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The Critters in 1967
|Origin||New Jersey, United States|
The group formed in New Jersey in 1964 when singer-guitarist Don Ciccone (February 28, 1946 – October 8, 2016) and saxophonist Bob Podstawski joined local group the Vibratones, comprising Jim Ryan (lead guitar), Ken Gorka (bass), Jack Decker (drums), and Chris Darway (keyboards). They named themselves "The Critters" in emulation of similar band names like the Animals.
The Critters were originally signed to Musicor Records by Jimmy Radcliffe, who also produced their first release "Georgianna" backed with "I'm Gonna Give" in 1964. They eventually signed with Kapp Records, and in 1965 recorded John Sebastian's song "Younger Girl" for their first release. The song was selected for the band by producer Artie Ripp. However, because Ciccone, Ryan, and Podstawski were then all accepted at Villanova University, the record was not completed until late 1965. "Younger Girl" became a minor pop hit in early 1966, and reached #38 in the UK Singles Chart in July that year. It was followed by Ciccone's song "Mr. Dieingly Sad", also produced by Ripp, which reached #17 later in the year, and by "Bad Misunderstanding", which reached #55 still later in 1966. The group had their final chart hit with "Don't Let the Rain Fall Down on Me" in 1967, at #39.
After recording several singles and one album (Younger Girl), the original band split up when Podstawski, Ciccone, and Decker joined the armed services and Darway left for art college. Ryan and Gorka then attempted to maintain the group with new members for some time, releasing two more albums (Touch 'n Go With The Critters and Critters).
Later, Ryan recorded and toured with Carly Simon before working as a studio guitarist. Ciccone joined the Four Seasons, and he was a member of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (1973–81). He played guitar, bass and lead vocals to the Four Seasons songs like "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)", and later toured with Tommy James and the Shondells as bassist. Ciccone died at the age of 70 from a heart attack on October 8, 2016. Gorka became booker and co-owner of The Bitter End in Greenwich Village; he died on March 20, 2015 at age 68.
Kurt Shanaman of Mountainside, New Jersey filled in on drums on tour and in the studio in 1967.
In 2007, the Critters re-formed when Ciccone was asked to join the band Skeezix, which included Albert Miller, Lenny Rocco, and Milt Koster. Their repertoire included classic hits from all the bands Ciccone was involved with (including a slightly retitled "Mr. Dyingly Sad"), as well as original and cover material. The band performed mostly on the Treasure Coast of Florida. The Critters recorded a new album, Time Pieces, which includes the updated "Mr. Dyingly Sad" and a new version of "Younger Girl". The band announced their breakup in the summer of 2013.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 127. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Valentino, Silas (March 26, 2015). "The Bitter End Pays Tribute to Owner Kenny Gorka's Legacy". The Village Voice. Retrieved October 27, 2015.