Back in 1956, Philly, me and a guy
named Tony Carosella used to sing some of the "Doo Wop"
songs that were popular back then. We used to go to the
wash room in the basement of the apartments where I
lived on Bay 19th Street, because it had an echo. We
recorded our singing on an old Recorder my uncle gave
me. Philly and I brought the recordings to Kelly's
poolroom and played them for Albee, Punchy (Tony
Armato), and the other guys. We agreed to form a singing
group, but decided that Carosella would be excluded
since we really needed a Bass voice. So Albee got Philly
Campano to join.
In 1957 we entered the talent contest at the Loews
Oriental on 86th street, but at the last minute Philly
Campano got stage fright and quit, so we performed with
Phil, Albee, Punchy, Allie and me.
During this same time, Jimmy Hudson, Albie Gallione and
Tony Conigliaro (Conig) were trying to start a group.
"Conig" who is Allie's cousin wanted Allie in their
group but when things did not seem to be working
out for them, Conig came to us and told us about Allie
and asked that we give him a chance with our group. We
all met at Mitchell's Drive-In and Conig introduced us
to Allie. Our group were in Albee's car and we told
Allie to get in and start singing. We knew immediately
that we had found our Bass guy. Now we thought the
Overons were set. But then Philly decided to join the
Navy so we needed a lead singer. One of the guys from
the neighborhood told us about a friend of his named Joe
Strobel. Joe joined the group and we started doing small
shows all around Brooklyn.
Then in 1958, both Strobel and Tony decided to quit the
group. At this point, Phil returned from the Navy and
re-joined the group and we added George Galfo to replace
Tony. The Overons were finally the group that became the
Groups such as Lonnie and the Carollons from Bedford
Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn would come down to Coney
Island to get tattooed and then immediately head for the
Bop House. (It's too bad no one took pictures of the
happenings at this place, but as Allie Contrera recalls
- "If someone did they probably would've gotten the hell
beaten out of them"). The re-formed Overons practiced
the original tunes that Joe Strobel had written (with
the help of the original Overons).
group knew that they were good and went into
looking to audition for a record contract. On their
first audition they were offered a contract by George
Goldner. After speaking to George Goldner, they went
home and ripped up the deal he offered, feeling that
Goldner was not the right person for them. The Overons
would often go into nearby Borough Park to hear The
Neons sing and get advice. The Neons had already
achieved success with "Angel Face" in 1956 and were the
first white doo-wop group to have a hit record. Besides
giving pointers on singing, The Neons told The Overons
to cut some demo recordings for audition purposes.
a local older fellow who said he had "connections" told
The Overons that if they could come up with $1000, he
would get them into a recording studio and on their way.
The Overons took out a loan and in mid-1958 they went
into the Broadway Recording Studio at 1650 Broadway in
Manhattan. They recorded, with musical backing, four
original tunes: "The Bells Are Ringing", "Prayer To An
Angel", "Why Do You Pretend" and "Big Brown Eyes". At
the end of the session The Overons realized they were
being ripped off because $1000 was way too much too pay
for what they had just done. The entrepreneur with
"connections" was soon on his way.
after seeing what happened, the studio owner tried to
console The Overons, telling them they were good and
offering some free recording time should they decide to
come back. Undaunted by the financial setback, The
Overons returned to the studio and cut the same four
original tunes, but this time accapella. In the studio
this day was Jim Gribble, a friend of the owner.
Gribble was a successful lawyer and talent agent down
south until his marriage broke up and he landed in
Manhattan destitute. It took a while for Gribble to land
on his feet, but when he did, he opened up an office in
what now is the Ed Sullivan Building on Broadway and
started to manage vocal talent. Gribble immediately took
a liking to The Overons and told them to stop by his
office as he would be glad to help them get started as a
singing group. Gribble liked The Overons' sound, and
felt he would have no trouble getting this good-looking
group signed to a recording contract.
the name "Overons" had to go. To find a new tag, all
five members wrote one new name they liked on a slip of
paper, and all the papers were put into a hat. Allie
Contrera remembers finding "Mystics" by going through a
dictionary. When his piece of paper was drawn out of the
hat, The Overons became The Mystics. In late 1958,
Gribble secured a recording contract with Laurie Records
for The Mystics using the demo tunes the group had cut.
Upon finding out that they were going to record for
Laurie, the group were ecstatic as this label was the
home of Dion and the Belmonts. Word spread quickly in
Bensonhurst about The Mystics' good fortune.
wasn't long before the local fellow who had ripped off
the group was at Jim Gribble's office, contract in hand,
stating that he was their manager. A closed door meeting
ensued with The Mystics waiting outside nervously. When
the meeting ended, Gribble said he had taken care of the
problem and The Mystics were free of the previous
contract. The Mystics soon recorded two songs for
Laurie, "Adam And Eve", and the old Weavers' tune
"Wimoweh". (When members of the original Overons, and
later The Passions, used to hang out at Bay 3 on
Brighton Beach, they would sing "Wimoweh".
definitely influenced The Tokens who were from Brighton
Beach and who were persuaded to record this song as "The
Lion Sleeps Tonight" in 1961 by producer Bob Feldman.
Feldman was also from Brighton Beach). The Mystics first
efforts were arranged and produced by Elliot Greenberg.
But Laurie was not happy with the results and
commissioned Doc Pomus and Mort Schuman to write an
original tune for the group. Mort Schuman was friends
with The Mystics, as he knew them from Bensonhurst where
he also lived. Soon the Pomus and Schuman team came up
with "A Teenager In Love" for the group, but The Mystics
were quickly disappointed.
Laurie decided to give the material to the already
successful Dion and the Belmonts. Laurie executives felt
that a song more in the style of The Elegants "Little
Star" would be better suited for The Mystics and told
Pomus and Schuman to come up with something else. The
next day, Pomus and Schuman came back with "Hushabye".
Prior to recording "Hushabye" and up to the time that
this record became a huge hit, The Mystics did vocal
back-up work on several recordings at the request of
Laurie Records and Jim Gribble.
group was very happy doing these back-up vocals,
figuring that even if they never did anything else, at
least their voices were now on records and they were
getting paid for it. For Laurie Records, The Mystics
backed up Judy Allen on "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree"
b/w "Sentimental Me", Scott Garrett on "Love Story" b/w
"Graduation Souvenirs", Rusty Lane (real name, Karl Zeeb
Jr..) on "Karen" b/w "Ask The Robin". These four Laurie
releases came out in 1959. Connie Francis' manager
worked on the same floor as Jim Gribble and The Mystics
wound up doing vocal back-up (along with some girls) on
one song cut by Connie Francis. Recorded in 1959, this
side, "Tommy", was released in 1964 on the MGM label.
Also at the behest of Gribble, The Mystics backed up
Rocky Hart on "Come With Me" released in 1959 on the Cub
label. (The flip side of this record, "Everyday"
features vocal back-up by The Passions who were good
friends with The Mystics). What's more, the group
backed up Rocky Hart on two unreleased tunes that no one
now remembers the titles of. (Rocky Hart's release of "I
Played The Part Of A Fool" on Glo Records feature
neither The Passions nor The Mystics). But once
"Hushabye" took off Gribble would not allow The Mystics
to do any more vocal back-ups. In May of 1959 Laurie
released "Hushabye" b/w "Adam And Eve" and within a few
weeks the record was a smash.
Peter Tripp on WMGM radio was the first to play it. Soon
Alan Freed started featuring "Hushabye" as the closing
tune on his televised Saturday night Big Beat Show. In
fact, one night Freed played "Hushabye" four times in a
row! At it's peak, "Hushabye" was Top Ten in most of the
tri-state area, and nationally it climbed to around #20.
The Mystics made an appearance on Clay Cole's TV show
which, at the time, was located in Providence, Rhode
Island. This appearance had much significance later on.
The Mystics became very good friends with Clay Cole and
they became close friends with The Tradewinds who also
appeared on the Providence show.
Tradewinds vocal group would soon change their name to
The Videls. The Mystics also appeared on Jim Gallant's
did record hops in Philadelphia, made Palisades Park
appearances hosted by Cousin Brucie Morrow, did Ted
Steele record hops, appeared on American Bandstand and
on an Alan Freed Stage Show at the Brooklyn Fox. They
went on a Cavalcade Of Stars tour run by the General
was followed up tour to the ill-fated one that claimed
Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens. It ran
from June 12, 1959 to July 5, 1959. Besides The Mystics,
this tour featured Johnny and the Hurricanes, Freddy
Cannon, Frankie Ford, Barbara Evans and Carl Dobkins
Jnr. While on the road doing a string of shows on the
strength of "Hushabye", The Mystics started pressuring
Laurie Records for studio time to record a follow-up
release. Never interested in recording the four tunes
written by the original Overons, Laurie came up with "So
Tenderly" (the supposed "A" side) and "Don't Take The
Stars". Around this time, The Mystics also wanted to
record an album of old standards.
Laurie liked this idea, but unfortunately for The
Mystics, the project was given to Dion and the Belmonts.
In the late summer of 1959, Laurie released The Mystics
second single with "Don't Take The Stars" doing very
well locally and in the tri-state area. Nationally, the
record made the top 60. However, at the recording
session, The Mystics started getting disillusioned with
Elliot Greenberg's arrangements. The group made another
TV appearance with Clay Cole. His show was now on
Channel 13 in New
Around this time, The Mystics recorded "Red Red Robin",
which remains unreleased to this day, and "Paper Moon"
which was released in 1980 on the Crystal Ball LP Laurie
Records - A Full House. In the fall of 1959, Phil
Cracolici exited The Mystics, leaving them with no lead
Jim Gribble's suggestion, Paul Simon (aka Jerry Landis),
who frequently hung around Gribble's office, became The
Mystics' new lead. In January 1960, "All Through The
Night" (with five voices singing together with no
distinct lead), "I Began To Think Of You" and "Let Me
Steal Your Heart Away" were recorded. The Mystics were
now more upset than ever with Elliot Greenberg's
arrangements. "All Through The Night" b/w "I Began To
Think Of You" received some local air play, but soon
Paul Simon left the group to pursue other writing and
Eventually "Let Me Steal Your Heart Away", with Paul
Simon on lead, was released on the Crystal Ball LP
previously mentioned. On March 9th, 1960, The Mystics
appeared on the American Bandstand afternoon show
singing "All Through The Night". On
April 16th, 1960,
the group began a road trip with Alan Freed's final
mid-west tour. The other acts on the tour were: Teddy
Randazzo, Freddy Cannon, Bobby Freeman, The Fireflies,
The Singing Belles, Sonny Til and the Oriols and Eddy
Quinteros. The tour only lasted a couple of weeks and
went bust. No one got paid. With Paul Simon gone, The
Mystics started looking for a new lead voice and had
gone through about 15 auditions when they chose Jay
was very easy for the group to audition singers because
Jim Gribble had a good reputation as "Manager Of The
Stars" that attracted vocal talent to his office. On May
11th, 1960, The Mystics with Jay Traynor on lead
recorded "White Cliffs Of Dover", "Blue Star" and "Over
The Rainbow" at RCA Studios. This was the first time
that Laurie allowed the group to pick and record songs
that they liked. Inspired by The Dell Vikings' version,
they chose "White Cliffs Of Dover", (The Mystics sang
this song often at live shows long before recording it).
Backed with "Blue Star", "White Cliffs Of Dover"
received (at best) local play. "Over The Rainbow"
remained unreleased until the late 80s when Ace Records
issued a Mystics album.
June 23rd, 1960, The Mystics went into
for a photo shoot for an album that Laurie was planning.
Unfortunately, the album never came to be and the group
never saw the photos. Jay Traynor was soon disillusioned
with his job as lead singer, feeling he was never really
part of The Mystics. He believed the other four members
were just putting up with him, hoping their original
lead Phil Cracolici would return - and he was right.
When Traynor decided to leave The Mystics, he met with
Kenny Vance and Sandy Yaguda, who were members of
another Gribble act, The Harborlites. Soon, Jay, Kenny,
Sandy and Howie Kirschenbaum went on to form the
original Jay and the Americans based in Flatbush. In
1961, The Mystics, once again needing a lead singer,
were introduced to Eddie "Shots" Falcone by Lou Rotondo
of The Passions.
Eddie had previously sung in Lou Rotondo's unrecorded
street group, the Del Rays from South Brooklyn. Laurie
felt that "teen tragedy" songs were doing well at this
time, so they recorded The Mystics with Falcone on lead
singing "Star Crossed Lovers" b/w "Goodbye Mister
Blues". Since The Mystics were having no luck with
Elliot Greenberg's arrangements, the label brought in
Stan Vincent to produce this session. Laurie believed
that the younger Vincent might be better able to connect
with the teenage market. It was Vincent who gave
"Goodbye Mister Blues" to The Mystics.
song was also recorded by Billy DeMarco and the
Renditions on the Up label - probably before The
Mystics' version. The Mystics did a few record hops off
this release, but the record didn't even dent the
charts. Shortly thereafter, Eddie Falcone was out of the
group. The Mystics often hung out and sang at Frankie &
Johnnie's bowling alley on 86th
and 16th Avenue. It was here that the group was
approached by a young Ralph Lizano with "Darling I Know
Now", a song he wrote and wanted them to sing. The
Mystics liked it, and asked Ralph to sing lead with them
on it. The group went into the studio and cut "Sunday
Kind Of Love", "Darling I Know Now" and "Again". All
these songs featured Ralph Lizano on lead. Laurie
released "Sunday Kind Of Love" b/w "Darling I Know Now",
but this disc received absolutely no airplay. "Again"
remained unreleased until the aforementioned Crystal
Ball LP. By mid-1961, Bob Ferrante and Albee Cracolici
decided to call it quits and The Mystics stopped
recording and performing.
in 1960, The Mystics were approached by Pete Andreoli
and Vinny Poncia whom they had met in Providence, Rhode
Island in 1959 (Tradewinds) and were asked to record an
original tune, "Mr Lonely", which Andreoli and Poncia
had written for The Mystics. The Mystics declined, so
Andreoli and Poncia recorded it with their own group,
now called The Videls. Of course, The Videls had a big
hit with this release on JDS Records. But by late 1961,
The Videls had broken up, so Allie Contrera and George
Galfo of The Mystics and Pete Andreoli and Vinny Poncia
of The Videls joined forces and performed as both The
Mystics and The Videls. Albee Cracolici also sang with
this group for a short time.
one point they added a girl named Rose to help them
emulate the sound of The Skyliners. To help with
personal appearances, Pete and Vinny borrowed brown
suits from two of the inactive Mystics, and the group
appeared on Clay Cole's show as The Mystics singing
"Darling I Know Now". The next week they returned to
Cole's show (in the same brown suits) as The Videls. At
first Clay Cole had a fit and told them they couldn't
possibly go on the show. But Cole relented and so the
same guys appeared first as The Mystics and then as The
Videls singing "A Letter From Ann". (This Videls tune
was recorded for Kapp Records with Pete and Vinny over
dubbing their own voices).
late 1963, Pete Andreoli and Vinny Poncia released "Hand
Clappin' Time Part 1 and Part 2" on Big Top Records.
There is a vocal group on this release made up of Phil,
Albee, Allie and George of The Mystics. Pete and Vinny
also recorded some singles under their original name,
The Tradewinds, on Red Bird Records in 1965 and had a
hit with "New
A Lonely Town", Red Bird also released "The Part Starts
At Nine", a collectors favourite. It's no wonder that
this is a very collectable record because the group
backing Pete and Vinny up here are the same Mystics
members that backed them up on their Big Top release.
Around this time, The Mystics recorded "In My Faithful
Heart" and "Save A Dream". The first song remains
unreleased to this day, but in 1980 Crystal Ball Records
released a Videls album that mistakenly included "Save A
Dream". This song was on a master tape that came from a
box with "Videls" written on it. The original Mystics
were inactive from the mid-'60s until the rock and roll
revival hit in 1969-70. For a while, the original five
members did the revival circuit. Shortly thereafter
George Galfo moved to Florida and the group needed new
a while, the replacements were Joe Esposito, Bruce
Sudano and Eddie Hockinson. They sang and played musical
instruments. During the early 1970s, Allie Contrera
received a call from Andreoli and Poncia who had
relocated to California. They wanted Allie to come out
west for a big project they were working on. Allie
declined the invite, but in his place he sent Joe
Esposito, soon followed by Bruce Sudano and Eddie
Hockinson. These three were known as "Brooklyn Dreams"
and wound up being Donna Summers' back-up group. Bruce
Sudano eventually married Donna Summers. Kenny
Vance used Brooklyn Dreams as The Planetones in the
movie American Hot Wax and they are still performing as
Kenny Vance and the Planetones.
the mid-1970s to 1990, the main replacement singers in
The Mystics were John Tarangelo, Joey Napoli and Emil
Stuccio. (Emil being the original lead singer of The
Classics). In the winter of 1981, The Mystics cut an
album called Crazy For You for the Ambient Sound label.
For these recordings, the group consisted of Phil
Cracolici, Albee Cracolici, Al Contrera, John Tarangelo
and also original member Bob Ferrante. On this album The
Mystics recut three Overons original tunes: "Prayer To
An Angel", "Why Do You Pretend" and "The Bells Are
Ringing". In June of 1982, Bob Ferrante moved to
In 1989 the album entitled "They
Sang In Brooklyn" was released. This album featured all
unreleased sides from the 1950s and early 1960s by some
of the old Brooklyn groups. The Overons' 1958
accapella version of "The Bells Are Ringing" is the lead
off song on this LP, and epitomizes what a white
Brooklyn streetcorner group should have sounded like in
the late 1950s/early 60s.