During the fifties rock ‘n’ roll explosion many vocal groups walked into the studio off the street where many had performed to create their sound. New York’s poorer street corners like the ones in the Bronx were home predominantly to black and Italian communities that would like to socialise and vocalise. There were already several R&B vocal groups that found success from both the east and west coasts during the fifties. Apart from the odd one hit wonders there was only one white group to make the big time alongside The Platters, The Drifters and The Coasters. That group being Dion And The Belmonts.
Dion DiMucci was born in the Bronx, New York in 1939; he was to become the quintessential Italian-American New York rocker. The career of this legendary star was to span five decades with many musical styles. Between 1958 and 1960 Dion And The Belmonts were one of the leading doo-wop groups. The Belmonts comprised of Angelo D’Aleo, Carlo Mastrangelo, and Freddie Milano, all three also born and bred in the Bronx. Their slick Italian style rivaled the black harmony groups that dominated the era. Dion with the Belmonts had nine U.S. hits in the two-year period at the end of the fifties. 1958 saw ‘I Wonder Why’ coupled with ‘Teen Angel’ enter the Billboard Hot Hundred spending thirteen weeks and peaking at number 22. The follow up ‘No One Knows’ made the top twenty, reaching number 19 and charting for 16 weeks. Dion had become the hottest property in white doo-wop and Dion and The Belmonts were a hot live act. Dressed in sharp suits and with Italian good looks they had everything going for them. Early in 1959 they were on the nationwide ‘Winter Dance Party’ tour with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valence and The Big Bopper. In February Dion turned down the offer of a seat on the plane that carried Holly, Valence and The Big Bopper to their death. April 1959 saw the release of ‘A Teenager In Love’, which became a massive top five hit in the U.S. and also internationally, although cover versions by Craig Douglas and Marty Wild outstripped it in Britain. A non-EP track ‘Where Or When’ gave them a top three U.S. hit in late 1959. ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ made the top thirty in April 1960, but by then the classic doo-wop partnership had come to an end. Dion left the Belmonts for a solo career in 1960 scoring a big hit with ‘Lonely Teenager’ #12 in October, more hits followed, both ‘Runaround Sue’ (#1 September 1961) and ‘The Wanderer’ (#2 December 1961) became classics of the era as well as great dance records. Dion managed to sustain his hit rate into 1963 with nine U.S. Chart hits from 1961 to 1963.
In 1963 Dion left the Laurie label and signed to Columbia the hits continued, but after the British beat invasion of 1964 his career began to slip. Fighting years of heroin addiction Dion droped out of the limelight and after kicking the habit made a short reunion with The Belmonts in 1967 and Dion made a very successful comeback in 1968 ‘Abraham, Martin And John’ peaking at number four on the Hot Hundred and once more on the Laurie label. During the seventies Dion recorded several albums for Warner Brothers and in 1973 reunited with The Belmonts for a triumphant Madison Square Gardens show and a successful ‘Reunion’ album.
These ‘Extended Play’ sides will evoke nostalgic memories, not only from the music of the day but fond memories of the EP’s they came from.