96 Tears

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"96 Tears"
Single by ? & the Mysterians
from the album 96 Tears
B-side "Midnight Hour"
Released February 1966
Format 7" 45 RPM
Genre Garage rock, protopunk
Length 2:56
Label Cameo-Parkway Records
Writer(s) Rudy Martinez
Producer(s) Rudy Martinez

"96 Tears" is a popular song recorded by Question Mark & the Mysterians (also known as "? and the Mysterians") in 1966. In October of that year, it hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and on the RPM 100 in Canada. Billboard ranked the record as the No. 5 song for 1966.[1] It is ranked #213 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The song was originally written by Question Mark (Rudy Martinez) about 1962[citation needed] and recorded in Bay City, Michigan. It was first released on the small Pa-Go-Go label and then picked up by Cameo Records for national distribution.

Known for its signature organ licks and bare-bones lyrics, "96 Tears" is widely recognized as one of the first garage band hits, and has even been given credit for starting the punk rock movement.[2]

The song appeared on the band's album, 96 Tears. The follow-up song "I Need Somebody" peaked at number 22 later that year, but no other U.S. Top 40 singles followed.


  • ? – lead vocals[3]
  • Bobby Balderrama – lead guitar
  • Frank Rodriguez – Vox Continental organ
  • Frank Lugo – bass guitar
  • Eddie Serrato – drums


The song has been covered by the following artists:

The Stranglers' cover version reached No. 17 in the UK Singles Chart in 1990.[4]

It is alluded to in the song "Plus Ones" by folk band Okkervil River and also by the B-52's in "Deadbeat Club". Other allusions to "96 Tears" occur in the songs "This Beat Goes On/Switchin' To Glide" by the Kings, "Johnny Hit and Run Pauline" by X, "Human Fly" by the Cramps and "My Arrow's Aim" by Rocket from the Crypt. One possible homage is heard in a later section of "Lovin' Machine" by the Easybeats. In literature, the song plays a prominent part in Stephen King's 1999 novella Hearts in Atlantis.


  1. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1966
  2. ^ Fred Bronson (October 1, 2003). Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th ed.). Billboard Books U.S. p. ?. ISBN 978-0823076772. 
  3. ^ "Question Mark: Library of Congress copyright registrations indicate that his birth name is Rudy Martinez". 96tears.net. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  4. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 535. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
Preceded by
"Reach Out I'll Be There" by The Four Tops
US Billboard Hot 100 number one single
October 29, 1966 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Last Train to Clarksville" by The Monkees
Preceded by
"See See Rider" by Eric Burdon & The Animals
Canadian RPM number-one single
October 31, 1966 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Last Train to Clarksville" by The Monkees