Dion & The Belmonts - Don't Pity Me

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Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. January 17, 1959. Re-posted by request. Corrected low audio issue and no annoying gray bar at the bottom. This also includes the William Shatner interview that preceeded the performance.


Bob and Gene Schwartz also signed Dion's friends, The Belmonts, (Carlo Mastrangelo, Fred Milano, and Angelo D'Aleo), a vocal group named for nearby Belmont Avenue, and teamed them, with Dion singing lead. The new group's breakthrough came in early 1958, when "I Wonder Why" (on their newly formed "Laurie" label) made No. 22 on the U.S. charts. 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. There's four guys, one guy was doing bass, I was singing lead, one guy's going 'ooh wah ooh', and another guy's doing tenor. It was totally amazing. When I listen to it today, often times I think, 'Man, those kids are talented.'"

Their initial hit was followed by "No One Knows" and "Don't Pity Me", which also charted the Billboard Top 100. This success won Dion and the Belmonts a place on the tragic "The Winter Dance Party" tour with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) and other performers. On February 2, 1959, after a concert stop in Clear Lake, Iowa, Holly and others decided to take a flight to the next venue rather than travel on the tour bus. Dion was invited to accompany the group but decided that he did not want to spend $36 for the flight, as it was the same monthly rent his parents paid for his childhood apartment and he couldn't justify the indulgence. The plane crashed, killing all on board; Holly, Valens, Richardson, and the pilot Roger Peterson. Dion and the Belmonts continued on the tour, while Bobby Vee, then an unknown artist, performed in Holly’s place at the very next concert. Later, Jimmy Clanton, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian were added to replace the other dead headliners.


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