Doo-wop favorites The Belmonts (“I Wonder Why,” “A Teenager in Love” and “Tell Me Why”) and Larry Chance and The Earls (“Remember Then” and “Cry Cry Cry”) will be at Suffolk Theater on August 20, performing many of their hit songs. Dan’s Papers had the chance to speak with one of the original members of The Belmonts, Angelo D’Aleo, about what makes doo-wop so timeless, memorable moments in the group’s legendary career and their upcoming performance.
What do you think it is that makes doo-wop such a timeless musical genre?
It’s the people that grew up with it from their teens up to even now. It’s a special type of music—oldies and rock ’n’ roll. That was a time that music was really music. There were melodies. There were lyrics, and they stuck in people’s minds. There’s nothing as good as your memories of your youth.
Out of all your songs, are there a few that stand out no matter how many times you’ve performed them?
Oh yes, of course. “I Wonder Why,” that was our first one; and I think “That’s My Desire;” and then “Where or When,” which I pushed. I kept insisting, “You guys have got to put this out, it’s really great!” They eventually did, and it happened to be a gold record for us. It’s timing. Everything is timing, and the right place. It’s said that everybody gets 15 minutes of fame. At that point there was nothing we could do wrong. All we did was go into the studio, enjoy ourselves, sing the songs, record them and that was it.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
At 18 years old, life is very vivid. Everything is great. And one of the great parts about it was meeting and becoming brothers and sisters on the road. Our first road show was in 1958, and on that show was Frankie Avalon, Bobby Darin, Jimmy Clanton, and The Elegants. We became brothers and sisters. I was very close to Bobby Darin. He and I used to go eat together, laugh at jokes. That time was the most shining moment of my career.
What was growing up in the Bronx like for you?
It was mostly an Italian-Irish neighborhood. I grew up on Hughes Avenue, which was one block east of Belmont Avenue, where Freddie Milano lived. Summer nights, in those days, you couldn’t walk down the street without some group singing on a street corner, or in a subway station, or inside an apartment building to get a great echo effect. We were no different. We’d go out there on a summer night, and everyone’s got their windows open, so we’d be singing and blasting, and this woman, she couldn’t take it anymore. It was about 10:30 at night. She took a bottle of water and threw it out the window! I mean, we had already taken showers, but this was our second one. It was great times!
Original Belmonts members Fred Milano and Carlo Mastrangelo have both passed away. Is there anything you’d like to say about them?
Well, you know there’s a saying about being tied to your mother’s apron strings: that no matter where you go, no matter who passes away, those strings are still there. It was heart wrenching for me when Freddie died. It was like a piece of my heart went, and then recently Carlo passed, and suddenly all the love I had for them became even better, stronger. I just thank God that I can honor them. The best thing in my life is entertaining people—just to stand on that stage, and see them laugh, and see them clap, and be happy for an hour. That’s the most important thing in life.
You’ll be at Suffolk Theater performing with The Belmonts and Larry Chance and The Earls on August 20. What are you most looking forward to?
I think Larry goes on first, which is a great act! Larry is one of the best in the business. He’ll do his act, and then we’ll follow him right after that. We’ve got a concert that runs around an hour and fifteen minutes, which explores our biography in music. We start from the beginning. Each one of us tells the story of how we got together, what happened in-between and all the hits. It’s very entertaining I think. I just keep on going, and I’m grateful to stand up in back of that microphone and listen to people laugh and applaud and enjoy themselves.
The Belmonts and Larry Chance and The Earls will be at Suffolk Theater on Saturday, August 20, at 8 p.m. For more information visit suffolktheater.com or call 631-727-4343.