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From the Land of Band Box Records

The Mystics

What do Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel and Jay Traynor of Jay & The Americans have in common?

They both briefly were the lead singer for the Mystics!

WFMU's Rock 'n' Soul Ichiban!: Jerry Landis Belongs in the Hall of ...Passings: Jay Traynor of the Mystics and Jay and the Americans ...

The Mystics started off in Brooklyn, New York as the “Overons” but settled down with a name change and a record label – Laurie Records with Robert Ferrante, Phil Cracolici, Albee Cracolici, George Galfo and Allie Contrera being recognized as the stable first lineup,   The group scouted around for opportunities and were taken to the cleaners when a promoter convinced them to raise a thousand dollars in order to enter a recording studio.

Pre-Mystics included Tony Carosella, Tony Armato, Joe Strobel and a few others.

The session resulted in four recordings but the Overons were now broke and were no better off than before they entered the studio.  The next connected with Jim Gribble who heard them in the studio was a talent scout and liked their sound and so went to bat for them first getting them to decide on a new name – which they did – coming up with “The Mystics” and then securing a record label deal with Laurie Records.

They took their demonstration tracks to Laurie so not all was lost for their thousand dollar misadventure.  Their first Laurie session resulted in two songs “Wimoweh” and “Adam and Eve”.  “Wimoweh” preceded the version which would become a hit for a group out of Brighton Beach, The Tokens and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

The Tokens - The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Original Recordings) - KKBOX

“Adam and Eve” was okay but Laurie wanted something a bit better for an “A” side and so approached two Brill Building composers – Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman.  Mort was familiar with the group due to living in the same neighborhood.

Shuman & Pomus

Seemed like a good plan and Doc and Mort quickly delivered a gem “Teenager In Love”.  But Laurie management stepped in and decided to give the song to another group in their stable – Dion and the Belmonts who had already hit with “I Wonder Why”, “No One Knows” and “Don’t Pity Me”.

A disappointed group of Mystics didn’t have to wait long.  Laurie suggested that something more along the lines of “Little Star” which was recorded by the Elegants in June of 1958 released on the Apt record label – a subsidiary of ABC-Paramount Records.

The very next day Mort and Doc delivered “Hushabye” and the Mystics had their hit record.

Laurie had been keeping the Mystics busy with back-up sessions for other musicians (see discography), but now with a record climbing the charts, attention was turned back to the group itself.  The group was hopeful that they would be permitted to record a full album – but once again Laurie provided that opportunity instead to Dion and the Belmonts.

There would be many program appearances around the New York and New Jersey area and some national exposure.  The group next came into the studio to record “All Through the Night” and they were now joined by Paul Simon who often frequented the office of the group’s manager.  Paul sang on “All Through the Night” and took the lead part on “Let Me Steal Your Heart Away”.  Some sources site Simon as making a “guest appearance” with the Mystics but more informed sources state that Paul was definitely a member of the group though for a short time.

“Last Night I Took A Walk After Dark”

By the Spring of 1960 – Simon was gone to be replaced by Jay Traynor future lead singer for “Jay and the Americans”.  He would front the group leading on three tracks.  Traynor didn’t remain for long – feeling that he was an outsider.  He departed to join some members of a group called “The Harbor Lights” to form Jay and the Americans.

The Original Harbor Lights

The Mystics would next select Eddie Falcone as their new lead voice.  He had been a member of a group called the “Del Rays”.  Again, the Mystics would quickly lose yet another lead with Falcone moving on.  Enter song writer Ralph Lizano who had a song for the group which they liked “Darling I Know Now” – and they apparently were impressed with Lizano and so he took lead duties for the song along with two others.

In a rather strange move George Galfo and Allie Contrera of the Mystics joined forces with two members of a group called “The Videls” – Pete Andreoli and Vinny Poncia to perform as either the Videls or the Mystics!  The four were even joined by a female singer for a short time in order to obtain a sound close to the popular Pennsylvania group the Skyliners.  Andreoli and Poncia were both members of the “Trade Winds” of “New York’s A Lonely Town” fame.

They also recorded as “The Innocence” and as “Pete and Vinnie” In 1963 when they released a song on Big Top “Hand Clapin’ Time” with members of the Mystics backing them.

The Videls with Andreoli and Poncia

Change continued for the Mystics and more singers would pass through including Joe Esposito, Eddie Hockinson and Bruce Sudano – all with the group in the 1970’s.  Those three would travel to California and become the trio “Brooklyn Dreams” and found work singing background for disco singer Donna Summer!  Sudano took it a little further, marrying Donna!

Bruce Sudano, Donna Summer's Widow, Releases Political New Song ...

Summer and Sudano

Bruce Sudano would become a member of “Alive ‘n’ Kicking”, a group out of Brooklyn (where else?) formed in 1968 – Bruce was a teenager at the time.

Sudano with Alive ‘n’ Kicking (4th from Left)

Further, the three former Mystics appeared in the 1978 motion picture “American Hot Wax” appearing as “Professor LaPlano and the Planotones” performing “Rock and Roll is Here To Stay” (below)

The Planotones

As time rolled on into the following decades, John Tarangelo, Emil Stuccio and Joey Napoli would all supplement the Mystics at appearances.  Tarangelo teamed up with earlier Mystics Bob Ferrante, Phil Cracolici, Albe Cracolici and Al Contrera to record an album in 1981.

The Mystics Selected Discography

45 – Laurie 3028 – Hushabye – Number 20 Hot 100 b/w Adam and Eve – April, 1958

45 – Laurie 3038 – Don’t Take The Stars – Number 98 Hot 100 b/w So Tenderly – September, 1959

45 – Laurie 3047 – All Through The Night – Number 107 Bubbling Under Charts b/w (I Begin) To Think Again Of You – February, 1960

Paul Simon on lead vocals

45 – Laurie 3058 – White Cliffs Of Dover b/w Blue Star – June, 1960

Jay Traynor on lead vocals

45 – Laurie 3086 – Goodbye Mr. Blues b/w Star Crossed Lovers – March, 1961

45 – Laurie 3104 – A Sunday Kind Of Love b/w Darling I Know – August, 1961

45 – Roulette 7078 – Alive and Kicking – Tighter and Tighter – Number 7 Hot 100 b/w Sunday Morning – May, 1970

45 – Roulette 7087 – Alive and Kicking – Just Let It Come – Number 69 Hot 100 b/w Mother Carey’s Chicken – September, 1970

45 – Roulette 7094 – Alive ‘N’ Kicking – London Bridge b/w You Gave Me Something – December, 1970

LP – Roulette 42052 – Alive ‘N’ Kickin’ – Alive ‘N’ Kickin – Number 129 Hot 200 – 1970

45 – Millennium 606 – The Brooklyn Dreams – Sad Eyes Number 63 Hot 100 b/w Hollywood Circles – December, 1977

LP – Millennium 8002 – Brooklyn Dreams – 1977

45 –  Millennium 610 – The Brooklyn Dreams – Music, Harmony and Rhythm – Number 57 Hot 100 b/w Old Fashioned Girl – February, 1978

45 – Casablanca 959 – Donna Summer with the Brooklyn Dreams – Heaven Knows – Number 4 Hot 100 – Number 10 R&B b/w Only One Man – December, 1978

45 – Casablanca 962 – The Brooklyn Dreams – Make It Last – Number 69 Hot 100 b/w Long Distance – January, 1979

LP – Casablanca 7135 – The Brooklyn Dreams – Sleepless Nights – Number 151 Hot 200 – 1979

LP – Casablanca 7165 – The Brooklyn Dreams – Joy Ride – 1979

Tape Cassette LP – Laurie 7200 – Collector’s Records Of The 50’s and 60’s Vol. 6 – with Goodbye Mister Blues – 1979

LP – Casablanca 7226 – The Brooklyn Dream – Won’t Let Go – 1980

45 – Ambient Sound 2871 – Now That Summer Is Here b/w Prayer To An Angel – April, 1982

LP – Ambient Sound 37716 – Crazy For You – 1982

45 EP – They Sang In Brooklyn 2/502 – Big Brown Eyes (plus three by others) – June, 1992

45 – Laurie 3025 – Judy Allen (with the Mystics) – Sentimental Me b/w Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree – March, 1959

45 – Laurie 3029 – Scott Garrett (with the Mystics) – Love Story b/w Graduation Souvenirs – May, 1959

45 – Laurie 3031 – Rusty Lane (with the Mystics) – Comes The Day b/w Karen – July, 1959

Karl Zeeb Jr.

45 – Cub 9052 – Rocky Hart (with the Mystics) – Come With Me – October, 1959 (flip side has The Passions backing up Hart)

45 – Big Top 3155 – Pete Andreoli and Vinnie Poncia with Members of the Mystics – Hand Clappin’ Time (Part 1) b/w Hand Clappin’ Time (Part 2) – July, 1963

45 – MGM 13227 – Connie Francis (with the Mystics) – Tommy – April, 1964

 

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