? & the Mysterians

Question Mark in 1997, stylin’!


One of my proudest moments as a bar owner was back in ’98 when we got Camel cigarettes to pay for our Christmas party at the Lakeside Lounge (nowadays, in NY State it’s illegal to take advertising money from cigarette companies), which allowed us to hire perhaps the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world at the time (and maybe still are, their only competition being the Stooges)– ? & the Mysterians to grace the tiny stage of the Lakeside Lounge. They were great in 1966 when they first released 96 Tears on the Pa-Go-Go label out of Bay City, Michigan (it would go to #1 when Cameo leased it the same year), and they have been great ever since. They’ve never changed their sound, they sound exactly like their original records. Front man– ? (name on his passport Rudy Martinez) was born on Mars, where they all wear cool sunglasses,

and arrived on earth to settle in Flint, Michigan. It was there he joined up with the Mysterians, a Chicano quartet made up of brother Robert Martinez (drums), Frank Rodriguez (organ), Robert Balderama (guitar) and Frank Lugo (bass).
Anway, Dr. Ike is presenting another Ponderosa Stomp in New York, celebrating the music of Detroit this coming weekend. ? & the Mysterians will be appearing as part of the show at the Damrosch Park Bandshell in Lincoln Center, the bill goes like this: 5 PM- Death, 6 PM- the Gories, 7:15 PM- ? & the Mysterians, 8:30 PM- Mitch Ryder. Earlier that day at the Hearst/Barclays Capitol Grove will be a Detroit Soul Review, also part of the Ponderosa Stomp series, Eddie Kirkland plays at 2 PM followed by the Motor City Soul Review (Dennis Coffey, Melvin Davis, Spyder Turner and the Velvettes) at 2:30 PM. More info here (the Lincoln Center info sight) and here (the Detroit Breakdown page on the Ponderosa Stomp sight).

25 thoughts on “? & the Mysterians”

  1. I think 1998 was the first time i saw them perform. At The Middle East in Boston (well, Cambridge.) I've caught them several times over the years now, and they are still one of, if not THEE greatest live acts i have ever seen. Real nice guys too. Class act all the way.

  2. My surf band opened for ? in the late nineties at the Exit in , in Nashville and I can attest to the fact that they still sound the way they did in the 60s. The coolest thing about it was they were using peavey amps kramer guitars korg keyboards, it all looked wrong, then music starts and it sounds just like the records!!! Great show!The other very funny thing that happened that night was backstage a local so-called “music writer”( sorry hound most of these so called writers are know nothing twerps, this one famously described as having the perfect body for a geek) is talking with Rudy and Rudy thinking well if this guy writes about music he must be a mover and shaker in the biz says to the writer”Here's a song I wrote, I think this would be a good song for Trace Adkins”, a then hot country singer,he then launches into a 2 chord song that sounds just like every other song he's ever written!I don't remember if it was about cheatin or drinkin but the image of Trace Adkins, a 6 foot 4 monster singing a mysterians raver was very weird.

  3. ” The coolest thing about it was they were using peavey amps kramer guitars korg keyboards, it all looked wrong, then music starts and it sounds just like the records!!! “The mysterious X factor of it all! I see all these guys w/beautiful vintage gear and they sound just like every other mediocre player, and they the old timers can just take any instrument and plug in and sound just like themselves, which just goes to show, the sound is in the person, not the gear.

  4. Yeah, the Mysterians are as great as the old days. In fact, they're probably better.One of my fondest memories was seeing people agape as ? strolled down St. Mark's Place one afternoon before a gig.PJL

  5. “Anyone know why the Pa-Go-Go label has a San Antonio mailing address?”That's originally where they're from before relocating to Flint, Michigan.

  6. It's such a god damn shame people like ? Mark, The Animals, Herman's Hermits etc aren't making a penny off of their stuff because clowns like the estate of Allen Klein own the rights to their music. The Stones can afford to to take the hit on losing the first 6 years of their recording career, where does that leave guys like ? Mark? Still out on the road doing what they've always done….playing rock n' roll.

  7. For sure that was a great Lakeside gig. I remember working on the show ahead of time asking if they needed a Farfisa. The keyboard player Frank was happy to use anything but a Farfisa which he referred to as a piece of crap. Saginaw, MI!

  8. they ripped it up after the stomp on saturday at the great jones cafe(square footage about the size of a nyc apt living room). ? sat outside in the band van until about 45 minutes into the set, then joined the band inside and tore the place down.

  9. That Lincoln Center show was The Bomb! I'm ashamed to say I'd never seen ? & the Mysterians live before and was astonished to hear them play harder, with more fire & commitment, than most bands half (or less) their age. The two soul ballads, “That's How Strong My Love Is” (O.V. Wright) and “Try Me” (James Brown), were outstanding. ?'s ability to make something fresh and unique from these songs was uncanny…One of the greatest r&r front persons on the planet!

  10. I just saw this, really cool, Jim. I wish I'd seen you at the show, I ran across you in one of Michelles pictures. Hope you and Gillian are doing great. Heather

  11. ” I wish I'd seen you at the show”I did see you standing on the side of the stage, but I was a bit too far away to get your attention. Sorry I missed you.

  12. Thanks for this post. “96 Tears” is one of my all-time favs (it's one of those evocative tunes for me). But had NO idea ? and the Mysterians were still out there rocking. Interesting how they are smart enough to leave well enough (perfect, actually) alone and not mess with the tune that made them. Too many bands act like they've become TOO GOOD to play their old hits the way they recorded them.

  13. Saw the band several years ago, and they blew my mind. Amazing. Totally rocked it out, these guys are the antithesis of stereotypical old '60s rockers…most old rock veterans are just TOO old, TOO slow, too crappy, but not these guys. It was time machine time, and they still had the energy and the skills. This was maybe 5 years ago. By the way, superb MI musician lineup on that show, but ? and the band aren't from Detroit, they were/are from Flint, which is 50 or more miles from Detroit itself.

  14. See my circa-2000 (or late '99) Goldmine article on MI garage bands for more on the recording and initial release of 96 Tears. I had to be selective about the ? quotes I used, as he said some rather exceptionally unusual things to me, though his factual recall was amazing. I am guessing that the woman who had Pa-Go-Go just had a TX tie-in of some sort. Though the Cameo LP has the usual “recorded in Philadelphia” falsehood on it, ? said that it was the same recording as the initial one made in Saginaw. Philadelphia had nothing to do with anything.

Spit it out, partner...

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