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Dion and the Belmonts

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Dion and the Belmonts
Dion and the Belmonts in 1960. (L-R) Carlo Mastrangelo, Dion DiMucci & Fred Milano. (Angelo D'Aleo not shown due to serving in the U.S. Armed Forces when this photo was taken.)
Background information
OriginNew York City, U.S.
Years active
  • 1957–1960
  • 1966
  • 1972
  • 1973
LabelsLaurie Records
Past members

Dion and the Belmonts were an American vocal quartet prominent throughout the 1950s. All of its members were from the Bronx, New York City. In 1957, Dion DiMucci joined the vocal group the Belmonts. The established trio of Angelo D'Aleo, Carlo Mastrangelo and Fred Milano formed a quartet with DiMucci.[1]

Dion and the Belmonts released four studio albums and one live album, with multiple Billboard Hot 100 songs. The Belmonts have yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, even though Dion was in 1989. In 2000, the group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

Background and history[edit]

The name the Belmonts was derived from two of the four singers having lived on Belmont Avenue in the Bronx; the other two lived near Belmont Avenue.

After unsuccessful singles on Mohawk Records in 1957 ("We Went Away" b/w "Tag Along" by Dion "with" The Belmonts), and then on Jubilee Records (including "The Chosen Few" b/w "Out In Colorado" by Dion & the Timberlanes, not the Belmonts), Dion was paired with the Belmonts. The group signed with Laurie Records in early 1958.[1] The breakthrough came when their first Laurie release, "I Wonder Why", reached No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart,[1] and they appeared for the first time on the nationally televised American Bandstand show, hosted by Dick Clark. Dion said of the Belmonts:

"I'd give 'em sounds. I'd give 'em parts and stuff. That's what 'I Wonder Why' was about. We kind of invented this percussive rhythmic sound. If you listen to that song, everybody was doing something different. It was totally amazing. When I listen to it today, often times I think, 'Man, those kids are talented'."[2]

Dion and the Belmonts were the sound of the city. Their roots were doo-wop groups like the Flamingos, the Five Satins and the Dells, acts who developed their sound in urban settings on street corners, mimicking instruments with their voices and even complex jazz arrangements.[3]

They followed the hit with the ballads "No One Knows" (No. 19) and "Don't Pity Me" (No. 40),[1] which they also performed on Bandstand. This early success brought them their first major tour in late 1958, with the Coasters, Buddy Holly and Bobby Darin, followed by the historic and tragic Winter Dance Party tour featuring Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. On February 2, 1959, after playing the Surf Ballroom, Holly arranged to charter a plane that could only take Holly and two of the other headliners. Holly decided it would be chosen by a coin toss. It was "the Big Bopper" J. P. Richardson who won the first coin toss and it was Dion who won the second coin toss. Dion decided he could not afford the $36 cost to fly to the next venue and he told Holly no and gave his plane seat to Valens who was sick with the flu and present in the dressing room where they all met with Holly to toss the coins. According to Dion, $36 was the price his parents paid for monthly rent. Shortly after midnight, on February 3, 1959, the plane crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa. Holly, Valens, The Big Bopper, and the pilot Roger Peterson were all killed. Bobby Vee, then an unknown artist, performed in Holly's place at the next concert. Later, Jimmy Clanton, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian were hired to finish the tour in place of the three deceased headliners. As of January 11, 2017, with the death of Holly's tour guitarist Tommy Allsup, Dion is the lone surviving member of the original Winter Dance Party lineup. (The lone surviving Belmont, Angelo D'Aleo, was not on the tour, as he was in the US Navy at the time.)

In March 1959, Dion and the Belmonts' next single, "A Teenager in Love", broke the Top Ten, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 28 on the UK Singles Chart.[1] Written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, it's considered one of the greatest songs in rock and roll history.[1] It was followed by their first album, Presenting Dion and the Belmonts. Their biggest hit, "Where or When", was released in November 1959, and reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the group making another national appearance on American Bandstand. Although publicity photos show the group as a trio without Angelo D'Aleo, he performed on all of their recorded material; these photos were presented for promotional reasons owing to his departure to serve in the U.S. Navy.

Other singles released for the group that year continued to chart on Billboard, but were less successful. In early 1960, Dion checked into a hospital for heroin addiction, a problem he had since his mid-teens. At the height of the group's success his drug dependency worsened. When "Where or When" peaked, he was in a hospital detoxing.[4] In addition, there were financial and musical differences between Dion and members of the Belmonts. "They wanted to get into their harmony thing, and I wanted to rock and roll," said Dion. "The label wanted me doing standards. I got bored with it quickly. I said, I can't do this. I gotta play my guitar. So we split up and I did 'Runaround Sue', 'The Wanderer' and 'Ruby Baby'."[2] In October 1960, DiMucci quit for a solo career. Now simply known as Dion, his first major hit, "Lonely Teenager", was backed by a female chorus. He eventually chose to work with the Del-Satins, who backed him (uncredited) on all his early Laurie and Columbia Records hits, which, besides the three aforementioned hits Dion quoted, also included "Donna the Prima Donna" ,"Drip Drop", "Lovers Who Wander", and "Little Diane". Later reissues of these songs would often be erroneously attributed to Dion and the Belmonts. The Belmonts also continued to release records on their own label, Sabina Records, but with less success. However, songs like "Such a Long Way", "Tell Me Why", "I Need Someone", "I Confess" and "Come On Little Angel" all received significant radio play in the New York City area.

The group in 1966

Dion and the Belmonts reunited in late 1966 for the album Together Again on ABC Records. Produced by DiMont Music, two singles were released from the LP: "My Girl The Month of May" / "Berimbau" and "Movin' Man" / "For Bobbie". Neither charted in the United States, but fared better in England. "My Girl The Month of May" broke the "Radio London Fab 40" Top Ten at No. 9 the week of December 25, 1966. One reviewer stated: "some British radio DJ's gave it a lot of airplay at the time." The follow-up, "Movin Man", reached No. 17 on the "Radio London" chart on March 26, 1967. "My Girl The Month of May" was later covered by English artists Alan Bown in 1967, and by The Bunch (featuring Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention) in April 1972. During their brief mid-1960s reunion, Dion and the Belmonts appeared on The Clay Cole Show performing "Berimbau" and "My Girl The Month of May". They occasionally performed at local New York City nightclubs, such as "The Mardi Gras" on Staten Island (April 29, 1967), before disbanding.

In 1968, as a solo performer, Dion recorded "Abraham, Martin and John", written by Dick Holler. It is a tribute to social change icons Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. It was written as a response to the assassination of King in April and the assassination of Robert in June. When producer Phil Gernhard initially presented the song to DiMucci, the latter did not care for it. With the persistence of Gernhard, and Dion's wife Susan, he flew to New York that summer. He recorded the song in just one take. Laurie Records released the single in September of that year and it quickly raced up the chart, peaking at number four in December. DiMucci, now a star again, was invited to sing this comeback hit on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, as well as many other top shows.

The original group reunited once again on June 2, 1972, for a show at Madison Square Garden, which was recorded and released as a live album for Warner Brothers. In 1973, DiMucci, Mastrangelo, Milano and D'Aleo performed once more, doing a sold-out concert at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, New York. However, no recording of the 1973 reunion was ever released.

Including Billboard Hot 100 singles, Dion and the Belmonts charted 856 radio station surveys across the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.[5] In 2000, the group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Dion (without The Belmonts) was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.[6]

Rock Hall omission[edit]

In 2012, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame did a mass induction of six deserving pioneering groups that were left out in error when their lead singers were inducted in the Hall of Fame's early years of inductions: the Miracles (Smokey Robinson), the Crickets (Buddy Holly), the Midnighters (Hank Ballard), the Famous Flames (James Brown), the Comets (Bill Haley) and the Blue Caps (Gene Vincent) . Because of the timeline when these groups were successful, it was believed that the Belmonts would be included in this induction, but none was forthcoming. Because the Belmonts scored chart hits for an additional three years after Dion left the group, coupled with the fact that the entire group (including Dion) were inducted intact into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000 (11 years after Dion's solo induction into the Rock Hall), their omission was even more puzzling.[7][8][9] In January 2012, the year of that mass vocal group induction, Fred Milano of the Belmonts died (January 1, 2012). A Billboard magazine article dated January 3, 2012 stated: "There was strife between DiMucci and Belmonts members, who were not pleased when DiMucci was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame without them in 1989."[10] Carlo Mastrangelo died on April 4, 2016.



Dion and the Belmonts released four studio albums and one live album:[11]

The two Laurie Records LPs are the most collectible, especially the first pressings of Presenting Dion & the Belmonts, issued as Laurie LLP-1002 (later reissued as LLP-2002). There were also later compilation albums, some of which included the separate hits of the Belmonts, and some that included the hits of Dion, and Dion and the Belmonts.


Year Single U.S. label Billboard Hot 100 UK Singles Chart
Oct 1957 "We Went Away" / "Tag Along" Mohawk 105
Apr 1958 "I Wonder Why" / "Teen Angel" Laurie 3013 22
Aug 1958 "No One Knows" / "I Can't Go On (Rosalie)" Laurie 3015 19
Dec 1958 "Don't Pity Me" / "Just You" Laurie 3021 40
Mar 1959 "A Teenager in Love" / "I've Cried Before" Laurie 3027 5 28
Aug 1959 "Every Little Thing I Do" / "A Lover's Prayer" Laurie 3035 48
Nov 1959 "Where or When" / "That's My Desire" Laurie 3044 3
Apr 1960 "When You Wish Upon a Star" / "Wonderful Girl" Laurie 3052 30
Jun 1960 "In the Still of the Night"[12] / "A Funny Feeling" Laurie 3059 38
Oct 1966 "My Girl The Month of May" / "Berimbau" ABC 10868
Jan 1967 "Movin' Man" / "For Bobbie" ABC 10896


  1. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 376/7. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ a b "Perfect Sound Forever: Dion speaks of the blues". Furious.com. February 3, 1959. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  3. ^ "Elvis and Dion at the Garden - 40 years on". Classic Pop Icons. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  4. ^ Hudak, Joseph. "Dion Biography". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 10, 2014. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  5. ^ "ARSA | Brother Nigel's Proxy Party". Las-solanas.com. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  6. ^ "Dion: inducted in 1989 | The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum". Rockhall.com. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  7. ^ "Dion and The Belmonts - Inductees - The Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation". Vocalgroup.org. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  8. ^ "Dion: inducted in 1989 | The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum". Rockhall.com. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  9. ^ "Fred Milano of Dion & the Belmonts Dies". Billboard. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  10. ^ "A message for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". Vimeo. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  11. ^ "Dion and the Belmonts Albums and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  12. ^ "Image of single". Discogs. Archived from the original on November 26, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2020.

External links[edit]