Dion DiMucci and the Belmonts


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The most successful white doo wop group, Dion and the Belmonts were perhaps the suavest of New York City's late-fifties white teen idols.  Dion DiMucci broke from that clean-cut pack with an engagingly cool, streetwise swagger epitomized by "The Wanderer."
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gif courtesy  Dion DiMucci Information Exchange

Dion DiMucci was born July, 1939 in the Bronx. He began singing at the age of five picking up the guitar a few years later. As a teenager he began singing on street corners. He also began dabbling in drugs where he picked up a heroin habit that he didn't kick until 1968. Shortly after dropping out of high school he recorded a demo as a Valentine's Day present for his mother. The demo reached the producers of Teen Club TV show out of Philadelphia, where he made his performing debut in 1954.

Recording his vocals separately over those of a backing group called the Timberlanes he recorded "The Chosen Few." Early in 1958, Dion with a group of his neighborhood friends formed a group called the Belmonts named after Belmont Avenue in Italian section of the Bronx.  Signing with the newly formed Laurie label, the Belmonts second single "I Wonder Why" was a hit, almost making the Top Twenty. "No One Knows" and "Don't Pity Me" followed, but the Belmonts big break out hit came in the spring of 1959 with "A Teenager in Love(#5). The next year "Where or When" made it to #3.

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Playing guitar at the Winter Dance Party

The Belmonts toured frequently, often on package tours with other stars. In February 1959, Dion passed up a plane ride on the chartered plane that later crashed, killing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper.

By early 1960 Dion was recording solo, backed by the unaccredited Del-Satins. He had Top Ten hits with "Runaround Sue" (#1), "The Wanderer" (#2), "Lovers Who Wander" (#3), and "Little Diane" (#8) in 19622 and "Ruby Baby" (#2), "Drip Drop" (#6), and "Donna the Prima Donna" (#6) in 1963. By this time he was recording for Columbia Records. Dion also appeared in the film Teenage Millionaire in 1961.

DiMucci dropped The Del Satins in late 1963. In 1964 Dion released a string of unsuccessful covers and then began recording blues material around 1965 with little commercial success.

In 1967 he reunited with the Belmonts and they recorded "Mr. Movin' Man," "Berimbau," and an album Together Again for ABC Records in 1968. In early 1968 he moved with his wife  and daughter to Miami, where with the help of his father-in-law, he finally kicked his heroin habit. Later that year he recorded the "Abraham, Martin, and John," a #4 hit ballad tribute to Lincoln, King, and Kennedy. The follow-up, a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" was a flop.

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The next few years was spent on the singing in coffeehouses Now with Warner Brothers, his debut album, Sit Down Old Friend, featured just his voice and acoustic guitar on eight songs. He next released  was the anti-drug single "Your Own Backyard". Neither sold well, and Dion reunited with the Belmonts. The group played Madison Square Garden in mid-1972, as documented on the Reunion album. Dion briefly reentered the show business mainstream, frequently appearing on TV variety shows. In the mid-Seventies Dion with Phil Spector recorded Born to Be with You, but it was only released in the U.K.

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Dion returned to rock and roll in June 1987 with a series of sold out concerts at Radio City Music Hall. His autobiography The Wanderer was published in 1988. In 1989 with the assistance of Paul Simon, Lou Reed, and k.d. lang, Dion recorded Yo Frankie under producer Dave Edmunds, managing a minor hit with "In the Still of the Night." In 1990 he toured with Edmunds, Graham Parker, and Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. By the mid-90s Dion had moved back to New York and formed the group the Little Kings with guitarists Scott Kempner of the Dictators and Del Lords, bassist Mike Mesaros of the Smithereens, and Frank Funaro of the Del Lords for engagements on the East Coast.

Dion was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

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