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? & the Mysterians

From Academic Kids

? & the Mysterians were an American garage rock band from the mid 1960s, best known for their #1 hit "96 Tears". The leader of the group was Question Mark (real name Rudy Martinez), who later legally changed his name to ?.

?'s eccentric behavior helped establish the group in the national consciousness for a period. He claims to be a Martian who lived with dinosaurs in a past life, and never appears in public without his sunglasses. He also claims that voices told him he would still be performing "96 Tears" in 10,000. Musically, the group was notable for its innovative use of organs, as well as being one of the first major Latino rock groups.

Robert Balderrama (guitar) and Robert Martinez (drums) formed the band in 1962, soon adding Frank Rodriguez (organ) and ? (vocals), who was Robert's brother, Rudy. The Mexican musicians were born in Texas but grew up in Michigan and began playing in 1964. Borjas and Martinez were soon drafted, and Frank Lugo (bass) and Eddie Serrato (drums) replaced them. ? soon wrote the song that would become their first and only hit.

With Rodriguez's Vox organ introduction and its plaintive chorus, "96 Tears" broke out rapidly and strained the limited facilites of local Pa-Go-Go Records which had originally pressed only 750 copies. The song became a regional hit in the Flint and Detroit area. ? licensed the record to Cameo-Parkway Records because their label was his favorite color, orange. The song was quickly a huge hit, as was their debut album, 96 Tears. (According to ?, Rodriguez did not play the Farfisa organ as was widely reported.) "Action", the group's follow-up, was not as successful and the band signed with Capitol Records, followed by Tangerine Records and Super K, all to little avail. In the meantime, "96 Tears" became part of the standard rock band repetory.

In the early 1970s, ? & the Mysterians reformed but once again was unable to attract much attention. ? became a dog breeder until the band reconvened in 1978, playing a reunion concert in Dallas, Texas. Still unable to attract much attention, the group disbanded again until the voices from the future told ? to reform the band in 1997. Unable to secure the rights to their own recordings, the Mysterians re-recorded their original album and released it again. Do You Feel It Baby?, a live album, was released in 1998 with moderate success.

The group named itself after the 1959 Japanese science-fiction film "The Mysterians", in which aliens from the ravaged planet Mysteriod come to take over Earth.

The name of the group provided inspiration for naming an important new branch of the philosophy of mind (New Mysterianism).

Syndicated prognosticator Dr. Quentin Mark Mysterian almost certainly named himself after the band.

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