Not to be confused with the Philadelphia group The Capris (which existed from 1953 till 1958), the New York Capris were a white doowop group, formed in 1957 in Queens. The original members were Nick Santos (born Nicholas Santa Maria, lead), Mike Mincelli (first tenor), Frank Reina (second tenor), Vinnie Naccarato (baritone) and John Cassese (bass). All were of Italian descent and born in 1941, except Reina, who was born in 1940.
By 1958 the group had been gaining experience at local venues. Their break came when they responded to an ad placed by two wanna-be producers. At the audition they sang Nick's original ballad "There's A Moon Out Tonight" and soon they found themselves at Bell Sound Studios cutting the song, along with an uptempo number, "Indian Girl". Released on Planet Records in the autumn of 1958, the record became an almost instant obscurity. (An original Planet pressing of the single can now fetch up to $ 1500 in collectors circles.) "There's A Moon Out Tonight" has a unique ending, chiming down from falsetto to bass instead of the other way around. Each Capri sings the tune's title in turn, but slightly lower (and slower) than the preceding member. In 1959 the group members all went their separate ways and that could have been the end of the story, were it not for an unexpected twist of fate. Record collector Jerry Greene (later the owner of the reissue label Collectables) was working at Times Square Records (a famous "oldies" shop in NYC), not for money, but in exchange for hard-to-get records. In 1960, a customer brought in a copy of "There's A Moon Out Tonight", which Greene took to deejay Allen Fredericks, who played it on his "Night Train" radio show. The response was such that Greene approached Planet Records, trying to buy as many copies as he could, then reselling them for a tidy profit. When the stock was exhausted, Jerry and some fellow collectors bought the "Moon" master for $200. They set up a new label, Lost Nite, and reissued "There's A Moon Out Tonight"/"Indian Girl" as their first release. Murray the K, the famous New York deejay, began to play the disc like crazy. Soon Jerry Greene and his partners could not keep up with the demand and turned the record over to Hy Weiss and his Old Town label for national distribution. Reissued on Old Town 1094 in December 1960, the record went all the way to # 3 on Billboard's pop charts in February 1961 (also # 11 R&B, although the Capris were a white group). This makes "Moon" probably the only record of the rock era to be released over three different years on three different labels before becoming a hit.
The Capris reunited and soon were playing some of the most prestigious venues in the country, like the Regal in Chicago and the Apollo in New York City. Three more records came out on Old Town, two of which scraped the lower regions of the charts. By 1962, the quintet had signed with the Mr. Peeke label, where they scored their final chart entry (one week at # 99) with "Limbo". In 1963, Nick Santos left the group to become a New York City policeman. Frank took over the lead and there were other personnel changes as the group continued on with performances. But for the next big event in the history of the Capris, we will fast forward about 20 years.
In 1982 Nick came back as lead to do an LP for Ambient Sound Records entitled "There's A Moon Out Tonight", an excellent 1980s album in the old doowop style. The crown jewel was "Morse Code Of Love", a song that Nick had started writing in 1961, but never finished until 1981. Although a new record, oldies stations started picking up the song (after it was released as a single), thinking it was a hot oldie they had overlooked. "Morse Code Of Love" eventually became the number one requested "oldie" in Pittsburgh, Boston and Philadelphia. The song got even more exposure when it was covered by the Manhattan Transfer, as "Baby Come Back To Me" in 1985. This version peaked at # 83 in Billboard.
YouTube has a fantastic live version of "Morse Code Of Love" :
The group has continued to perform since then, with original members Nick Santos and Frank Reina, complemented by Tony Sergi, Lou Esposito and John Monforte. In 2007, Santos announced his retirement, due to health reasons. Vinnie Naccarato died on December 26, 2008, and Nick Santamaria on December 30, 2010; the other original members are still alive.
More info : http://electricearl.com/dws/capris.html
Acknowledgements : Jay Warner, Wayne Jancik, Jim Dunn (All Music Guide).
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