96 Tears

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"96 Tears"
Cover of the 1966 Italy single
Single by ? & the Mysterians
from the album 96 Tears
B-side "Midnight Hour"
Released 1966 (1966)
Format 7"
Length 2:56
Writer(s) Rudy Martinez
Producer(s) Rudy Martinez
Certification Gold (RIAA)
? & the Mysterians singles chronology
"96 Tears"
"I Need Somebody"

"96 Tears" is a song recorded by the American garage rock band, Question Mark & the Mysterians (also known as "? and the Mysterians"), in 1966. In October of that year, it was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.[5] and on the RPM 100 in Canada.[6] Billboard ranked the record as the number five song for the year 1966.[7] It is ranked number 213 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. On November 11, 1966 the single was certified as gold by the RIAA.[8]

The song was written by Question Mark (Rudy Martinez) in 1962 in his manager's living room, under the name "Too Many Teardrops" and then "69 Tears". Upon changing the name, in fear of loss of radio play, it was recorded in Bay City, Michigan.[9] At first, Question Mark had to insist that "96 Tears" be the A-side over "Midnight Hour". Once the issue was settled, the band recorded the single for the small Pa-Go-Go label, owned by Lilly Gonzalez. She backed the band financially, and allowed access to her personal studio in her basement. When it began doing well locally, the band took a recording to Bob Dell, the radio director in Flint, Michigan. The song became the most requested, and wider radio play spread into Canada where it was picked up by Cameo Records for national distribution.[10][11]

Known for its signature organ licks and bare-bones lyrics, "96 Tears" is recognized as one of the first garage band hits, and has even been given credit for starting the punk rock movement.[12]

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.[13]




  1. ^ Bill Dahl (28 February 2011). Motown: The Golden Years: More than 100 rare photographs. Krause Publications. p. 300. ISBN 1-4402-2783-7. Retrieved 16 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (8 November 1997). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 68. ISSN 00062510. Retrieved 16 October 2015. 
  3. ^ Gary Hartman (8 March 2008). The History of Texas Music. Texas A&M University Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-1-60344-002-8. Retrieved 16 October 2015. 
  4. ^ Tom Moon (28 August 2008). 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing Company. p. 806. ISBN 978-0-7611-5385-6. Retrieved 16 October 2015. 
  5. ^ Question Mark & the Mysterians, "96 Tears" US chart position Retrieved July 1, 2015
  6. ^ Question Mark & the Mysterians, "96 Tears" Canadian chart position Retrieved July 1, 2015
  7. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1966
  8. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum Searchable Database – 96 Tears". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 16 October 2015. 
  9. ^ "Question Mark Bio". pharaohweb.com. 
  10. ^ "The Making of 96 Tears". vice.com. 
  11. ^ "Question". classicbands.com. 
  12. ^ Fred Bronson (October 1, 2003). Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th ed.). Billboard Books U.S. p. ?. ISBN 978-0823076772. 
  13. ^ Question Mark & the Mysterians, chart positions Retrieved July 1, 2015
  14. ^ "Question Mark: Library of Congress copyright registrations indicate that his birth name is Rudy Martinez". 96tears.net. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  15. ^ Big Maybelle, "96 Tears" chart positions Retrieved July 1, 2015
  16. ^ The Music Explosion, Little Bit O' Soul Retrieved June 30, 2015
  17. ^ Thelma Houston, "96 Tears" chart positions Retrieved July 1, 2015
  18. ^ Garland Jeffreys, "96 Tears" chart positions Retrieved July 1, 2015
  19. ^ 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