Year of Release: 1965
Sometimes bands are inconsiderate with their choice of names. No less than five different American groups have called themselves The Van Dykes. There's the prolific Texan soul group The Van Dykes, The Brooklyn based outfit, the New Jersey Van Dykes and the Baltimore Van Dykes, all active in the sixties with their work occasionally overlapping the same timeframes. Proof positive that in the USA, regionally successful groups could share their names with other far-flung combos without it leading to legal challenges or car park fisticuffs.
The Van Dykes we're concerned with here - I'm 99.9% positive - are the Connecticut Doo-wop group, who were allegedly highly influenced by the Four Seasons. Consisting of Frank Ruggiero, Joe Tiberia, founding member Art DeNicholas and Tom Juliano, they were incredibly popular in their area and cut a number of singles for Green Sea Records (some of which were later reissued by Co-op in 1967).
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the Four Seasons, a few of their stronger moments aside. However, "Rock-A-Bye-Girl" is a lovely moment. Filled with great vocal harmonies on top of a simple backing, it's a throwback to more innocent times where bands could sing about being lovestruck teenagers and make it sound wholly, absolutely believable. There are slight shades of early Beach Boys seeping through the mix as well, which I'm inevitably going to be a sucker for. One spin of this and you'll feel as if you've already known it all your life. "I'll Be Bye" on the flip is a bit more of a rocker.
Sadly, in 1967 the lead singer Frank Ruggiero died in a boating accident, putting paid to the group's chances of national success. Whether the Co-op Records reissues came about as a result of this tragedy or were simply reissued due to continuing local demand, I can't quite ascertain - but they seem to be more commonly stumbled upon than the Green-Sea original issues these days.
It's always sad to have to finish a blog entry with the death of one of the principle members, but online YouTube support for The Van Dykes does at least prove that demand for his group's work continues.