The Capris with “There’s a Moon Out Tonight”

Introduction to The Capris

The Capris were an Italian-Amerian doo-wop vocal group, formed in 1957 in Ozone Park, Queens in New York. The original members were Nick “Santo” Santamaria, Mike Minicieli, Vinnie Naccarato, John Cassesse, Rosario Morice (who left early) and John Apostol. They named themselves as the Capris, obviously unaware that there had been a Philadelphia group with the same name. The group began to perform at local clubs, and one of their original songs, “There’s A Moon Out Tonight” was first released by Planet in the late 1950s. Unfortunately, Planet was a small label that didn’t have the financial muscle to promote the single nationally, and so it almost drifted into near-obscurity. The Capris disbanded, but it wasn’t long when the record landed in the lands of Jerry Greene, who was then working for Times Square Records which was then providing material for DJ Alan Fredericks’ radio show. Fredericks then played “There’s A Moon Out Tonight” and received requests from his audience, most of them teenagers. To respond to the growing demand, Greene bought the remaining copies of the single from Planet, but saw that it wasn’t enough so he bought the master tapes from Planet and set up his own label Lost Nite 101 to press more copies of “There’s A Moon Out Tonight.” But the record was too big for his little label so Greene handed the operations to Old Town Records for national distribution. Soon the record reached the Top 10 in during the early 60s music era. With the single now being successful, the Capris reunited and performed at prestigious venues. They tried to follow up the success of “There’s a Moon Out Tonight” with “Where I Fell In Love” and “Girl In My Dreams” (both released on Old Town) which only became minor hits. In 1962 the group left Old Town for Mr. Peeke label where they released another minor hit “Limbo.” The following year they disbanded; in the early 1980s Nick Santo reformed the group with newer members, releasing another doo-wop single “Morse Code Of Love” that has remained a most-requested item on the oldies radio.

The Capris’ formation and their beginnings

Taken from the name of the automobile Lincoln Capri, the American doowop group The Capris formed in 1957 in Queens, New York. Originally, they consisted of an all Italian-American members including first tenor Mike Minceli, lead baritone Nick Santmaria (or Nick Santo), second tenor Frank Reina, baritone Vinnie Narcardo and bass John Cassese.

The Capris’ recording journey

The Capris started recording in 1959, cutting two songs for Planet Records called “Indian Girl” and “There’s a Moon Out Tonight,” but it failed to make an impression. Not long thereafter, the group disbanded quickly. A late-night disc jockey named Frederick Allen still went on playing “There’s a Moon Out Tonight” though, that eventually caught attention of Jerry Greene, who was then working for Times Square Record Store. Greene eventually was able to buy the song’s master copy and re-released it on his own Label Lost Nite.

Eventually, the record sold well when WINS 1010’s disc jockey Murray the K played “There’s a Moon Out Tonight” regularly. Since Greene and Lost Nite Records were not capable of distributing the record massively, they sold it to a major record company named Old Town Records. In 1961, the song became a hit, charting at #3 on the pop chart. For the sake of the single’s success, The Capris returned to the spotlight and embarked on a tour across the US. Further records were released until 1963 but none of them was able to repeat the success of their 1961 hit. After that, the group officially disbanded.

Life after The Capris

As early as 1962, Santo already left the group to become a police but he was still writing songs. In the early 1980’s, a 12-track album entitled There’s a Moon Out Again was recorded by the former members Santo, Minceli and Reina with the participation of Nick Nardo and  Tommy Ferrara (former Del Saints). Santo, Minceli and Reina were still performing until 2002 and a new version of The Capris was introduced in 2015 which includes Reina.

Santo was claimed by cancer on December 30, 2010. The original first tenor Mike Mincieli, died on March 15, 2015.