From the Annals of Garage Bands – In 1966, ? and the Mysterians hit No. 1 on the US charts with “96 Tears.” The members of the band were living in Saginaw, Michigan but were originally from Texas. Their parents had been migrant workers who settled in Michigan after finding auto industry jobs. ? – the former Rudy Martinez, who legally changed his name to a punctuation mark and claims to be a space alien, has understandably managed to maintain an air of mystery ever since making a splash with “96 Tears” which essentially came out of nowhere to reach the top of the Billboard pop chart.
Critics regard “96 Tears” as the first garage-rock masterpiece and a “proto-punk” classic. The Mysterians formed in 1962 when four Mexican-American teenagers in Saginaw began playing instrumental music inspired by the surf bands such as the Ventures and legendary guitarist Link Wray. Taking their name from a Japanese science fiction movie, the Mysterians soon made the acquaintance of their own alleged alien—a young man in sunglasses who approached them after a gig at Michigan’s Mt. Holly Ski Lodge offering to manage the group. Identifying himself to the Mysterians only as “?,” he soon became the group’s lead singer and primary songwriter. It was a poem of his called “Too Many Teardrops” that became “96 Tears.”