A short introduction to the Critters
The Critters were an American pop group who surfaced on the music scene from 1964 to 1967. The group was made of Don Ciccone, Bob Podstawski, Jim Ryan, Ken Gorka, Jack Decker and Chris Darway. Hailing from New York, their sound was heavily influenced by the Lovin’ Spoonful. Their few charting singles comprised of a combination of self-penned material and songs from they covered. Their first single was “Younger Girl” a Lovin Spoonful original. The Critters’ highest-charting hit and only Top 20 single was 1966’s “Mr. Dieingly Sad,” penned by Ciccone. When members of the band leaving for many reasons (with most of them being drafted to the army), the group struggled to maintain themselves with new members and a couple of albums before disbanding.
From the Vibratones to the Critters
The Critters were an American pop/folk/rock group who had a string of few hits between the years 1966-1967.
The band was formed in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1964. The band’s founding members were singer and vocalist Don Ciccone, saxophonist Bob Podstawski, lead guitarist Jim Ryan, bassist Ken Gorka, keyboardist Chris Darway and drummer Jack Decker. The band’s original name was the Vibratones. But as a tribute for groups with names such as The Animals, the Vibratones changed their moniker into the Critters.
The Critters came off quite much like the Lovin’ Spoonful for their harmonies. Not coincidentally, one of the Critters’ first singles was their cover of the Spoonful’s “Younger Girl,” written by the band’s leader John Sebastian. And what’s more, these two bands were colleagues at Kama Sutra label.
Kama Sutra Record Label History
Kama Sutra was founded in 1964, first as a production company and the following year as a record label. The founders were Arthur “Artie” Ripp, Hy Mizrahi, and Phil Steinberg. First distributed by MGM, then switched to Buddah in 1969. A distribution agreement was then signed with MGM Records, which lasted from 1965 to 1969. In 1969, Buddah Records took joint ownership and took over distribution. Buddah Records (later became as Buddha Records) was founded in New York City in 1967 as an American record label. After early success, the label’s founders formed Buddha Records to avoid a Kama Sutra distribution deal with MGM.
The series (8000) distributed by MGM has a yellow label with a red “flame” on the top half of the label and a circle of “Kama Sutra” in red letters. There was a green Indian statue to the right of the central hole. The 2000 series is pink, with eight blue, green, and yellow statuettes arching at the bottom of the label and “Kama Sutra” in white letters on the top half (the font is the same as before).
In 1968, the audiovisual company Viewlex acquired Kama Sutra and Buddha. Viewlex went bankrupt in 1976, closing Kama Sutra and selling the record business to Art Kass. Kass later partially revived the Sutra name but sold Buddah/Kama Sutra to distributor Essex Entertainment in 1989. In 1995 BMG purchased Buddah (including Kama Sutra) from Essex. The Kama Sutra catalogue is now owned by Sony Music Entertainment and managed by Legacy Recordings.
The Critters’ most popular hit with “Mr. Dieingly Sad”
“Younger Girl” was the Critters’ first charting single, a minor hit at #42 in the States, and #38 in the United Kingdom. It was followed by the band’s original song, the soft pop ballad “Mr. Dieingly Sad” which was written by Ciccone. “Mr. Dieingly Sad” also became the Critters’ most successful record, peaking at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966. It has grown to be the band’s signature song.
Both “Younger Girl” and “Mr. Dieingly Sad” came from the Critters’ debut LP,Younger Girl, released in 1966.
The Critters — drifting apart
The Critters’ material are a combination of their self-penned material and covers of other artists’ songs. Aside from their first album, the Critters recorded several singles for Kama Sutra between the years 1965-1967. After that, the band began to disintegrate. This started soon when after one of their singles, “Don’t Let the Rain Fall Down on Me” reached the Top 40 for the last time (at #39), band leader Don Ciccone was drafted into the army. Podstawski, Ciccone and Decker followed the same calling. Darway, on the other hand, moved on to study art in college.
Disbandment and reformation… then disbandment again
The remaining members Ryan and Gorka struggled to keep the band afloat, releasing two more albums Touch ‘n Go with the Critters andThe Critters on Project 3 label before disbanding.
In 2007 the Critters re-formed with Ciccone and newer members Albert Miller, Lenny Rocco and Milt Koster. They played mostly original songs, as well as classic hits with the acts that Ciccone worked with, including the re-titled “Mr. Dyingly Sad.” The re-formed Critters went on performing together until their split in 2013.