Oct 8, 2016: Don Ciccone of Critters Dies, Sang ‘Mr. Dieingly Sad’

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The Critters in 1966

The Critters in 1966

Don Ciccone, the lead singer of the 1960s pop-rock group The Critters, died on October 8, 2016, in Ketchum, Idaho, of a heart attack. He was 70.

The Critters, a quintet from Plainfield, New Jersey, signed to Kapp Records in 1965 and scored their first hit, a cover of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Younger Girl,” the following spring. It reached #42 in Billboard and was followed a few months later by “Mr. Dieingly Sad,” an original composition by Ciccone. That single, like its predecessor produced by Artie Ripp, proved to be the group’s biggest hit, peaking at #17.

Two further singles, “Bad Misunderstanding” (#55) and a cover of the folk song “Don’t Let the Rain Fall Down on Me” (#39), rounded out the Critters’ chart history. One album, also titled Younger Girl, charted in 1966, but it peaked at #147.

Don Ciccone of the Critters in an undated photo

Don Ciccone of the Critters in an undated photo

Even before the band’s first album was released, Ciccone joined the Air Force. He was already serving by the time “Mr. Dieingly Sad” hit the charts (he went on to serve in Vietnam). Two other members of the Critters were drafted, and the remaining two members recruited new musicians and kept the Critters going for two more albums.

Upon his discharge, Ciccone joined Frankie Valli’s Four Seasons, singing with the group from 1973 through 1981. He was one of the vocalists on their 1976 #1 hit, “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night).” He later became the musical director and bassist for Tommy James and the Shondells.

Don Ciccone was born on Feb. 28, 1946, in Jersey City, New Jersey, and began performing at 14. His first single, “The Only Girl,” appeared on his own label, Speedway Records. In 1964, Ciccone, along with saxophonist Bob Podstawski, joined a local group called the Vibratones, which included Jim Ryan (lead guitar), Ken Gorka (bass), Jack Decker (drums) and Chris Darway (keyboards). They changed their name to the Critters and released their first single, “Georgianna” backed with “I’m Gonna Give,” on Musicor Records in 1964. The Kapp hits followed.

In 2007, Ciccone formed a new version of the Critters without any other original members.

Listen to “Mr. Dieingly Sad” by the Critters

Four days before his death, Ciccone had noted on his Facebook page about a new project he was working on: “It’s been a long and complicated process to find and gather the best writings and recordings of my life and then make them available to you. There are far more songs to work on than I had initially thought, and some originals had never even been recorded (until now). The good news is that it’s nearing completion. I am so excited to make this available to you soon and I certainly hope that my music will continue to remain a part of your life. Thank you for your patience.”

Best Classic Bands Staff

6 Comments so far

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  1. Dan
    #1 Dan 14 October, 2016, 15:30

    I just bought the Critters’ single “Younger Girl”. The Spoonful’s original version is a little more intimate but Ciccone’s vocal and the great arrangement make it more fun to listen to.

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    • Laurie
      Laurie 3 October, 2018, 14:01

      I love the song “Younger Girl” the Critters version of it. I thought Don Ciccone had a fantastic voice and one of my favorite songs is “Mr. Dieingly Sad”.

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      • Guitslinger
        Guitslinger 14 April, 2019, 17:13

        Don’s 2003 solo album “Lost and Found” is great and goes to show that nearly 50 years after recording “Mr. Dieingly Sad” both his voice and song writing are still first rate.Don’s huge talent certainly benefited The Critters,The 4 Seasons and Tommy James and The Shondells.

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      • Lacy
        Lacy 2 August, 2021, 04:40

        I love, love, Mr.Dieingly sad too! I just fell in love with this by listening on my music channels. I love it and was hoping to see them live. I don’t know why I never heard this before, but will continue to listen on iPhone and replay all day!

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  2. Benvye
    #2 Benvye 17 October, 2019, 23:40

    Don recorded “Georgianna” with a band called the Princetons, released in 1966

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  3. The DP
    #3 The DP 24 April, 2021, 17:55

    I attended a Four Tops concert at Trenton State in about 1966. The opening act was The Critters. They were amazing, and I thought outshone the Tops. Have seen them recently, or at least some of them, in a newer group, the name I cannot recall. They did the Younger Girl and Mr. D Sad, and were fabulous. Some of the best music ever and I will never forget.

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