM-? never wears a tshirt on stage--even in the oldest photos you won't see him in a tshirt--the rest of the band yes, but Question Mark would wear NO shirt before he wore a T onstage especially back then...he could still pull that off to this day--no fat on that guy...
    OK that addresses a bunch of stuff
    Tomorrow is the 50th Anniversary of 96 Tears as the #1 song in the USA
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 11 1966, Question Mark and the Mysterians performed "96 Tears" on the week-day afternoon ABC-TV program 'Where The Action Is'...
    Ten days earlier on October 1st the quartet had perform the same song on Dick Clark's other ABC-TV program, "American Bandstand'...
    {See the next post below}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 1st 1966, ? and the Mysterians performed "96 Tears" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #6 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; twenty-two days later on October 23rd, 1966 it peaked at #1 {for 1 week}...
    On the same 'Bandstand' show the band performed "I Need Somebody"; it entered the Top 100 on November 13th, 1966 and five weeks later on December 18th, 1966 it peaked at #22 {for 2 weeks}...
    {See next post below}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn 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 from Sauquoit, NyOn 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}.
  • John from Cuyahoga Falls, OhI never heard who played the organ on this song, but Wiki has it credited to Frank Rodriguez on Vox Continental Organ.
  • Richard from Redlands, Ca? 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.
  • Stephen from Auburn, AlTerrific 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"!!!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyBruce Springsteen has played the song in five different concerts, the last time in 2009...
  • Jim from Enid, OkThe Stranglers covered 96 Tears? Skin Deep is one of my favorite songs. ?&theMysterians with "96 Tears"? That song is just TOO COLD, BROTHA!!!!
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaI like the falsetto at the end. he's not really good at it, so it makes it interesting to listen to and it fits!
  • Rabitt from Sugar Land, TxA great classic that will remain timeless.
  • Rob from Chelmsford, United KingdomBack 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.

  • Dominick from New York, NyCheck 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.
  • Paul from Rothesay, New Brunswick , Canada? recently lost everything in a house fire.
  • Ruined from Philthy, PaThese 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.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesThe Stranglers' cover of 96 Tears made No.15 in the UK in 1990
  • Dan from Rockford, MiI have heard the keyboard player is Mel, the bass player in Grand Funk.
  • Pat from Albuquerque, NmI 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.
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumSometimes 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.
  • Sidney from Gladwin, MiI 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 , Mi

  • Rich from Essexville, MiDuring 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!
  • Matt from Millbrae, CaHmmm....69 Tears....wonder why they changed the titel...
  • Nickc from Ft. Wayne, InI 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.
  • Eddie from Acton, MeThat band played the song at my Mom's high school prom in '65 or '66 at Wilmington (MA) High School.
  • Jake from Miami, Flwho names there self "?", really "?", i'd rather be like 007, or something cool
  • Will from Mcallen , Tx? claims to be from outer space and over 65 million years old. makes ya think.
  • Deana from Indianapolis, InAnd he always wears dark glasses in public
  • Jeff from Oscoda, MiI 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.
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