BENSONHURST – Despite the rain, Bookmark Shoppe in Bay Ridge was packed on Tuesday, September 25, for an evening of reminiscing about The Mystics and Brooklyn history, and to celebrate Al Contrera and his book – “Hushabye: The Mystics, the Music, and the Mob” which you can find at the store or at the Amazon link.
Al Contrera is one of the five boys from Bensonhurst, who formed The Overons that later became known as The Mystics, who briefly made it big with their hit Hushabye in 1959. The catchy song rose to No 20 on the charts – here’s a clip for those who are not that familiar with doo-wop:
Contrera’s book transports the reader back in time, to Bensonhurst and Southern Brooklyn in the 1950s and 1960s, telling the story of five “juvenile delinquents”, as he affectionately refers to themselves – Phil Cracolici, Albee Cracolici, Bob Ferrante, George Galfo and the author, who got obsessed with singing. It changed their lives – bringing them from a street corner to the big stage, if briefly. And, yet, how not everything changed, and the story captures how difficult it was to navigate between the music, the mob, and the thirst for fame.
Contrera’s retelling of the trials and tribulations of starting a band, and keeping it together is rich in detail and language. Set in Bensonhurst, the mob is a constant, and the lives of seemingly everyone are affected. The Mystics were not the only band getting started, and Contrera recalls them all, offering a history of the local music industry at the time. Those who grew up in Bensonhurst will enjoy the neighborhood history as well – recall events, many old spots and neighborhood characters – preserved for next generations.
“Having a hit song was amazing and a fantastic experience. I felt like I was on the top of the world,” Contrera recalls. “No one in our families was involved in music. They endured us rehearsing. We never realized that it would become something.” Or that it would lead to a book one day. We are glad it did.