The Belmonts are an American doo-wop group from the Bronx, New York, that originated in the mid 1950's. The original group consisted of Fred Milano, Angelo D'Aleo and Carlo Mastrangelo. They took their name from Belmont Avenue in the Bronx, the street Milano lived on. There were several stages in their history, including the 1958–1960 period with Dion DiMucci, when the group was named Dion and the Belmonts. At this time Mastrangelo sang the bass parts, Milano the second tenor, D'Aleo the falsetto, and DiMucci did lead vocals.
1955 to 1960Edit
The Belmonts very first single, "Teenage Clementine" / "Santa Margherita", was recorded in 1957 for Mohawk Records. Also recording on the Mohawk label was Dion DiMucci, who joined the group as lead vocalist shortly after. Now known as Dion and the Belmonts, they recorded, "We Went Away" / "Tag Along", on Mohawk before leaving for the newly formed Laurie Records.
Their first release on Laurie, "I Wonder Why", was recorded at New York's Bell Sound Studios and brought them immediate success. Released the first week of May, 1958, it was on the national charts two weeks later, charting the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 22. It led to their first appearance on the nationally televised American Bandstand show, hosted by Dick Clark. They followed with the ballads, "No One Knows" (No. 19) and "Don’t Pity Me" (No. 40), which they also performed on Bandstand. In 1959, Dion and The Belmonts were part of the historic Winter Dance Party tour that lost three performers in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa; Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson "The Big Bopper". DiMucci was offered a seat on the plane by Holly, but thought the fee of $36 was too much for such a short plane ride and declined. Photographs taken at the concert the night before the accident show Holly filling in on drums for the Belmonts, whose drummer had frostbite. After the plane crash, Bobby Vee, then an unknown, was asked to perform in Buddy Holly’s place. Later, Jimmy Clanton, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian were hired to finish the tour in place of the three deceased headliners.
Shortly after the tragedy, the quartet hit again with, "A Teenager in Love". It became the groups first release to break the Top Ten, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their appearance on American Bandstand was without D'Aleo, however, who was on duty with the Navy. At various times the group performed without him. During one national TV appearance on Clark's Saturday night program ("Live from the little theater on 44th St. in Manhattan"), he was filmed in navy uniform, arriving just in time for the filming session. There were several picture sleeves from this era that did not picture D'Aleo, although he performed on all recordings.
Dion and The Belmonts recorded and charted a few more songs, including their biggest hit, "Where or When", which climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1960. The flip side, "That's My Desire", highlighting D'Aleo's soaring falsetto, also received considerable airplay. This time their appearance on American Bandstand again featured all four members.
- See also Dion and the Belmonts
1960 to 1971Edit
Due to musical differences between DiMucci and the Belmonts, Dion decided to leave the group. "They wanted to get into their harmony thing, and I wanted to rock and roll," said Dion. DiMucci was also struggling with a heroin problem at the time. They continued as "The Belmonts", with Mastrangelo now singing lead. In January, 1961, before leaving the Laurie label, they released their own rendition of "We Belong Together", covering the Robert and Johnny classic. The song bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100, charting at No. 108. Although not a hit, it is valued today. The Belmonts continued to record throughout the 1960s on the Sabina, United Artists, and Dot record labels. The trio had six songs on the US Top 100 between 1961 and 1963. Their greatest, "Tell Me Why", released in May 1961 on the Sabrina (aka Sabina) label, reached No. 18. Other charted songs included, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore", "I Need Someone", "Come On Little Angel", "Diddle-Dee-Dum", and "Ann-Marie". The single, "C'mon Everybody (Do You Wanna Dance)", received enough airplay on NYC radio station WINS, that it was re-recorded and used as the sound bite introduction for deejay Murray the K's "Triple Play" segments. The group's rare and highly collectible album from this period, "The Belmonts: Carnival of Hits", was released on October 1, 1962, and consisted solely of their Sabina recordings. These songs have often been reissued in combination with other "Dion and the Belmonts" recordings through the years.
After the hit, "Come On Little Angel", a split developed within the group concerning the finances of their privately owned label, Sabina Records. Mastrangelo left and was replaced by Frank Lyndon. Mastrangelo attempted a solo career on Laurie Records, releasing four singles under the name "Carlo". He was backed vocally by the uncredited Tremonts (also known as The Demilles). His most notable recording, though unsuccessful, being "Stranger in My Arms", written by Ernie Maresca. The flip side, "Ring-A-Ling", was a favorite of New York disc jockey Murray Kaufman. He featured it on his weekly "Record Review Board Contest", and it clearly won as the best new release. In 1963 Carlo recorded an up-tempo rock 'n' roll version of "Mairzy Doats" which was very different from the original. Another release, "Baby Doll", received considerable airplay in Florida, but didn't make the national charts. Between 1964 and 1966 Mastrangelo was also DiMucci's occasional songwriting partner, backup vocalist, and drummer in the group, "Dion and the Wanderers". They released three singles for Columbia Records, making national appearances on Dick Clark's, "Where The Action Is", and "The Lloyd Thaxton Show". In late 1966, the three original Belmonts, Mastrangelo, Milano, and D'Aleo, reunited with DiMucci and released the album, "Dion & The Belmonts Together Again", for ABC Records. Mastrangelo also played drums, while DiMucci contributed guitar to reduce the need for additional session musicians. Shortly after, DiMucci left the Belmonts again, with Frank Lyndon returning. Lyndon continued as lead singer for the next five years, being replaced by Warren Gradus in the early 1970s. Later, they became a quartet with Milano, D'Aleo, Gradus, and Daniel Elliott (née Rubado, ex-The Monterays, Glenn Miller Orchestra) who joined in 1974.
In 1968, D'Aleo and Milano composed the lyrics for a vocal version of the instrumental theme to the Mission:Impossible TV series, which was recorded by the Kane Triplets and released by United Artists Records.
1972 to 1990Edit
Mastrangelo, D'Aleo, Milano, and DiMucci reunited on June 2, 1972, at the Felt Forum in New York, for a Richard Nader "Rock and Roll Revival" concert. Their live performance was released as an album by Warner Brothers titled, "Dion and The Belmonts – Reunion: Live at Madison Square Garden 1972". However, there were no new studio recordings made with The Belmonts and Dion, as DiMucci was still contracted to Warner as a solo artist. A year later, in 1973, all four original members reunited once again, doing a sold out concert at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, New York. No recording of the 1973 reunion was ever released. In 1972 the Belmonts (Milano, Gradus, D'Aleo, and friends) recorded an a cappella album, "Cigars, Acappella, Candy", for Buddah Records. It was distinguished for its medley of 13 doo-wop tracks called "Street Corner Symphony". Mastrangelo and Lyndon, their two former lead singers from the 1960s, also did backing vocals on the a cappella album. In 1975, The Belmonts (Milano, D'Aleo, Gradus, and Elliott) released one single on Laurie Records, and an album called "Cheek to Cheek" for Strawberry Records the following year. In 1981, The Belmonts recorded a single with Freddy Cannon, entitled "Let's Put the Fun Back in Rock and Roll", for MiaSound Records. The record charted for four weeks, peaking at #81 on Billboard.
With their newly charted record, The Belmonts and Freddy Cannon appeared on Solid Gold and The Mike Douglas Show, as well as others to promote the single. They also had a musical role in H. B. Halicki's 1982 movie The Junkman. Later in 1981, The Belmonts and Cannon joined forces in New York with Bo Diddley on guitar. Together they recorded the track "Shake It Sally", which was released in 1982 on the "Rock 'n Roll Traveling Show" album (Downtown D-20001).
Mastrangelo released a progressive jazz-rock album in 1972 on Thimble Records titled, "Pulse-featuring Carlo Mastrangelo". It received a small amount of airplay on New York rock stations WPLJ, and WLIR, but overall was unsuccessful. DiMucci also recorded with a group of Belmonts in the mid 1980s - consisting of Mastrangelo, Louis Colletti, and Tommy Moran (Colletti and Moran were backing vocalists on DiMucci's 1992 album entitled Dream On Fire). Meanwhile, D'Aleo left the original group, leaving the trio of Milano, Gradus, and Elliott. Art Loria also joined for singing duties in the mid- to late 1980s. Loria was later active in The Jive Five, Larry Chance and the Earls and Doo Wop All Stars; he died on October 23, 2010, In 1988 the Belmonts released a Christmas album called "The Belmonts Acappella Christmas" with songs written by George David Weiss and appeared with Weiss on the The Joe Franklin Show to promote it.
Dan Elliot and Warren Gradus also moonlighted on Laurie Records in the late 1970s under the alias, Foreign Intrigue, releasing three singles.
In 1994, a lawsuit was filed by Fred Milano and Warren Gradus claiming trademark infringement against DiMucci, Mastrangelo, and D'Aleo. The suit alleged that while DiMucci had agreed to reunite with Milano, he had also simultaneously agreed to take part in a reunion with Mastrangelo and D'Aleo. Milano won the lawsuit.
In December 2009, The Belmonts released the Christmas single "The Bell That Couldn't Jingle". In 2009 The Belmonts also released the CD, The Belmonts Anthology Vol.1 Featuring A Hundred Pounds of Clay. "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" was released as a CD single in 2010.
The Belmonts, featuring Elliot, Milano, Gradus and D'Aleo, performed 50 to 100 shows each year until 2011. Milano, who had participated in every one of the Belmonts' recording sessions dating back 54 years, passed away on January 1, 2012, at the age of 72.
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